Lucien’s Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

What an absolute marvel this game is.  To think that game in this franchise with EA’s name on it is so fucking good!  It blows my mind how this game feels more like Star Wars to me than anything since Revenge of the Sith.  So much of what has been missing from Disney’s absolute abortion of this franchise was in this game, and it’s amazing.  The story simple, with likeable characters, good gameplay, fun set-pieces, and that visceral feeling that I have been so missing from this franchise’s films.  I have so much to talk about with this game, so let’s not keep you all waiting.

The plot goes that Cal Cestus is a lone Jedi hiding after the purge following Revenge of the Sith.  Burdened by guilt he feels, and fear of those hunting him, he makes a living as a scrapper.  However, after using the Force to save a friend, the Inquisitors are on to him and a new potential ally emerges to help him.  It’s a plot that actually feels like something from Star Wars, and that’s only the beginning.

Most of what I have to talk about is how much I love how great this story is and how well it’s told.  But to talk about some other stuff before I gush, the gameplay here is challenging.  This game is basically Dark Souls mixed with Star Wars.  It’s challenging, to say the least.  But for those who like that style of gameplay, it’s good stuff.  Mixed in with that is a lot of puzzle seeking.  This is a metroidvania style game, in the purest sense.  Back-tracking and revisiting world with new powers to find secrets is fun.

It’s worth mentioning that this game has NONE of the EA bullshit staples.  NO microtransactions.  None.  Nothing blocked off behind paywalls.  It’s a complete game, from start to finish with no nonsense.  What a magical thing.  To say that about an EA game just blows my mind.

Another fantastic thing is the visuals.  Every world in this game is unique, and they all have their own visual style.  Sometimes you just sit back and take in the scenery.  It was a wise decision for them to use the Unreal Engine.  Plus, for some truly fantastic boss fights, you can get sucked into the set-pieces.  My favorite was with the AT-AT walker.  It was in the E3 demo, but so what?  Fantastic stuff even without it.

Then there’s the music.  At times, it can seem a little standard for a video game, but then there is some of the FANTASTIC uses of original film score, and set-piece music that makes everything pop.  Which is where we get into the gushing.

Where has this kind of story been in this franchise?!  Oh my Groj!  A simple premise about a tortured hero being called to adventure, with companions who all have their flaws.  The group of them gradually overcoming them over the course of the adventure.  This is what a good Star Wars film should have. And it’s something that ALL of Disney’s films have lacked!  Rogue One came the closest, and what do you know, it’s my favorite of the Disneyverse films.  This feels like it belongs in this franchise so much.  I’ve missed having a story that hits this close to home in the Star Wars universe.  Cal is a likeable protagonist who grows over the course of his journey.  Cere is a tortured companion who overcomes her pain in a believable and likeable way.  She doesn’t feel like some token black character the way Finn does.  Mirrin is a cute and likeable obvious love interest for future games, but you are okay with that because her and Cal have good chemistry.  Greez is kind of an asshole but you like him because of it.  And BD-1 is fun and cute.

But one thing that this game has that the films have been missing for so long is the visceral feeling!  When you are fighting some of the bosses, like the Second Sister or a secret boss that I won’t DARE spoil if you haven’t played it, and you see these character attacking each other, you can feel the emotion.  Sure, the pacing is fast, but it doesn’t have the cheap choreographed feel the prequel trilogy had so much.  When characters are going at it, you feel their passion.  When they are afraid, you can see it.  Where was that in ANY of the fights in the Disneyverse trilogy?  No-fucking-where!  Those movies suck.

I remember when this game was first announced, how skeptical everyone was.  The SJWs being all butthurt that the protagonist is a white guy.  Well, having played the game, I can say that they can all shut the fuck up.  This was a great game.  If there was something I’d say as a detraction, it’s that it’s a little short, and there could have been some more enemy variety.  Still, those are nit-picks.

Overall, this is a fantastic game.  It is the first time, in years, that I’ve felt like I’m playing an actual Star Wars game and seeing a real story in this franchise play out in front of me.  If you are like me, and so dejected by this franchise’s films, you owe it to yourself to pick this title up.  I really did feel like a Jedi Knight.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

The Ultimate Legacy of Disney’s Star Wars Trilogy

It’s finally done.  Only a few years since The Force Awakens, and now the saga is done.  The final end to a series of films started 40 years ago.  I myself refused and still do refuse to spend my money to go to theaters and see Rise of Skywalker.  The reviews have told me all I need to know.  The first half is a massive exposition dump to fill in the plot for two films, broken up by boring and wrote action set-pieces that have no bearing on anything because you don’t care about any of the characters at all.  And the second half is a plot so stupid that it reads like horrifically bad fan-fiction.  All to bring the Skywalker saga to an unceremonious ending that was a bitter taste in everyone who I’ve heard talk about it’s mouth.

