Thor Ragnarok… Is It Really THAT Good?

Yes, it’s good. In fact it’s very good; It’s by far the best of all the Thor films. But how good? Very good, as I said, but it still isn’t THAT good. Do you know what I’m saying? I think this might be getting a little confusing, so let’s back up a little.

Thor Ragnarok is really, really funny. I, personally, think it’s funnier than Guardians Of The Galaxy one and two. I don’t think it’s better than them as a whole, but it’s certainly funnier. The first joke of the movie is some generic villain, named Surtur, saying, ‘Thor, Son of Odin!’ At this point I was like ‘Jeez, they’re gonna own this Shakespearean crap and make me suffer, aren’t they?’ But then the movie defied my expectations about half a second later when Thor answers with ‘Surtur, Son of… A bitch!? You’re still alive?’ The delivery by Hemsworth really puts emphasis on the word ‘bitch’, which made the joke really funny. And throughout the film I would say Hemsworth is what helped many of the films jokes work because even the jokes that fall flat don’t feel awkward, and are easy to look past. So, hand-in-hand with the good comedy, the performances in the film are good too, because the same compliment can be given to all the actors involved.

Thor Ragnarok.jpg

But here’s the thing… This film prides itself on having the most overpowered villain in the MCU so far, Hella, who literally eliminates all of the Warriors Three (Those forgettable side characters from the other two Thor films, who were ‘important’) in the same five minutes it takes her to destroy Asgard’s entire army. Given that, one would think the action would be great in this film… But it’s not.

The action is crap.

You know how is Revenge of the Sith, the lightsaber battles feel like dances and almost as if there is absolutely no impact behind any of the punches and kicks the characters throw at each other? That’s how the action in this film feels. Nothing feels impactful. Not even when Thor and Hulk fight in the arena; What makes that fight work is the dialogue and comedy because, when you actually see Hulk and Thor fight, the camera work isn’t sure how much of Hulk it wants on screen at one time or how consistent it wants their strengths to be. The action feels so obviously fake. Compared to Spider-Man Homecoming (Which I previously reviewed), the fighting in this movie is awful and, considering Spider-Man only physically punches the Vulture maybe once in that entire movie, twice if I want to risk falsifying information, that is quite the insult.

One action scene stands out however, and that is the opening one, because Thor’s hammer goes to town on everyone and, oddly enough, that is also the only fight that the directing is stand-out. This is because they have a tracking shot where we follow the camera from behind and whizz around, doing cool stuff. But they destroy the hammer right after that and then then it’s just Thor punching stuff. No more fun flying hammers, no lightning and nothing else exciting. I mean, sure, there’s plenty of lightning at the end but the CGI is awful so it doesn’t count. Like I said before, it all feels fake and unconvincing.

Team ThorTeam ThorTeam ThorTeam Thor.gif.jpg

I could slate the action in this film all day, but I don’t think I will because, the truth is, I really enjoyed this movie and really think it’s worth seeing. The reason for this is that the characters are amazingly awesome. It’s kind-of like Terminator 2. I mean Terminator 2 has good gunfights and chases, don’t get me wrong, but when the Terminators start punching each other it couldn’t be any more awkward, yet I’d say that’s one of my favourite action films because the characters are so great.

The same is true for this film. Okay, Thor Ragnorok isn’t one of the best action films ever, and certainly isn’t one of the best Marvel films ever, but it will sure as hell give you a good time watching. The dialogue is well written, though the plot is a bit hit and miss, and the characters are so enjoyable to watch, and the actors obviously care about their roles so always look like they’re having fun with the film. It’s just a blast.

Apart from the fact 90% of the film feels like a side quest, it isn’t that bad. I mean Thor learns of something that could destroy Asgard and then puts it in a vault with the thing it requires to destroy Asgard. The plot is stupid. Really stupid. Then nobody mentions the end of Asgard until Thor decides to drop a nuke on it, in the form of the eternal flame. Shit gets weird. The thing is Asgard being destroyed feels like it’s only part of the film because the producers said ‘you have to blow up Asgard in the end’ to the director. The way this film just side-tracks to an alien planet for 90% of the time contrasts this and makes it feel like the director wanted to make a film not connected at all with Ragnarok or the end of the world, so the ending feels just like the action does… Fake and illegitimate, as a result. The destruction of Asgard feels forced. Thor and friends blow it up so Hella can’t draw power from it and defeat them. But this is stupid.

Thor is overpowered now, he could easily fight Hella, so why did he blow up Asgard just to defeat her? Because Odin said she gets her power from it? No, that’s a load of crap! Thor also gets power from the place, apparently, so he should be able to defeat her there. Why not throw her off the edge of Asgard like Loki in the end of the first film? Then she’ll run out of power. Why not-

Before I get angry and give this film an unfair rating… I think I have to move on.

Stand by

Okay I’m ready to move on now. Now that I’ve explained myself I think I’ll end on the same note I started with. Is Thor Ragnarok average? No. Is it above average? Yes. Is it good? Yes. Is it very good? Yes. Is it… THAT good? No. No, it is not THAT good. It’s very good, and that’s all.

Honestly I find it a hard movie to rate and I think is one that you’d have to se for yourself to be able to judge. So go out now and watch it, because I’d still recommend it.

Just to end, I have to rate Thor Ragnarok because 6 months ago I said I’d review all the Marvel films… Then I forgot… But here’s the updated list of best to worst films I have reviewed so far.

  1. Spider-Man Homecoming (Fun Ride)
  2. Thor Ragnarok (Muy Bueno)
  3. Doctor Strange (Overrated Crap)
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The Representation Of War In Videogames

Conflict has and always will be a central part of the majority of all videogames, and plays a large role in the fun added to the game. Whether we are bouncing on Goomba’s in Mario, or mowing down hundreds of demon Imps in Doom, there is a level of satisfaction that comes along with conflict. But why?

The simple answer is that it’s fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just look at Call Of Duty Modern Warfare and all its sequels; The Modern Warfare trilogy is often regarded as the best CoD has to offer, and it simulates real-world countries in the present day nuking each other, using biological weapons on one and other and, in general, just shooting the crap out of people who aren’t on their side. It’s literally World War 3 in those games. It’s fun.

Nuke

But why is it fun? I think this question is too subjective to have a definitive answer but I simply believe it’s because of the escapism that games offer; Conflict like this, on small and large scale, cannot be allowed to happen in reality because of the destruction and loss of life that would happen to real people but, in games, anything can happen. Look at it this way, on a smaller scale: You go to work and your boss has you paired up with a co-worker who you deeply hate and despise. They hate you too. You get into an argument that escalates fast into cursing and abuse, before a physical fight breaks ou,t and one, if not both of you, ends up being fired once the situation is over. Wouldn’t that absolutely suck? Yes… Yes it would. But if you pop on The Sims, you can act out this situation in, not only a way that calls for absolutely no consequences, but in a way that frames it comically and makes you smile, rather than frown.

I love games for doing this because everybody needs escapism. I’m not here to talk about that however, because I could write pages on how good this sort of thing is in games, in my opinion. Instead I’m here to explore why violence in particular games is bad, though not to us, but to the games themselves. Before I start, however, I just want to state that not everything I say now will apply to all games, but can certainly be attributed to more than a few.

So, without further a-do, let’s look at Battlefield 1.

Battlefield 1

What seems like an eternity ago now, when Battlefield 1 was announced to be set in World War 1, there was a lot of conversation rising from this. Why? Because this war has always been the war that is overlooked by the media a lot. While it isn’t ignored and certainly has recognition, just look at the staggering amount of World War 2 games and movies like Medal Of Honour, Call Of Duty, Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk in comparison to the amount of World War 1 media. Sure, the recognition of World War 1 is there in the form of films and games like Valliant Hearts and All Quiet on the Western Front, but it is significantly dwarfed by the massive amount of attention that the Second World War has, in comparison. So it was surprising when Battlefield 1 decided to take this war as its setting.

When it came to making the campaign for Battlefield 1 then, the developers took time to make each of the “War Stories” (as the game describes them) as respectful as they were fun. To a certain degree this works. The game acknowledges often how pointless the war was and how horrific it was to fight in, by introducing us to characters who prioritise their survival over the orders of their commanders, and older soldiers who hopelessly try to tell the young, naïve soldiers that war isn’t as “glorious” as the recruitment propaganda says it is. As far as what the cut scenes of the campaign tell us about the war, I’d say they convey a positive message about war, duty and sacrifice by telling us of how horrific the war is, but showing us the sense of duty our soldiers upheld by continuing to fight in awful conditions for us, and how their sacrifices made for a better tomorrow.

For an example of this look no further than The Runner War Story in Battlefield 1. It follows a seasoned fighter, Bishop, upholding his duty to fight in the war, whilst discouraging a naïve younger soldier from fighting at all both because he thinks the fight will be something glorious and exciting, and because he can barely hold a rifle. After disobeying Bishops orders, the young boy is horrified by the countless dead from a previous battle and begins to understand the horrors of war. Later, Bishop, despite it going against his best interests, sacrifices his life storming an enemy fort so that his army’s navy and deployed soldiers aren’t barraged. He ensures the soldiers live to fight in a better tomorrow without the danger of the fort’s artillery. It acknowledges the horror of war, forces the characters to uphold their duty, and ends in heroic sacrifice. As well as this, the graphics, writing and just about everything else conveyed in these cut scenes are all beautifully done so the stories, though all clichéd, come across as heartfelt, genuinely respectful pieces of work.

But the gameplay contradicts all of it.

B1

Despite the game constantly enforcing the value of human life in each and every cut scene, such as when Bishop trying to discourage the naïve soldier from throwing his life away, the gameplay would have you mercilessly gun down hundreds of faceless, identical enemies, to whom we have no connection, without a second thought. It becomes a generic shooter, essentially. And though it is a good generic shooter, with good gameplay (With the exception of the AI which often makes less than ‘good’ decisions), it totally goes against all the messages and values it tries to convey to us. “Human life is important,” Said Battlefield 1, as it handed you a fully automatic, mounted machinegun facing against a field of advancing enemies with no identity. “Upholding Duty is difficult,” Said Battlefield 1, as it threw at you a mass of uniformed foes who will never, ever think twice about pulling the trigger on you. “Sacrifice is tragically heroic,” Battlefield 1 told us as a hundred of  faceless opponents sacrificed themselves in a hopeless battle against you, the player, and then get no recognition after the fact.

The problem is that Battlefield 1 presents us with characters who, in the cut scenes seem very conflicted, but are not conflicted at all once control is handed to the player. The War Story titled, Through Mud and Blood, has you take on the roll of a nervous recruit on a new assignment, who has seen little action and is quite worried about his upcoming missions to drive a tank in battle. Yet when we, the player, obtain control of him and the tank, once the gameplay starts, we make no hesitations in aiming for the biggest possible target on the field and then using our cannons to collapse it upon all of those who would dare oppose us. There is no link between the meaningful messages of the cut scenes and the mass acts of violence we are forced to partake in during the campaign, as it is impossible to progress through the campaign without killing quickly and indiscriminately at one point or another.

The same is true for Call Of Duty which tells us that, “Oh no, we’ve got to save the world, but not before mowing down hundreds of thousands of people.” Halo 5 is all like, “You should root for Master Chief, even though he deliberately awoke a Guardian with full knowledge that it would kill thousands of civilians when it rose from beneath the Earth.”

This issue plagues a lot of games, particularly first person shooters more than others, as you can see from my examples. But what about Mario or Doom, which I mentioned during the intro. Well they do not face this problem. Why? Mario doesn’t because it never attempts to portray violence as a bad thing or to humanise the enemies. A Goomba is a Goomba. It’s fine to kill one and the game doesn’t say otherwise. In contrast Battlefield 1 wants you to appreciate human life, as you take it in mass. Doom would be free of this problem because the whole concept of Doom is to glorify violence and encourages it more and more as the game progresses. The whole game is a power-trip and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Again, in contrast, Battlefield 1 wants you to believe you’re but another soldier in this war, but then gives you more health than anyone else on the battlefield and has it regenerate periodically. For gameplay purposes this might work, but it goes against all the messages still because you, the player, are objectively stronger than your enemies. If they had a health pack system, perhaps, like older war-games, where your health could not regenerate and you had to scavenge fro supplies to regain it, then this problem could be solved somewhat.

Valliant Hearts

I think for Battlefield 1’s message to have worked it would have had to have been in a way that was similar to Valliant Hearts, another First World War game, in that you would be in battles and involved in violence and occasionally cause death, but such occurrences were rare. This would give the player more time to appreciate human life through gameplay by solving puzzles, like finding supplies to heal another soldiers bullet wound, or doing tasks for other NPC’s like delivering ammunition to soldiers… But then this game wouldn’t be a first person shooter… Or even a Battlefield game. The game would have to objectively change to accomplish these things. Thus I don’t think it was ever going to be possible for a game like Battlefield 1 to ever fully stick to the themes of war it attempted to portray, because of it’s very nature of being a game that involves murder on a mass scale of people who it portrays as objectively evil.

Though such things don’t often occur to many of us as we play games because, again, games are escapism, it is a serious thing to consider, particularly when we get games like this that try to appeal to the more emotional and human side of us. Keep it in the back of your mind next time you play a campaign about war, and see how it all stacks up.

 

The Problem With Choice Games

For those of you who have ever played a game made by Telltale, could I kindly ask you to remember that one time you made a decision that was supposedly ‘important’, but turned out to be a pile of crap by the end because they impacted the story in absolutely no meaningful way? And then can you realise that it wasn’t just ‘one time’ but it was, in fact, quite a frequent thing to experience.

As highly as I hold The Walking Dead Season 2, off of the top of my head I can think of three choices that made no meaningful impact to the story in that game. One choice being to choose whether or not to cut off Kenny’s wife’s arm, after a walker bites her, in an attempt to save her. This choice is pointless because whether you choose to remove it or not, she will die less than five minutes into the next episode anyway. The choice is meaningless. Secondly a mother named Rebeca will die and become a walker while holding her new-born child. You get the choice to shoot her or call for help, but it doesn’t matter because if you call for help then someone else shoots her and you get the same result as if you shot her. The choice is meaningless. The third is when a character called Luke falls beneath the ice of a frozen lake. You can choose to swim in after him or distract the walkers, but it doesn’t matter because Luke dies either way in that very moment.