Years later, all of the fighting, fracturing of the fanbase because this new franchise saw fit to inject current year political dynamics into a franchise that was once timeless.  The last two entries of which were so bad that they actually made the prequels look good by comparison.  One criticism I’ve heard is that, as bad as the prequels are, at the very least they had a consistent vision that they stuck to.  A cohesive narrative that started from point A and ended at Point C.  This trilogy had no such luck.

It genuinely blows my mind that Disney genuinely did not have any sort of direction to this.  They spent $4 billion to acquire this IP, and then just let fly with whatever director being able to do whatever they want.  No planned direction, no narrative they made.  No expanded universe that they were looking to sort out.  Just Kathleen Kennedy sitting back and letting people go nuts.  Well, at least the ones who injected enough current year politics into their films.  Word is that the reason that Rian Johnson was given so much more freedom to create the film narrative he wanted is because he did so much social justice integration into his film.  Other films that had directors who were unwilling or just didn’t see the purpose typically got axed.  Not to mention Disney’s corporate office getting involved.

To be a fly on the wall when Kathleen Kennedy is or was told by Bob Iger that her time helming this franchise is being unceremoniously ended.  I cannot imagine how utterly furious Disney is with this woman.  This IP was believed to generate money by virtue of its existence.  Plenty of people still think it does.  But the reality is that Disney’s plan to make films that were guaranteed to rake in billions of dollars along with having a ton of merchandise that would go along with it and a theme park attraction have all gone to shit.  The merch for The Last Jedi was on clearance before the first couple weeks of the film’s opening.  It’s a virtual guarantee that the same thing will happen again.  The Star Wars Experience has been a ghost town, if the Bloomberg article is to be believed.  Disney lost hundreds of millions of dollars on Solo: A Star Wars Story.  This was supposed to be a cash cow, and they are losing money on it.  I cannot imagine the reaming that Kennedy has gotten from the Disney executives.  Word is that she’s basically being sidelined in the extreme while Jon Favreau and some other guy are basically stepping in.

Rise of Skywalker was sent out to die.  If the leaks are to be believed (and given how many of them the film proved right, I’m comfortable doing that), Disney was constantly pushing to have this film be the one that got everyone back into the franchise.  To have people demanding more films, more merch.  Instead, it whimpers and dies.  It’s apparently clear where the reshoots are, as every time there is a plotline that involves some major character dying, it never leads anywhere as they are always just fine.  Every chance they have to give Rey depth, it’s taken away.  No character has depth.  Lots of people blame JJ Abrams for this disaster, but it’s not his fault.  What else could it have been?  Disney had no possible way of making this franchise work.  After how poorly The Last Jedi was received, and how fractured the fanbase has become because of the new franchise as a whole, the idea that they were going to please everyone was a pipe dream.  They should have just chosen a group to please and said “fuck it” to the rest.  Might have made things less awful.

So that begs the question – where does this leave us?  What happens to the franchise now that Disney has effectively shit on it and everything it stood for.  The timeless story of good and evil?  Shit on by unnecessary and forced injections of current year politics.  A tale of Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey?  Definitely shit on when The Last Jedi turned him into an unpleasant turd.  Making a new generation of characters who would be remembered by a generation of children?  Definitely shit on because not ONE of the characters was memorable.  Who is going to remember Rey, Finn, Po, or Kylo Ren, 40 years from now?  Hell, 20?  10?  5?  I keep forgetting Po’s name until I see something that reminds me.  That’s how little an impact he leaves.  No character leaves any impact, other than Kylo Ren for being the blandest and most uninteresting villain in the franchise.  Not to mention the massive Dumbo ears.  Just like the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, in five years, the name Star Wars will only refer to the originals.

What happens now?  Disney has said that they’re done with numbered films.  For the moment, I believe them.  This franchise has lost them a ton of money.  Just like The Last Jedi, this movie looks to be setting up for a quick drop-off in viewership attendance.  Hell, it already hasn’t reached the last film’s numbers in terms of an opening weekend.  So yeah, Disney is probably gonna try and make films that are independent of a numbered sequel with directors who can make them money.  They’ll probably model them after shows like The Mandalorian, which I hear is pretty good but will never see because I refuse to give Disney my money for their shitty streaming service.  Fuck modern Disney.

Part of me wonders if it was worth it for Disney.  If they feel that it was worth it.  Spending so much money, only for the cash cow to be giving them nothing back.  Or at least not nearly the amount they were expecting.  Not even close.  All the political battles, dividing the fanbase, making movies that are bland or terrible, losing an entire generation of kids who bonded with Marvel but haven’t bonded with Star Wars.  Was that worth all this?  To have a final act of a saga that just burns like that promotional holiday video for The Last of Us: Part II that is the burning car.  I suspect no one will ever know.  Disney is too proud to admit fault.  Too proud to admit that they screwed this potential franchise so hard by not having anything approaching a guiding hand on the wheel.  Would be neat to find out.