This is a problem that plagues many, if not all, of Telltale’s games. Similarly, in The Wolf Among Us, killing Tweedle-Dee in a werewolf state will not at all alter the story, with the exception of one or two line of dialogue in the last episode that are just there to acknowledge that it happened, and do not alter the story either. Telletale is not the only one guilty of putting meaningless choices in games. Square Enix’s Life Is Strange offers a whole section of convincing a girl not to commit suicide, but whether you succeed in saving her life or fail, resulting in her death, doesn’t matter because she holds no importance to the story. If she lives you get to visit her in hospital and get some information out of her about a possible predator in the school but, if she dies, you get that exact same information in another scenario just as easily. So, after her death or survival, she serves no purpose.

But I’m not here to take a crap on choice games. Though I’m not the biggest fan of Life Is Strange, I did find it charming and amusing, and The Walking Dead Season 2 and The Wolf Among Us are two of my favourite Telltale games. Sometimes meaningless choices are necessary in games like this to keep the player engaged and to keep the story moving. And it’s not like these games can have infinite amount of outcomes because that’s hardly possible, which is why most of these games have one or two fixed endings, maybe a third and a disappointing fourth if we’re lucky. Just note that not all the choices are like this and although a multitude of these meaningless but necessary choices exist doesn’t reflect badly on the game so long as they’re not obvious and they don’t spoil the experience for you as a player. It’s very subjective; Some players can let it slide, some don’t like it, but it doesn’t objectively make these games bad. Many of them are very good.

The problem arises when we compare these games to other types of games, which is what I’m going to do now. I’m going to compare these games to Fallout, which released in 1997, and Tyranny, which released in 2016, both of which are story-driven isometric RPG’s with an element of choice.

The problem is that these two games, I believe, handled the idea of giving players choice much better than any of the games that are specifically designed around choice, despite the fact the primary gameplay for these two games is that of any other isometric RPG.

The Master

Here’s the thing… I felt like a manipulative, intellectual genius when I convinced a horrific, deformed monster, which had somehow merged itself with an artificial intelligence within a Vault, to commit suicide, after weaving my way through multiple in-depth dialogue options in Fallout. But I didn’t feel like a heroic saviour when I convinced Kate not to kill herself in Life Is Strange. I felt a little relieved and somewhat proud, but I didn’t quite feel that rush of dopamine one gets when they’re excited at their success. But I did get that feeling with Fallout, and I think that’s because of how ambiguous the game allows you to be in dialogue. When faced with the Master, who is the monster I previously described, I had the options to kill him myself with my guns, convince him his plan would never work and he should kill himself, join him, or not even encounter him and blow him up without ever speaking to him or even seeing him, by detonating a bomb in the Vault. Though there are the obvious ‘good’ choices that involve killing him, there are multiple ways of going about it; I can kill him face-to-face, kill him without ever encountering him or convince him to commit suicide. On top of that there is the ‘evil’ option of joining him and becoming a mutant myself to conquer the wasteland. Similarly there at token ‘good’ and ‘bad’ choices in Life Is Strange, which are to save Kate or to let Kate die.

Kate LIS

So what’s the difference between these two games? If it wasn’t obvious, it is that Fallout has infinite amounts of more depth that Life Is Strange does. In Life Is Strange, and similar games, we get ‘Press ‘X’ to make this choice, and press ‘B’ to make the other choice’. This isn’t the case in Fallout; In Fallout we get a full lines of dialogue to choose from so nothing our character says is left up to assumption, and we know exactly what is going to go down. We also get more than 2-4 diologue choices, and sometimes we get variant ways of phrasing what we want to say that can increase or decrease the likelihood that the Master will want to kill himself, if we choose this lengthy dialogue route. We can be a bit sassy and witty about the matter and insult the guy, or we can be very reserved and composed with how we speak to him, and how we deliver our lines all determines how likely the Master is to be influenced by us, which is cool because both these options are viable with a good speech skill. Whereas Life Is Strange is screaming at me ‘PRESS THIS BUTTON TO SAY THIS LINE OF DIALOGUE, THAT LEADS TO THIS CHOICE’, Fallout is smirking confidently, and presenting to me the available choices as my conversation with the Master progresses, naturally, (That is if I even choose to encounter the Master).

I will explore why this difference is or may be at the end of this piece, but for now we’ll take an example from the game Tyranny and compare it to The Walking Dead Season 2.

The Walking Dead Season 2

It is no secret I love The Walking Dead Season 2, as I have praised it a lot on this blog. I love how the end of the game presents you with a variety of heart-breaking endings, which I’ll now speak of for context. They are: Shoot Kenny dead, have a conversation with him in which he apologises as he dies, and live with Jane and baby AJ. Secondly we can do all that again, except we can reject Jane by telling her we want nothing to do with her and live alone with baby AJ. Alternatively we can let Kenny kill Jane, then shoot Kenny (Though we get no sad apology doing it this way) and live alone with baby AJ. Or we can let Kenny kill Jane and live with Kenny and AJ. The final choice is to let Kenny kill Jane but then let go of Kenny, by telling him it’s time to move on, and live alone with baby AJ.

This games ending is so good because of the variety of endings it offers, but I believe it is nothing in comparison to Tyranny.

You see, whereas The Walking Dead Season 2 has a pretty linear story all up until the very end, in which it suddenly opens up, Tyranny is just a very open story experience. Like typical choice games, Tyranny’s story is more or less the same in that you play as a law enforcer, called a Fatebinder, and you overthrow the evil forces controlling you and end on the note of declaring war on a large empire. However the way in which you experience the story is vastly different depending on the choices you make during the short first act. Though there are only four main choices that will affect how you experience the game, those being if you decide to ally with the Scarlet Chorus Army, the Disfavoured Army, The Vendrian Guard Army or if you decide to have no allies, there are deep impactful choices to be made in the games prologue that affect how the world interacts with you, in a section of the game called ‘Conquest’. Here your choices determine which factions favour you and fear you, and often influence what your followers think of you.

Tyranny the archons

Whereas the Walking Dead is quite linear and only open at the end, with the game claiming ‘Characters will remember that’, when, in fact, the characters don’t care because they’re programmed to do certain things regardless of your choices, Tyranny is a game that invites you to repeatedly play for alternative experiences through and through. Like a typical choice game many of Tyranny’s quests remain the same, but how you interact with the characters in the quest, how they interact with you, and what becomes of you all by the end of it vastly differs dependant your choices in the first act of the game. For instance I did a play-through in which I sided with the Disfavoured and honoured their every wish to gain favour and power and, when I became too powerful, an Archon named Bleden Mark was dispatched to kill me. I couldn’t reason with him because my power rivalled that of the evil dictator he served and whom I had previously served with him. However when I decided to do a run through without allies, he offered me help in gaining more power because while I was weak I opted to defy everyone who was attempting to win the favour of our vicious dictator through me. In this play-through Bleden Mark admired my strength of character and played a pivotal role in helping me overthrow the other armies in the game by locating artefacts of power for me to find. I wouldn’t say we were friends… But he was a reasonable guy on this occasion.

So, despite my love for The Walking Dead, I’d take a game that invites me to have new experiences throughout than a game that only offers me that after I’ve played four two hour episodes of linear things I’ve already seen, full of choices that are meaningless but necessary.

But why are these isometric RPG’s so much better at giving players real choices than games that are specifically designed around the element of choice? Well it’s because of the RPG gameplay that acts as an additional layer of gameplay to the choices. This gameplay incites players to get better at the game, and to level up, and to complete their goals to become stronger because they can’t beat the game unless they do so. I couldn’t convince the Master to kill himself in Fallout without a high speech skill that I worked to get, or have shot him to death at level 1 with only thirty hit points. In Tyranny I couldn’t have made the decision of which army to ally with, if any, without investing time in the world to learn about the values and opinions of all them, and wouldn’t have been able to appreciate how diverse the game was without first teaching myself how to play. These isometric RPG’s offer a level of exploration, discovery and conflict that Telltale and Square Enix just can’t match with The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange.

And that isn’t to say that The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are bad at these things or can’t do them. The Walking Dead’s appeal is the character conflict, particularly between you, the player, and Kenny because of how he behaves within the group and drives people away. It’s an interesting thing to experience. And Life Is Strange was truly shocking exploring that barn and discovering the hideout of a predator who kidnaps young women and photographs them, and it’s an intriguing idea to explore how a time-traveller might tackle the situation.

But at the end of the day, for all the choices they give you, these choice games are just two and a half hour cut scenes that only occasionally let you walk around to solve the most basic of puzzles and in a very small area. But these isometric RPG’s have the benefit of having so much more depth by letting you explore a larger world and interact with just about anyone or anything.

choice games

It may seem unfair to compare these two very different types of games, but it is just a fact that Fallout and Tyranny have no meaningless choices, as is evident by the reel at the end of both games that tell you how what you did affected the world and how it will continue to in future. I almost feel bad for these other choice games, because there was a time where story-driven choice games were a lot better; Just think back to Tales From the Borderlands, or The Walking Dead Season 1. They’re not perfect, but certainly better than titles like the new Guardians Of The Galaxy Telltale games has been pushing on us. Luckily Square Enix is currently doing an amazing job with Life Is Strange Before The Storm to keep the people enjoying these types of games happy.

I believe that by studying how these isometric RPG’swhich encourage exploration, allow freedom, and more naturally present the idea of player choice, that other story-driven choice games by Telltale, Square Enix and other developers can improve. It may be true that meaningless but necessary choices have to exist in order to simply move along the story, but that doesn’t mean they can’t eventually be reduced as these types of games progress. I just hope something is learned so we don’t end up with more steaming piles of crap like The New Frontier and Guardians Of The Galaxy. I just hope. I’m know these types of games can’t match the freedom given to learn about the world that a large scale RPG can, but in their own way perhaps they can invite us to spend longer in the puzzle sections to learn about where we are and what we are doing, because I find that there is no incentive to do so, quite too often, despite the fact that the material needed to do so is there.

I know these games can improve, and I want them to.

 

Freedom In Videogames

Like all forms of entertainment, videogames are a distraction from real life and part of the reason they are so popular is because they are all interactive; They grant us some freedom to do whatever the hell we want after we’ve been on rails all day, weather that be at work, in school or performing the various mundane tasks we said we would do a week ago, but thought it would be better to wait until there was a serious panic until we actually did them. The point is that, though we live in free countries and should all recognise how lucky we are that we’re not in poverty or war-struck third-world countries, sometimes we have to go on the rails and that sometimes causes stress. First world problems, while not severe, are real, after all. Work is good. School is good. Your mundane tasks are just that; Mundane. But if they’re stressful and you’ve been having a bad day, they’re not fun and you begin feeling all too constricted. To break out of this constriction many of us, myself included, look to videogames.

Depending on our mood we play certain games because different games give us different amounts of freedom. Some are limited. Look at games like The Last Of Us- It’s a very linear game with little room to ‘make your own story’ but within that game there are encounters that grant you freedom to choose how you want to approach them. Then compare this to a game like Oblivion which is a large open world with quests that we can choose to partake in or simply ignore. Hell, we can even choose our own characters name, appearance and skills!

For all the different amounts of varying freedom that all types of games grant us, the video gaming industry should never stop receiving praise. It simple beats the life out of other forms of media in this regard.

Rather than trying to covey to you a point of view, as I normally do, today I want share how I approach videogames because, though I can’t say for sure, I believe I approach games the same way many people do. That is because despite the fact that games grant the freedom to be and do whatever we want, I often approach situations in games the same way I would in real life.

Life Is Strange BTS2

I know this because I recently played Life Is Strange Before The Strom and then watched a few YouTubers do that as well, so I could compare my choices to theirs. And whereas Pewdiepie and Jacksepticeye chose to confess their love to Rachel Amber in the very first episode of the game because they thought ‘Ooo, I want to see how this plays out’, I simply confessed to Rachel that I thought we were ‘close friends’ because, despite the fact I’d have liked to have confessed my love, I know that isn’t what I would have done in real life, so I made that decision based on what I would really do. And I don’t regret this decision, of course, because Rachel isn’t real and I don’t have real feelings of love for her, only the appropriate amount one can have for a fictional character. But I did find it really interesting.

Why?

Because in Life Is Strange Before The Storm we play as Chloe, a rebel girl with a rebel attitude who takes no shit and will bad-mouth anyone to get her own way- That is to the point that the game has a mini-game where you can yell at people to get your own way. Yet here I was, some short, quiet, skinny, nerdy guy, taking on the role of this supposed badass, as her peers like to call her and… I couldn’t be who the game wanted her to be. Using the freedom of choice, granted to me by the game, I made Chloe’s first outing with Rachel Amber a somewhat awkward one…

I threw her belt over the changing room wall and hit her on the head… Like an idiot. I sat in silence on the train and made the atmosphere a little awkward… Like an idiot. I picked the cringiest dialogue options possible in the section where the two of you peer through the view finders (Which is hard to do as 99% of this games dialogue is pure cringe anyway)… Like an idiot. But I’m happy I did this. And the reason for this is that I ultimately ended up being in the minority for three of the four main choices of Episode One of that game.

Now, I know that these choice games always lead up to the same ending or an incredibly similar ending by the time it’s all done, but I do relish in knowing my story is going to be slightly more unique in comparison to that of the majority of other players.

I’m not claiming to be a ‘special snowflake’ here because, undoubtedly, I will replay the game and make all the decisions I didn’t on the first play-through. But the second play-through doesn’t count, and it never will because after starting the game again we already know all of the beats and what’s around every corner. It’s just like what people say about Skyrim; ‘The worst thing about Skyrim is that you can only play it for the first time once.’ And this is true, because seeing Whiterun or Solitude for the 200th time never makes your eyes widen or your jaw drop the way it did the first time you saw them.

You see, for many people what makes videogames so freeing is that you can do whatever you want, which is exactly why evil play-throughs of so many RPG’s are viable ways of completing the game. But for me, and I feel many others, the freedom of videogames comes from the fact that you can experience them by being yourself and not having to act like a hero or a villain, but by simply being yourself. To remain entertaining, of course, this call to action is eventually forced upon us, inevitably, but there are ways to remain true to who we are as people as we progress.