What it tells me is that I have to give it to George Lucas for this much – 40 years ago, on a much more primitive level of filmmaking, he was able to create a franchise that has a legacy that Disney’s trash EVER will.  I bet George is pleased with himself right about now.  I would be.

Until next time, a quote,

“That boy is our last hope.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Peace out,

Maverick

The Afghanistan Papers: 18 Years of Lies and Dead Bodies

Earlier last week, a story broke that should have been something shocking.  It should have shook the entire country, and yet the story came and went without so much as a mention by major news outlets at large.  A shocking series of documents that The Washington Post was able to get their hands on through a Freedom of Information Act request which outlined not only the horrible truth that America has accomplished nothing in Afghanistan, but also that for three presidential administrations, they have known what a gigantic cluster-fuck it is.  Over and over, we were told that progress was being made, but these people knowingly lied.  Bush lied.  Obama lied.  Now Trump is lying.

The naming of these papers is in connection with the Pentagon Papers, a series of documents that were released to the public by The New York Times back during the Vietnam War showing that the Johnson administration had lied to the American people about the nature of the conflict and what a horrific disaster it was.  Now we have a new series of documents, which were from a report that the Bush administration had commissioned to study the effect of the Afghanistan war, which continued on into the Obama administration.  Finally, after being fully compiled, it has been released and what it shows is heart-breaking.

From some of the interviews, it was clear that all levels of government were aware of the reality that the war in Afghanistan was going nowhere at all.  One of the most shocking things was that for a LONG period of time, the troops on the ground had no idea who the enemy was.  Was it Al Qaeda?  Was it the Taliban?  Was it Islamic State?  The battle lines were shifting around so much that for the people stuck there, they had no clue who they were supposed to be killing, or why.  It was understood by those in the documents that Washington’s goal of making Afghanistan into a democracy was doomed to failure and a complete waste of time.  We were knowingly working with corrupt officials and forces who had no understanding of how little we were doing in trying to build a police force there or make a dent in their opium business.  Everything we attempted to do was a complete waste of time and since those in the documents never thought their words would see the light of day, they were very candid about it.

The Washington Post’s article (linked above) has a link to the full report, and reading that was heart-breaking stuff.  Never has the Adagio for Strings been more appropriate then when you see what’s written there.  Almost $1 trillion spent on a clusterfuck that everyone involved understood was failing.  And that doesn’t even cover the money the CIA spent on corrupt officials to try and make their efforts of government-building work.  Not to mention how much has been spent by the VA for medical/psychological care for those who fought.  All while we were being told, over and over again that we are making progress.  Every last word of it was a lie.

People interviewed made very clear that it wasn’t misinformation they were giving us.  It was outright lies.  Three administrations have touted what has been done, and three administrations have knowingly lied.  After all, they all had access to this stuff.  Which means that they were knowingly giving us bad information.  So much for transparency, eh?  What makes that more odious is that they were keeping our young men and women over there!  Knowing that we were accomplishing nothing at all, having no clear enemy to fight, and making no real strides in effectively building a real government, we are STILL keeping our fighting men and women in that place.  It’s baffling.

Reading about how much money was knowingly wasted there.  Since the stated goal was to build a functioning democracy, the idea was that if we flooded the country with aid, it would help speed up the process.  This was akin to the scene in Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen’s character gets to the base at the Do Lung Bridge, only to be told about the unending battle there.  They would build a bridge every day, only for it to be destroyed that night.  All so they could tell the General that the road was open.  Nowhere has that concept seemed more fitting than reading the absolutely disgrace that is the amount of money wasted on aid projects that went absolutely fucking nowhere.

The thing that really sticks with me through reading all of that stuff is the amount of lies.  Outright fucking lies.  The military had a script they had to stick to, constantly reassuring people how well we were doing.  The facts and figures that the Bush and Obama administrations pulled right out of their ass to paint a picture that would give the American people some belief that something, anything, was being accomplished.  When in reality nothing was.  We didn’t cut down on the opium trade.  Hell, we helped subsidize it more.  And when America decided to blow the ever-loving freedom out of it, we pushed more people toward the Taliban because opium was the only crop they could grow out there.  It was the only money to be made in that part of the world.

It’s been over 18 years.  Over 2,000 servicemen/women dead and countless civilian casualties.  Now the Trump administration is trying to make a deal with the very forces we fought in the first place to take over so we can get out.  I’m sure this will go just as well as his “efforts” to leave Syria or Iraq.  Neither of which really happened, though the former got a lot of press before it just was consumed into the machine of the news when none of our troops actually left.