Skyrim The Blades

I remember playing Skyrim for the first time ever, in 2011, and being so untrusting of Delphine that I could not progress through the main story after returning the horn to the Greybeards, because I refused to go to fight a dragon with her after she stole the horn from the tomb and knew who I was before I even walked in the door. I even did the Dark Brotherhood quest-line and Civil War quests before returning to the main quest, which I think is strange for a first time play-through of the game, because of how untrusting I was of her. When I finally returned I became a reluctant hero because I found myself not wanting anything to do with  her or the Blades, but only worked with them because it was necessary to do so. And that’s not roleplay; That was all me and how I approached the game.

Sometimes I wonder if it is the game that grants us freedom, or if it’s us people that play the game and interpret it in a way that it wasn’t supposed to be so that we can be more creative and grant ourselves our own freedom within it. I found this the case for me. Life Is Strange Before The Storm wanted me to, and heavily pushed for me to go lovey-dovey with Rachel, but I did the opposite. I said we were just friends. Skyrim wanted me to trust Delphine, but I couldn’t without information upfront. Sometimes the magic of videogames isn’t what they allow you to do differently to what you would normally do, but how you as a player interact with them in a way you would anything else in your normal, day-to-day life.

Keep that in mind next time you play a game, be it an on-the-rails emotional ride like That Dragon Cancer, or an open-ended adventure like Fallout: New Vegas. Just keep it in mind.

The Flood Returns: Awakening The Nightmare Review

At last. The long awaited Halo Wars 2 Campaign DLC we all wanted after the main game’s insulting cliff hanger. Finally some conclusion- Oh wait… Nothing is concluded here. Guess we’ll wait until we can pay another £15 for more DLC… Or maybe until we can pay £60 for Halo 6, if they truly are too lazy to conclude this game’s story before the next one comes out…

I have my complaints with this DLC, as I mentioned above; There is no conclusion to the main game’s story, which was left very open ended, and this is very disappointing considering they’ve had the main game’s campaign, the Operation Spear Breaker DLC and this DLC to wrap things up for the story, but nope- Atriox is still hiking across the Ark and Cutter is doing god knows what on the Spirit Of Fire. Some conclusion wouldn’t hurt, seeing as this game has really been stretching itself out in terms of story.

The only reason I can think of for this game not having a satisfying conclusion, despite the fact the beginning and middle of each of its stories are all really well told and structured, is because 343 want to make Master Chief meet The Spirit Of Fire and then have Spartan Locke running around shooting the Banished in an epic Halo 6 story. But why can’t that happen while also giving this game a good ending? 343 seem to have an obsession with cliff-hangers and it’s unhealthy. It’s time to stop.

Come on guys, step up your game. Get on my level; Get on the communities level.

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Right, now that I’ve vented, I can finally get onto the good stuff about this DLC. And, just like the main game, everything about this is good, excluding the crappy ending. This DLC is absolutely most impressive in comparison to the middle child, Spear Breaker; Awakening The Nightmare has a tangible story, characters who are actually given development and that we care about and has some really good damn levels.

The levels, or missions, in this DLC are awesome. I felt like in the main game and in Spear Breaker the levels were good but, after a while, all began to blend together and were essentially you doing the same thing over and over again, but that isn’t the case here. Each of the levels feel different and have their own identity; There’s the opening level where you, The Banished, are not to be trifled with as you wreck everything that tries to kill you. This is followed by the level where we first get to fight The Flood and they steam roll your troops. This level is so fun because it really captures how aggressive and unstoppable The Flood are in Halo lore, in that no matter what you do, you will get your butt kicked in this level to some degree- It’s all about defending positions and falling back to the next line, kind of like a top down version of Battlefield One’s Rush mode in an RTS form. After that we get a level where we have to mine for power with these big ass drills before the flood overthrows the whole landscape, which it basically already has by this point. Following this is my favourite level in which you are underground with a set amount of units and cannot build any bases, which means that when the game gives you the option to recruit units in this mission you must chose carefully what units you want. I love it, it’s really neat. Finally, in the last mission, we have an epic fight against a Proto-Gravemind, and it’s actually done really well.

The diversity of level-design here is very prominent and I must commend the developers for freshening the game up more, which must be hard considering they’ve already made one campaign and a DLC for it already.

Anyone who is a long-term Halo fan, I think, will be satisfied with this DLC story. The fact we have more epic cutscenes and good writing, as well as two new Brute characters, who are surprisingly well written considering the short number of missions, is more than enough to sell this DLC.

Halo Wars 2 Awakening The Nightmare

Awakening The Nightmare really captures everything The Flood were set up to be in the original games; We see The Flood absorbing the landscape and infecting our own units to turn them against us and, let me tell you, they finally made Flood Spores an enemy to be reckoned with. I always though the Flood Spores were so cheap and easy to kill on previous Halo games, unless you played on Legendary or had multiple skulls on, but here they throw so many Flood Spores at you all at once that becomes quite overwhelming very quickly. The excitement of trying to manage troops fighting on multiple fronts is really amazing and this DLC does test your ability split your troops up, rather than have them wander around in a massive army, and I appreciate that fact. It’s so easy to just horde together a mass of units and just steam-roll anything that might be coming your way, but this DLC tries to change that and it works, for the most part.

I was nerding out so hard all throughout this DLC and I think you will too, if you have been long-term fan of Halo. I think even newer fans will be able to appreciate this story, so I highly recommend it.

With the addition of two new leaders for multiplayer, who I have yet to use, and the addition of Terminus Firefight, I do think this game is worth the money they’re charging. Believe me when I say that, because I did feel a bit ripped-off with the Spear Breaker one, which was quite crappy in my opinion. Awakening The Nightmare though goes up and beyond, it’s truly worth the money, even if you’re into just multiplayer it provides a whole new game mode and leaders, so throw some money at it.

The only thing that would make this better is if 343 would get off their high-horse, let go of their god damn egos and give this game the satisfying ending it deserves. 343… You’re not the hot new kid on the block; You’re the nerdy fan fiction writer who still needs to prove themselves to the community. Yeah, you took a step in the right direction here, but Atriox walking away angry doesn’t count as ‘satisfying’. We need a winner or a loser on the Ark, or something in the middle with Humans and Banished uniting against The Flood, maybe, just do something with it. Stop leaving us hanging. Don’t tease us before you satisfy us, this isn’t a porno. Satisfy us and then play around teasing us.

What I would say to everyone now who is watching the DLC that 343 is putting out is to be careful. If they keep making top-notch content like Awakening The Nightmare, then I’d advise you to buy what they sell you, provided you have the money and are interested. But look out for those Operation Spear Breakers, which are, let’s say, a little less than satisfying. 343 are doing right with Halo Wars 2, but some Halo fans still aren’t convinced of them, so it is worth being sceptical about. But hey, as long as the content is good then I think we should all be happy, so go out and please buy Awakening The Nightmare.

IT Review – Making Horror Fun Again

I hate horror films. They’re boring, predictable and linear. I can list on one hand the horror films I enjoy because they actually scared me when I first saw them; Halloween, Halloween 2 (Both now very dated and un-scary), Saw (The original, though it was more of a thriller) and the Babadook (If only for the jump-scares). As far as the IT book goes, I’ve never read it. And the IT miniseries? It was an unintentional laugh-out-loud comedy and, when it tried to be scary, it was boring.

But what do I think of this film; IT 2017?

IT is a really fun, solid and entertaining movie! I really, really mean it!

Now, I wouldn’t call this film scary and for this I blame the editing and pacing. There was no real time to appreciate any of the scares in the film or to sit back in awe of how powerful or scary Pennywise is because, although the scenes are all acted, shot and written well, the scenes, when put together, don’t connect in a satisfying way. One second you’ll be in the most intense scenes you’ve seen in cinema, and the next you’re just chilling out in a park with zero danger, zero acknowledgement of that danger and then you’re just sitting there realising that previous scene, although good, left no impact on you. Towards the end of the film this gets better, that is the later half of act 2 and going into act 3, the final act. The first half of the movie, bar the intro scene, suffers heavily though from what I’ve just described, however, and it can be distracting.

But, apart from that, there are very few negatives I can think of, so let’s get into the positives.

Pennywise drain

What I absolutely love and adore about this film are the special effects- They are all super creative and appropriate. None of the CGI is overused and everything always feels real. One notable moment in the film, which utilises special effects creatively, is when Pennywise is folded up and upside down in a fridge or cupboard and, when he rolls out, his body parts are all backwards and out of place; His arms are facing the wrong way, his head is facing backwards, but his torso is sideways and one foot is facing the opposite direction to the other. As well as looking really good, the way Pennywise then reassembles his body to be facing the right way, like a humanoid Rubik’s Cube, is amazing! Not only is it creepy, as he approaches one of the children, but also quite comical. I don’t mean ‘comical’ in a bad way though- What I mean is that the film is embracing the fact Pennywise is a clown, and so when he does these supernatural things, they always present it very theatrically and it works super well with his character and clown persona. So, if you’re tired of blue lasers going into the sky and explosions flying around, and debris falling 24/7, this film will be a breath of fresh air in terms of special effects. Again, I cannot praise the creativity enough. Hell, I’d recommend you see this film just for the effects.

What I also love is the tone of this movie, but I think from a more critical stand-point you could criticise the tone. That is because, at some points, this film appears really light hearted like an anti-bullying, coming of age story, and then in some points it’s suddenly super creepy and atmospheric; Which is probably down to the pacing and editing again, which I criticised earlier.

But I really liked the mixed tones. I think it better shows how the kids go from just people trying to make the most out of summer before it ends, to characters who are terrified and sick to death of Pennywise haunting them and the town. It was this that made me smile, genuinely, when the characters were simply talking or hanging out, even when there was no horror involved in the scenes; The dialogue is, 90% of the time, really well written, and I couldn’t help but think that’s how I would talk to my friends when I was that age. I mean the dialogue isn’t perfect of course, because on the flipside of the well-written banter, the delivery of exposition feels out of place and ruins the emersion a little. But that’s not often, so I won’t go too hard on it.

Pennywise sewers

Now this next point isn’t really a criticism, it’s just a matter of personal preference about what I would have liked to see more in the film, and that is that I would have wanted to see more scenes of Pennywise just talking to the kids. He looks so scary and his voice is really creepy, but his dialogue is so innocent in the opening scene with the boat that I could sort-of understand why the kid continued talking to him instead of running away (If Pennywise wasn’t in a drain that is). Like I said the dialogue is really well written and Pennywise shines a lot when he is given a lot of time to talk, but that is, unfortunately, not often. Sometimes he just has one line or talks through other people and objects before leaping into a scare, which is okay, but I thought Pennywise was at his scariest when he was talking to the kids himself. The things he said were both horrifying and silly because, again, this movie really embraces the clown persona of Pennywise.

In a world where every god damn horror film has to follow the formula of, ‘teens go on trip, teens have sex, teens get killed by someone or something, last girl must fight alone, girl escapes predictably or dies in a twist’, this film, IT 2017, is a breath of fresh air for the genre. The good use of creative special effects and good writing really help it break free from the shackles that are the modern horror genre. I’m not saying this film is completely unique; Many of the scares are predictable and uninspired, and the pacing and editing does break you emersion sometimes, but there are enough positives in this film that is stands out.

So although this film doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it’s strengths lie where the weaknesses do in lesser horror films and it makes for a fun, entertaining, solid movie experience. I highly recommend this film, you’ll smile and laugh, and feel for the well developed characters. Don’t miss out on this amazing horror.

The Selective Perception The Media Has Of YouTube

At the time of me writing this, when I google “Pewdiepie”, a lot of Wikipedia pages pop-up and two articles about Pewdiepie using a racial slur in his livestream. What you are reading now, however, is not going to be about Pewdiepie, but it will involve him.

As the face of YouTube it is some-what understandable that the media would jump on Pewdiepie for making such a large mistake on stream in saying the slur, but it never ceases to amaze me how blind the media is to much worse occurrences on the site, or perhaps, how the media chooses to ignore these other occurrences (If that is what they do).

Today I want to draw attention to the YouTube channel ‘TrendingPranks’, a channel seemingly acting as a follow up to the late ‘PrankInvasion’ Channel, which has been dead for about 7 months at the time of me writing this. This YouTube channel is not only atrociously awful but, in my opinion, puts out content that should be considered ten times more controversial than Pewdiepie’s slip of the tongue.

Why? Let me explain.

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TrendingPranks is a YouTube channel full of what I like to call ‘pornography for kids’. The channel has nearly seven-hundred videos and a solid ninety percent of them are ‘kissing pranks’. But, of course, these ‘pranks’ aren’t actually ‘prank’s, they are ‘fake pranks’, if you can even call them ‘pranks’. Each ‘prank’ essentially consists of some guy going up to provocative women, often in revealing clothing, and offering to play a game with them. Now, the type of game sometimes varies but it often comes down to something like, “Pick a number between one and ten, and if I guess it then you have to kiss me.” Of course the man wins the game, every single time, and there is a long drawn out period of the two kissing.

It is no normal amount of kissing, however…

It is always the most drawn-out kiss with disgusting slobbering, saliva sound-affects put over it. I have never ever seen or heard something so gross and perverted on a site such as YouTube. If this were posted on a pornography site then this would be quite tame (After all, it is only kissing), but no… It’s made public on YouTube. YouTube; A site which anyone of any age may enter, no matter how impressionable or naïve they are. For mature viewers, these videos are obscene and disgusting in delivery; Not only is the concept that any random woman on the street will kiss you if you win a child’s game against them ridiculous, but the fact these women are heavily objectified as just pieces of meat with pretty faces and bodies further goes to highlight how utterly awful this YouTube channel really is.

I would love to defend the women in these videos, but I simply can’t. Despite the fact they are objectified in the videos and thumbnails, I can’t bring myself to defend them… Why? Because these videos are obviously faked (For those of you who are confused; No, a random woman, who you have never met, would never, ever snog your face off for beating her at a pre-school game), meaning these women are actors who were paid to be in these videos. So, in all honesty, I have no sympathy for these women who knowingly and willingly objectify themselves in front thousands of people on the internet. God forbid if any of them do this for free, but seriously I highly doubt that. But okay, so perhaps these women might be struggling financially or can’t find work (If we give them the benefit of the doubt), but even if that is true there’s got to be better alternatives to this. No sympathy for these women.

But let us not forget this is a channel run by men. This is a channel that makes me ashamed to be a man when I see this stuff strangely on my recommended bar, despite me never having any interest in these videos. When the men or, more accurately, boys on this channel grow old and sit in their old people’s homes, I really hope they feel nothing but regret for spending their youth doing this.