Why was this not a bigger story?  That’s a good question.  The answer isn’t that complicated – because the media is so complicit in this.  The Washington Post fought a legal battle with SIGAR for three years before publishing what they got.  ANY of the other outlets could have done that.  But that’s not good for the modern news trend.  War is good press.  War gets clicks.  War gets eyes on screens.  Nobody in the mass media cared to fact-check ANY of what we were being told, because there was way too much money in it.

I think to the people I know, who have come home from fighting in the Middle East permanently scarred mentally, or mutilated physically.  Got a family member’s spouse who has some several mental issues from five tours of duty over there.  Then you read stuff like this, and see that our government knowingly lied to us, didn’t understand what they were doing, lost sight of who they were actually fighting, and now is trying to make a deal with those we were first killing just to leave a battle that was never, ever possible to win.  It’s a horrible joke.

You’d think there’d be more outrage.  You’d think that people would be yelling in the streets.  Trying to get Bush brought up on war crimes.  Trying to get Obama brought up on war crimes.  Trying to get Trump brought up on them.  But no.  The public is so blissfully unaware of anything to do with actual life in this world that if the war literally bit them in the ass, they’d find some way of ignoring it.  We are anesthetized for complacency.  That scene in Apocalypse Now makes so much more sense to me now.

Until next time, a quote,

“You know what I noticed?  Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan.’  Hm?  Even if the plan is horrifying.” – Joker, The Dark Knight

Peace out,

Maverick

I’m Not Gonna See Something Just Because It’s X Thing

I was watching the Deep Fat Fried Podcast’s review of Rise of Skywalker, and it’s pretty good stuff.  From the very first trailer, I knew that I would NEVER be going to see this film in theaters.  Got a coworker who kept trying to brow-beat me into seeing it with him, on the pretense that it’s Star Wars.  Um…so what?  With how bad this franchise has become, and with the trailer and initial reviews savaging it, why would I pay my money to go to a theater filled with neckbeard fanboys and sad fangirls to see the next iteration of this franchise?  I wouldn’t, and I won’t.  Knowing that my foresight was correct and seeing reviewer after reviewer savage it and rip all its flaws to pieces is more fun than this piece of shit film could ever hope to be.

On the podcast, Paul said something that stuck in my craw – you know that you’ll see the next film.  You’ll be there opening night because it’s Star Wars.  I hate this mentality.  Now, I will give him that such people exist.  And there are a lot of them.  Fanboys/girls are some of the most die-hard people you’ll ever meet.  It’s why you can’t tell people that Nintendo just makes the same game over and over again with cursory changes.  Because they don’t care.  It has the license on it, so they get it.

Here’s the thing – I’ve never subscribed to a fandom before.  If there is something I’m interested in, I learn as much about it as I can before partaking in it.  Since gaming is my hobby of choice, I spend a lot of time looking at a game and the promotional material and see if it’s something that I want to devote my limited income to.  Sure, I do pre-orders, but only of stuff that I have good reason to assume will be fantastic.  There’s a reason I didn’t pre-order Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But the reviews have been stellar, so I put it on my Christmas list.  Here’s hoping I get it.  Would be nice to actually take in some Star Wars media that doesn’t suck.  It’s been such a long-ass time.  Still, I only put pre-order money down when it’s a game that is coming from a company I trust.  It’s why I will be pre-ordering Cyberpunk 2077, The Last of Us: Part II, and Persona 5: Royal.  I know this is coming from companies with a pedigree with quality, or in the last one’s case, it’s an expansion of a game I already know is perfect.

I do agree that Rise of Skywalker is probably gonna make a lot of money.  But I couldn’t help being with TJ thinking that the law of diminishing returns is hitting this franchise hard.  It’s gonna hit Marvel pretty hard too pretty soon.  Everyone seems to forget that Solo list Disney hundreds of millions of dollars, when you factor in the development cost, reshoot cost, advertising cost, and the theater chain’s take.  Not to mention the fact that The Star Wars Experience apparently is a complete ghost town.  As an article in Bloomberg detailed, the franchise isn’t reaching kids the way that Marvel has.  It’s why Disney was so desperate for this film to be a smash, even though it’s clear that the audience isn’t as for this as much as the last two numbered films in the franchise.

This idea that this unending mass of people are going to just go to every film in a franchise, regardless of quality just doesn’t jive with me.  I sure as Hell didn’t go to every Marvel film.  I went to the ones that looked good, with characters I liked.  It was a good run.  Still, I don’t partake of anything if I don’t think it’s gonna be worth my time.  I especially don’t pay money for it.  I might partake of The Mandalorian once it has finished its run, get the three week trial of Disney’s service, then watch it and ditch.  I won’t give that greedy scum-sucking company my money.  It’s on principal for me at this point.  They have fucked over my childhood enough with their live-action remakes.  What they are doing to A Night on Bald Mountain is just spiteful.  Blows my mind that they think they can take a segment from Fantasia and make it into a full-length movie/series on their streaming service.  Where the hubris from this comes from, I’ll never know.