Despite how atrociously perverted these videos sound, however, especially as they are featured on YouTube instead of some-kind of adult site, these videos do get thousands of views, many gaining hundreds of thousands… TrendingPranks’ most popular video has 9.5 million views! That is a lot of horny single old guys and impressionable little kids.

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Now let’s face it, just because these videos get age restricted within hours of going up and you have to be thirteen or over to have a YouTube account (last I checked, at least) doesn’t mean kids aren’t viewing this toxic content. The same way we all lie about our age to get a Facebook account when we’re younger, we also lie to get a YouTube account, because what’s the point of being on YouTube if you can’t comment or like the videos? So let’s not pretend like YouTube’s age demographic for tracking what type of people watch your videos is accurate, should the people behind this channel try and defend their content.

So to these lonely old men and these naïve young children, TrendingPranks has set up this false reality within their videos in which all women are sex-hungry whores who will let you squeeze their boobs and asses as you snog their lips and tongues into the seventh circle of hell, just because you beat them at a game of rock-paper-scissors or some crap.

But what is my point?

 

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BBC News Article Regarding Pewdiepie Controversy

 

My point is that when Pewdiepie slips up and accidently says a racial slur on a livestream everyone on YouTube jumps on it, even outside sources like BBC News wrote articles on this, and it was only a few days ago. Yet, on the same platform as Pewdiepie did this, disturbing channels like TrendingPranks are being completely and utterly sexist in their treatment of women on a daily basis, and are presenting it as if it is reality, but go completely unnoticed by all media.

Now make no mistake, I am by no means defending Pewdiepie for making this racial slur. He is the largest person on the YouTube platform and is in a very important position; He should know better and, despite my love for the guy, he deserves whatever backlash comes of it. But at the same time he didn’t mean the slur in a racist way- It was an ‘in the heat of the moment’ kind of thing, and he screwed up.

But what baffles me is that whenever Pewdiepie slips up everyone is on his case, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not, but no matter how many times TrendingPranks puts soft-core porn of the website to erect the penis’s of little boys and old lonely men, they always go unnoticed.

Perhaps it is their size that keeps them invisible. Compared to Pewdiepie’s 57 million subscribers, TrendingPranks only boasts around 204 thousand. But, lets be real, that is still a lot of people. Especially considering the channel it maybe descended from, PrankInvasion, still has nearly 3 million subscribers, despite it being inactive for seven months.

What this tells me, personally, is that the media must have some kind of grudge against Pewdiepie, given that, despite his past controversies, he uploads appropriate videos to the website, whereas these awful content creators over at TrendingPranks get away with posting this disgusting content everyday.

I’m not suggesting every news outlet has a journalist sniper waiting to fill Pewdiepie full of led, and only him. In the past the media has helped situations that have unfolded on YouTube; Just look at how that exterior help form the media helped put a stop to those horrible videos posted by the ‘DaddyOFive’ channel.

All I’m saying is that if the media want to report on Youtuber’s screwing up, they could do a lot better than Pewdiepie, who has worked hard to get to where he is, even if he still makes mistakes. There people on the site who are much more deserving of exterior criticism, if the media so badly wants to get involved. The folks at TrendingPranks, in my opinion, are some of them.

 

 

 

Tyranny Review: A Return To RPG’s

After a short escape away from top-down RPG’s following the dark days that Fallout 1 and 2 absorbed from my life, I retreated to the realm of first person shooters. But after a while I found myself drawn to a game on Steam named Tyranny; A game where it is emphasised that your character works for the forces of evil and is required to carry out the laws of those forces. I couldn’t resist.

When I first played Tyranny I had no idea what I was doing. I played about twenty minutes past Conquest mode and wasn’t satisfied, so deleted the save and started fresh. Why? Well this is Tyranny’s weakness; It pours a LOT of information and lore onto you all at once, and while certain words of text are highlighted to allow you to read about what characters are referring to, the information is just so vast that you’ll get too caught up reading the context of the conversations you’re having rather than the conversation itself.

But, once I created my fresh save with some more knowledge and context from my first twenty minute failure, I found myself more than able to better appreciate the game.

Here’s what I love about Tyranny; Everything in the game is put together by developers who you can tell legitimately care about the game. Everything from the character creation, to the skills, to the environments, story and gameplay are all ripe with some sort of passion that just isn’t present in many other games now days. The care that went into naming characters, writing the dialogue and how the levelling system works shines throughout the game and it’s something I must praise the developers, Obsidian Entertainment, for. The world is so rich with information and things to learn that it is truly fascinating.

What I particularly love this game is that each realm you visit has a unique affect on your character, your party and your enemies due to magical curses called Edicts that plague the lands where rebellions attempt to fight against you and the evil empire trying to conquer it. Some are beneficial to your character, while others are not. For example the first Edict in the game is one that curses everyone trapped in a valley to die if the military campaign there doesn’t follow through, so your character and party members all get a bonus to the Resolve skill, which effectively means they fight longer and harder in combat because they’re determined to get the job done as to not be killed by the Edict. Another example is the Edict of Storms, which takes up a lot of the southern part of the map. The constant storms in this area cause a lack of visibility that reduce the Accuracy skill of all your attacks, particularly ranged attacks, which was especially troublesome for me as I was playing as an archer and had dedicated heavily to the ranged weapons skill-tree.

For gameplay purposes these Edicts are good, because I found myself changing my playstyle and picking up swords so I could learn to duel-wield in this section of the story. This led to me spreading out skill points into other trees, such as leadership; Which boasts abilities that improve your party’s performance as a whole. By doing so, the new found skills my party gained from this investment I made had made up for how much my character sucked in this area of the map. The game was therefore still interesting and I wasn’t raging at the difficulty, as I had made it more balanced.

Though, in all fairness, this game isn’t all that difficult if you play it normally. However, I imagine playing ‘Iron Man Mode’, which only gives you one save slot, would definetly cause you some problems.

tyranny

Aside from the core-gameplay, there is a short ‘Conquest’ sequence at the end of the character creation sequence, just before the core game starts. This is a choice based section that shapes how the world treats you in the main game. If you favour certain factions in this sequence, it will show in game when the factions you ignored tend to be heavily hostile to you and others more welcoming. It also affects your reputation. On my first save, which I deleted, I was referred to as ‘The Governor’ because I elected to govern a town to produce Iron for the army during the Conquest section. On my second and primary play through I was known as ‘The Queen Slayer’, for murdering the Queen of one of the realms during peace negotiations. This section is about forty-five minutes to an hour long, that follows your character’s campaign in the name of the evil empire you serve and how you choose to serve it is up to you. My character was a proud general, who did very little governing as he went around besieging cities instead. This process so thorough and has had so much dedication put into it that I could honestly enjoy it as a full game.

A lot of games now-days tell us “Your choices impact the story”, but few ever do in a meaningful way. But the choices you make during Conquest mode in this game actually do because they affect your reputation with the games primary factions and figures of authority within the world.

Many of the choices have a lot of moral grey areas as well. One instance is when I was besieging a giant library that horded all known knowledge and wizards were tearing my army apart as it retreated. We were all going to die unless I chose to sacrifice members of one faction or another. It’s safe to say the faction I chose to sacrifice soldiers from, to cover our escape, was not happy with me when I entered the main game.