The point of all this rambling (admittedly something I do a lot.  Digressions ahoy!) is that the idea that I’m going to spend my money and go into a theater (an experience that I already hate) just to see a movie that I know I won’t like is laughable.  No.  If I’ve learned anything, it’s that if you vote with your wallet, things could actually change.  It’s why I am hopeful that this franchise will die.  A small, desperate hope.  Creativity and risk taking with films could have a day in the sun.

Until next time, a quote,

“Only a fool’s hope.” – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Peace out,

Maverick

The Cheap “Woke” Ploy

Hey, did you know that the latest Star Wars film has the first same-sex kiss in any film ever?!  The Hollywood Reporter said as much in their click-bait-y headline says as much, along with other equally-stupid media outlets.  Much like how Star Trek: Discovery had the first black Captain.  Or the first black female Captain.  Both of which were equally wrong, and bless the Internet for being the most potent fact-checker in the universe.  To the Rise of Skywalker, what is the context they’re talking about?  Definitely not the first film to have a same-sex kiss.  Not the first film this year, or this decade, or certainly ever.  Maybe the first science fiction film?  Oh man, not even close.  The first big blockbuster?  Nope, I’ve seen it in those too.  Not often, mind you, but there’s a reason for that which we’ll come to.  So why is this such a huge deal?

I’ll tell you why – because it gets cheap points for a film that is being panned so hard right now.  It makes it so that Disney can try and re-frame this terrible movie as being pro-LGBT, so if you don’t like it, you hate gays!  Or lesbians, in the case of this film, as it’s two women kissing.  This happens all the fucking time, and every time it does, I roll my eyes because I see stuff like this for EXACTLY what it is – a cheap ploy to get “woke” points.  And the big thing that gets to me when I think about this is – why does no one in the media see it too?

On the one hand, it’s obvious – because they are being paid not to.  Disney owns a massive chunk of entertainment media, and the Hollywood machine in general owns pretty much all the rest, and they all have a vested interest in this stuff.  But on the other hand, with how every media outlet that isn’t some conservative gossip rag like Ben the prolapsed donkey anus Shaprio’s site is so about the social justice narrative, part of me wonders if they all have this huge blindness to stuff.

Whatever the case, the simple truth is that it’s a play.  One that always makes my eyes roll every time I see it.  After Blizzard was rightfully being brutalized for what they did to a Hearthstone player who championed the Hong Kong protests, and you saw them in full damage control mode, there was this popular talking point online – which Overwatch character are they going to have be gay next?  It’s an easy dodge.  “What’s that?  You’re mad at us for basically kowtowing to the Chinese government and making ourselves look like their bitch?  Look over here, this character’s gay now!”  Easy dodge, and they’ve done it before.

Now we have a Star Wars film that has two women kissing for two whole seconds of screen-time.  Two characters who we don’t know or care even the slightest bit about.  For a kiss that will be easily edited out of China’s version because Disney wouldn’t DARE risk losing out on that sweet China cheddar.  It all reeks of bullshit to me.  It all reeks of trying to find an easy way to dodge this film’s criticism.  To try and get people arguing about something inconsequential in order to detract from the fact that every major reviewer I’ve watched has done nothing but shit all over the film for being worse than The Last Jedi.  The review I’m waiting for most is Red Letter Media.  That should be amazing.  Jay and Mike having a cynical tear-down of a film that is nothing but massive exposition bombs, no character development, no atmosphere, horrific pacing, an an ending that is absolute bullshit.  It will be nothing short of incredible.

How much longer can films do this, I wonder?  I mean, you can’t argue that this is female empowerment, or lesbian empowerment.  Two women we don’t know or care about kissing!  Yay…feminism?  Remember when they were talking about Po and Finn being the first gay couple in a Star Wars film?  Yeah, I get the feeling that Bob Iger came down personally and said that’s out.  Can’t have two central characters in a franchise be gay together, otherwise you couldn’t edit it out for China.  It has to be characters who have absolutely no significance to the plot at all.

Are there any detractors for my point of view on this?  Who can defend this and not see it for what it is?  Do you like getting cheap points?  Do you think that your side is winning by having two women kiss for two seconds at the end of a film?  Two characters we known nothing about and care even less?  That’s just dandy for you?  Doesn’t it bother you that a major company who claims up and down to be all about the rainbow flag represents you in a way where they take no actual risk doing so?  Not to mention, let’s have two dudes kiss.  Why?  Because then people might actually get upset.  See, two girls kissing is seen as hot by the culture at large.  Two dudes kissing is seen as awkward.  Oh wait, that’s also a risk.  Disney can’t do that.  Modern Disney isn’t about risk at all.

I’ve talked about this quite a bit over the last couple years or so.  It just bugs me every time I see stuff like this and the news just fawning all over what seems to me to be the most obvious feeding of a line thing ever.  I suppose it probably is just corporate media parroting a narrative because they are told to.  But they have dumbass readers who buy into their narrative.  Who don’t think for themselves.  And so they are looking at the forest and missing the trees.  That leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Maybe it’s my old journalism passion flaring up again and making me hate that all modern news is just infotainment.

Kind of a bummer, really.

Until next time, a quote,

“They fly now!” – Terrible line from Rise of Skywalker that they felt the need to repeat three times

Peace out,

Maverick

What Christmas Means to Me Now

Time was, I used to write posts for the holidays every year.  Lately, it’s been pretty damn hard to find things to write about at all.  Politics isn’t interesting.  The impeachment of Trump is going nowhere.  Even if it gets through the House, it is a fact that it will die in the Senate.  So talking about that is a waste of time.  Got asked about that from my boss, of all people.  It was a surprisingly frank discussion.  I seem to have struck gold in terms of whom is signing my paychecks right now.  This woman is amazing, even if she is too nice for this job, and too old for the level of work she has to do.  One of those gals who doesn’t want to settle into her twilight years.  Not enough people like this in the world.

As I sit here, listening to Christmas music and looking at my fantastically-lit Christmas tree, I think to myself about what Christmas means to me now.  It seems like every year, I have something happen which totally fucks over the holiday for me.  Most recently, it was hearing back from a job that I was so excited to hear about.  They left a voicemail telling me they wanted to talk to me about the job.  Calling them back, my heart was pounding.  And what did I get?  Being told that I didn’t get the position.  I was crushed.  Like, they couldn’t have just left that in the voicemail?  Is there some kind of rule that they had to tell me in person?

The winters in this dark icebox are getting harder for me.  Every year is harder than the last.  Maybe it would be easier if I had a job that didn’t suck the life out of me.  Got these two book ideas I’m working on.  Neither of which is going as fast as I’d like.  Had this cool idea to take my hatred of winter and turn it into something more positive, so I would try and finish one of them by the spring.  I know that’s not going to happen.  Every day when I get home from my job, I have no energy.  My mind is spent.  Clients on the phone endlessly, endless emails, endless imaging documents and case codes for over 1,400 cases.  It’s exhausting.

Or maybe it would be easier if I had something to come home to.  Got this lady in my life.  We’re talking about trying again.  But deep down, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I told her that I’d wait until she got past the bad breakup she got out of.  I don’t want to be a rebound guy.  Been down that road with someone else.  It sucked then, and I’m not 24 years old anymore.

Which brings us to the question – what does Christmas mean to me now?  At 31 years old, what does this holiday mean to me?  I don’t think I have an answer for that.  I’m the guy people come to for answers, and on this one I’m drawing a complete blank.  Got a coworker who trained with me for my job, and yet he comes to me when the boss is busy or not around.  Had a coworker who looked to me as a mentor after she got out of training.  Now she’s left us for a better job that puts her science background to use.  Gonna be making heaps of money.  I have answers for all sorts of stuff, and yet here I am drawing a complete blank.

Today I made a childhood favorite of mine as part of my yearly tradition of baked goodies that I give to friends and family.  Rather than buying gifts that people hate, I thought to myself – why not make gifts myself?  And what better than food?  It’s something I’m good at.  Really, really good at.  Of course, I don’t like making the same thing too many years in a row.  In fact, I hate it.  Last year, I made these amazing rolls for a workplace holiday potluck.  Everyone was in love with them.  I was asked if I would make them again this year.  My response – fuck no.  I don’t do repeat performances.  This year, I wanted to bring back a favorite from youth because it brings to mind good memories, and the parentals stopped making it when I was a little kid.

I think to me, Christmas means…disappearing.  I can do my baking projects, and it’s fun.  I get wrapped up in them and when it’s done, I’m right back where I started – in my empty apartment, listening to Christmas music and thinking about days gone by, wishing I could disappear into another life.  You know what superpower I want?  Shape-shifting.  To become anyone, and live the kind of life I want to live.  Because this life that I’m in now isn’t living up to expectations.  Got through class for the fall.  Did well.  Staring at the lights, and all I can think of is shifting to another body, leaving this place and never looking back.

Sorry to be dour.  The holidays haven’t meant much to me for a long time.  Maybe someday I’ll find the magic.  Maybe someday I’ll get out of where I’m working.  Maybe someday I’ll find love.  Who knows what happens someday.  Just real fucking sick of waiting for it.  At the very least, Cyberpunk 2077 has a release date.

Until next time, a quote,

“The only thing to be scared of, son, is tomorrow. I don’t live for tomorrow. Never saw the fun in it.” – Denny Crane, Boston Legal

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2020

It’s so weird to think that it’s going to be 2020.  I recently found out that this blog has been going for over 10 years.  I started this back in 2009, when I was 20 years old.  Over the years, my tastes in gaming have changed.  No longer does the spectacle interest me, so much as the human aspect.  My favorite games now are the ones with characters that I can get into, who feel like people I could know and like.  I could have a drink with Chloe Price, or Ryoji Sakamoto, or Garrus Vakarian.  2019 was a pretty ho-hum year for gaming, with some surprise sleeper hits and some games that were built up and fell pretty flat in places where it mattered.  However, as next year heralds a new console generation, there is some truly spectacular stuff on the horizon.  Everything I’ve seen about what’s coming next year tells me that I’m in for some amazing stuff.  Here is my list of games that I’m most excited for next year.

10. Carrion
Have you ever wanted to take the role of the Xenomorph in Alien?  Or the monster from John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece The Thing?  Well, we have a Metroidvania game that is doing just that!  And holy shit.  After an incredible, but flawed demo that shows there are things for them to work out, this game is not making the waves it should be.  Playing as a Lovecraftian monster that is basically just a massive pile of gore and claws and teeth, you get to be the creature enacting hell and death on the humans.  I loved this game from the first trailer, and I cannot wait to play it in all it’s disgusting glory next year.

9. Resident Evil 3 (Remake)
Capcom really stuck gold when they did the absolutely incredible and visually breath-taking remake of Resident Evil 2 this year.  Now that a trailer has officially dropped, we’ve gotten to see their next foray into remaking an old classic, and let me tell you, I am hooked!  Jill Valentine has never looked better.  Some people were annoyed that they put her in pants, but whatever.  Those are the same people who don’t like Daniel Craig as James Bond just because he wasn’t upbeat and suave enough for them like the Bond they knew growing up.  So long as they are true to the spirit of the original, some creative license is just fine.  And Valentine clearly hasn’t let her situation slow her down one bit.  The trailer that dropped made me think of when you were running from the Dhaka in Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within.  Nemesis looks terrifying, and I cannot wait to see how this game plays.

8. The Wolf Among Us 2
Man, speaking of games that snuck up on us, I was genuinely surprised when this trailer dropped at the Game Awards the other day.  I mean, Telltale has gone under, so where is this game coming from?  Still, I am really hopeful for it.  After all, I LOVED the first iteration of this game.  The story of Bigby Wolf and the who-dun-it mystery of the original was fantastic.  Sure, it had flaws, but the story was great, the characters were fun, and the noir art style was incredible.  Maybe if a new studio has taken this license and is making it their own, they can clean up some of the rougher things inherent in Telltale games’ engine that made some of the fighting stuff awkward.  Not sure where it’s coming from, but if we can pick up where I left off in the tale of Bigby, I’m more than happy to go down that road again.

7: DOOM: Eternal
You know what was awesome?  The 2016 remake of DOOM.  That game took everything we loved about the original and made it even better.  Arena shooters are coming back, and I have no problem with this.  Where DOOM 3 unsuccessfully tried to capitalize on the horror aspect of the franchise, the 2016 iteration took a much smarter tactic and took advantage of the fast pacing of the original, except with more verticality.  A game where you constantly have to keep in motion, because if you stop moving, you die.  A game where you have to take risks to do well, or be a total boss who can strafe around fire and never take a hit.  However you play, it’s all about blowing up demons and never stopping.  Every piece of gameplay for this title just makes me more excited to see what comes next.  The story trailer hints of everything going to shit, and even the hint that angels might get into the mix.  I’m stoked, and nothing I’ve seen has given me cause not to be.

6. Tales of Arise
For those who didn’t know, I love the Tales franchise.  Not every game is a masterpiece, but the ones that hit the mark for me hit it so damn well.  My personal favorite is Tales of the Abyss, so when I saw a new game was coming out where they are taking the old visual style and taking a big step further, you can imagine how excited I was.  It looks amazing.  The plot seems smaller than usual, focusing on just two people.  There also appears to be some changes with combat, but this franchise was in need of something to shake things up, and I think we may have found just the thing.  There’s more to learn, but it’s still exciting all the same.

5. Ghost of Tsushima
Here’s a game that came out big, had an AMAZING gameplay trailer back in 2018, but then kind of disappeared for a while.  However, they just had a big trailer that dropped, showing that not only is it still here, but it’s coming in 2020.  This game looks amazing.  Taking some actual Japanese history, combining it with action that looks right out of Assassin’s Creed, with a healthy dose of the Arkham games focus on stealth.  Everything I’ve seen says that this game is gonna be a visual marvel, a cultural piece, and so much fun!  I loves me some stealth games, and having one in the vein of Sekiro, minus the absolutely punishing difficulty sounds like just what the doctor ordered.  It’s a new IP, and one that seems to be in good hands with Sucker Punch.

4. Final Fantasy VII Remake
Boy howdy, I love what I’ve seen about this game, but part of me does have some major reservations.  The person who worked on this is the same guy who did Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III.  And both of those games has a SERIOUS flaw of feeling rushed and half-done.  If it’s true that this game is releasing episodically, then I am absolutely going to wait until the complete version is released before buying it.  However, even with all those misgivings, it still looks amazing, and it’s a remake of one of my favorite games.  Cloud has never looked better, and the combat does seem fun.  From what I’ve heard from those who played the demo, there is real strategy involved, and that’s pretty rad.  It’s a bit of a wait and see thing, but assuming that it isn’t a mess, I will eventually be all over it.

3. The Last of Us: Part II
Naughty Dog certainly does seem to have a pedigree for creating some of the most visually impressive, detail-rich, and narratively compelling games of all time.  When The Last of Us came out, I was in love with it.  I still am.  It was a masterful game that had two characters I loved with a growing relationship through it’s campaign.  There was some amazing stealth action which filled me with an immense sense of joy being able to cleverly sneak around and kill my foes, along with occasionally find ways to use one group against another.  Really hoping they expand on that.  I’d love it if I could use the infected against the human enemies in this next iteration.  Picking up years from where the previous version left off, we have Ellie now as a young woman, with a serious bone to pick with a group who seems to have murdered her girlfriend.  Out for blood, it’s only natural that Joel would wind up back with her.  I’m hearing rumors about him being much more nefarious, and part of me hopes that is false.  Granted, he isn’t a good person, but given where their relationship left off, I’m REALLY hoping this game doesn’t just fuck with us and having him be unnecessarily evil.  Or at least evil without a motivation.  Neil Druckmann has shown that having an axe to grind with social justice doesn’t preclude you from writing good stories.  Eager to see what this game is.  It got delayed, which makes me even happier.  I want a game that is ready, not rushed.  Let Square Enix have that mantel.  Something that stood out for me is that Ellie isn’t the open and honest girl some might hope.  After all, she’s wearing a gas mask in a building infested with spores.  We all know she doesn’t have to.  So she’s hiding her immunity still.  From her girlfriend.  The plot thickens.  Cannot wait to see where this goes.

2. Persona 5: Royal
Oh man, I cannot tell you all how excited I am.  Persona 5 is EASILY the most perfect JRPG ever made.  The characters are all amazing.  I could be friends with each and every one of them.  My favorite thing in the original game was spending time with my peeps, whether it was studying for exams, or going on adventures, or just having great conversations.  It felt like having an amazing relationship with character who all could be friends.  Forming relationships with them as well.  Makoto is my favorite to form a bond with.  She’s the kind of woman I find myself most drawn to.  Socially isolated, uncomfortable in new scenarios, but wicked smart and trying to better herself.  Say that I think of her as a waifu, but the reality is that that’s the kind of woman I like.  I see a LOT of myself in her.  Now we have a new version of the game coming out.  One that takes the original amazing game, adding more of it.  They are putting in the third semester that was cut from the first game, adding in a new playable character, and giving you a new stomping ground to explore.  Hearing all of that just made me turn into a complete little girl.  Taking something that’s perfect and giving me more of it is everything I could ask for.  The contender for best game this year is gonna be heated.

And the game I’m most excited for this year is…

1. Cyberpunk 2077
Finally!  After all these years of waiting, it’s finally happening!  I cannot being to explain how excited I am to get my hands on this game.  While I wasn’t all that able to get into The Witcher 3 due to the endless amount of backstory of two games that I found too verbose, here we have a new game that is its own thing.  Sure, there is the tabletop game that preceded it, but no video games who I have to be somewhat familiar with to have a grasp of this one.  The setting is amazing.  Everything I’m seeing says that this game is gonna be like nothing else I’ve played.  With shooting mechanics that borrow their damage style from Borderlands 2, some looting mechanics, a deep story, and relationships that you foster, I’m stoked.  There is one thing that does give me pause – the romance stuff.  Everything in this game is in first-person.  So…this is gonna be awkward.  Really, really fucking awkward.  Genuinely trying to figure out how this would work.  But it’s one of those things that I will have to wait and see.  It’s been over five years since it was announced, now we got a release date.  I’m stoked.  Unimaginably stoked.

What about you?  What games are you most excited for in 2020?  Let me know down in the Comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“You really think they give a rat’s dick what you look like?” – Johnny Silverhand, Cyberpunk 2077

Peace out,

Maverick