To briefly sum it up, Tyranny is an absolutely amazing game that a lot of passion evidently went into. There is so much lore to this game and experiences to be had within it that it’s hard to keep track of it all unless you play it for yourself and become immersed in it.

I really want to promote others to play this game because, for one reason or another (I didn’t fancy looking into it too much), the game didn’t sell very well despite how good it is as an RPG. Maybe it’s because people don’t like being the bad guy in games? Despite the fact one of Fallout 4’s main criticisms, as an RPG, was you couldn’t be a bad guy? Yet in this game you can act good, even under the banner of a bad empire. I don’t know. I didn’t research it because I’m not into that, but this game deserves a lot more sales and a lot more credit than it gets.

So please, if you’re a fan of these types of RPG’s I definetly advise you to just give this game a go. And with a DLC, The Bastard’s Wound, right around the corner there is no better time to get stuck in. Just be prepared to invest a lot of time into it if you enjoy it, as it took me thirty hours to complete my first play through and there is also a tempting New Game Plus mode if you’re into that kind of thing.

What are you waiting for? Give this game a go!

Success Or Failure: Marvel’s The Defenders

Marvel Studios and Netflix recently released their latest series, The Defenders. Much like the Avengers movie, this series has been highly anticipated as it is the combination of multiple singular stories of heroes coming together to form some kind of satisfying conclusion. I’ll review the show more closely for what it is at the end of this piece, but first I want to analyse how it took inspiration from Marvel Phase One and the Avengers movie, so we can see how Marvel on Netflix got to the point it’s at now with The Defenders.

First off, let’s discuss how The Defenders took inspiration from the Avengers: Four unique stories lead into this series that set up major villains and plot points. Just as Captain America and Thor introduced the Tesseract and Loki to their singular films, The Hand, Elektra and the concept of resurrection were introduced via Daredevil and Iron Fist’s singular shows.

I feel like this works really well, just as it did for the Avengers but isn’t quite as effective. You see, to fully understand the Avengers film to the fullest, you have to watch Captain America to understand the Tesseract, Thor to understand Loki and Iron Man 2 to understand SHIELD. Watching the first Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk may be beneficial and entertaining, but they are not necessary to understand the Avengers movie. Marvel movies are all around or just over two hours long, so you need to invest six hours in three other films before you can enjoy every piece of cinematic content that the Avengers has to offer.

Let’s compare this to the set up for The Defenders. To fully understand the Defenders you have to have seen, at least, Daredevil Seasons one and two and Iron Fist to understand who the Hand are as well as characters such as Madam Gao, Elektra and the influence the Hand has over New York, as well as their ability to resurrect the dead. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, while amazing shows, don’t delve into that so it’s not essential. There are twenty-six episodes of Daredevil in total, all around an hour long, so that’s around or just under twenty six hours of Daredevil to understand Elektra and the basics of the Hand’s influence. There are also thirteen episodes of Iron Fist that are needed to understand why the Hand fear the Iron Fist so much, the true extent of their influence on the city and their resurrection abilities, which is, give or take, an additional thirteen hours of viewing.

Daredevil and Ironfist

At minimum you need to have seen Daredevil and Iron Fist to understand this show. But then you’re going to be watching the show thinking “Who the hell are Luke Cage and Jessica Jones?”. There is enough exposition to fill in the blanks for anyone who hasn’t seen their series on Netflix, but it is lifeless and boring exposition to anyone who hasn’t already seen them, because they won’t understand the banter between the two characters. So, in some ways, the audience who hasn’t seen all the Netflix series will still be lost on two of the protagonists, but at least something will fill in the gaps.

But then again, The Defenders has a metric-ton of side characters, from the very familiar Claire, to Misty Knight, Trish and Malcom, who all appear in shows our assumed audience hasn’t seen. Now you may be thinking, “Why is Claire on the list?”. Because the assumed audience hasn’t seen Luke Cage, in which she becomes invested in the politics of Harlem and hooks up with him in, meaning their relationship follows through into the Defenders, which the assumed audience won’t understand.

So, in actual fact, to fully understand Luke Cage’s and Jessica Jones’ characters in The Defenders, we need to understand the side characters of the show, as they often reveal more about our protagonists than the protagonists themselves do in this show. So that’s thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones and thirteen episodes of Luke Cage, which is again roughly just under twenty six hours.

So far it’s roughly twenty six hours of watching other shows to understand The Defenders (I realise most episodes are around fifty minutes long, but I’m rounding them to an hour for ease). This is a problem. Watching a show requires a lot more effort than watching a movie, as they drag on a lot longer and are more time consuming. What’s more is you run into the problem of not liking certain shows. For example I loved Daredevil, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones, but absolutely hated Luke Cage. The only reason I continued watching was because I’m a Marvel fanboy and figured I had to so I could understand The Defenders. But unlike watching a below average Marvel movie, like Thor, and only wasting two hours of my life to understand Loki’s presence in the Avengers, I found myself indulging in nearly thirteen hours of episodes I didn’t like because I was convinced I would need to understand this show to understand The Defenders. The truth was that Luke Cage was one of the least influential shows on the plot of The Defenders, which really grinds my gears to know I wasted a lot of my own time on something I didn’t really enjoy.

Luke cage and jessica jones

I guess I had it easy though. Imagine the poor people who loved Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, the least influential shows to The Defenders plotline, but actively hated Daredevil and Iron Fist, whose shows are crucial to it. If viewers switch off of Daredevil and Iron Fist they can still enjoy The Defenders for what it is, but without proper context and won’t be able to appreciate the effort that’s been leading up to this point since season one of Daredevil, which aired in 2015. Imagine not have having heard of the Hand before watching The Defenders and suddenly your two least favourite characters, Matt Murdock and Danny Rand are experts on fighting them, while your preferred characters, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, are clueless and are just standing there like, “Why am I surrounded by ninjas?”

All I’m saying is that The Defenders, while inspired by the way the Avengers rose to glory for Marvel, is much more complex to get into because it isn’t as easy to pick up as the Avengers was. The characters are less iconic, as another point. A twelve year old kid can see the Avengers film without watching any Iron Man film and enjoy it to the fullest because he’s just thinking “Wow, Iron Man punched an alien”, because Iron Man is an iconic Marvel character. But that kid won’t go, “Wow, Jessica Jones punched a ninja” when he watches The Defenders, because no kid that young reads comics or watches shows about Jessica Jones being mind controlled into being raped and then having sex with Luke Cage once she becomes a private investigator. You may say that these shows aren’t intended for kids and you’re right; But if a new superhero show comes out, kids will try to watch it at some point. But these points can also be applied to adults as well. Like I said, I’m a Marvel fanboy, but the only Defender I was familiar with before any of the shows came out was Daredevil. I knew Luke Cage, but wasn’t familiar with his origins or him as a character. I’d heard of Iron Fist but had never been interested in picking up his comics. Until her show came out, I had no idea who Jessica Jones was; I had to watch YouTube videos to educate myself on her.

But that just makes it all the better because, somehow, they made this work.

Now, enough of me criticising this show. Let’s get into the good stuff.

Defenders

This show is satisfying. The characters are all well written, the banter is good, the action is as great as it has always been and the choices the characters make all seem to make sense… Apart from the fact that one of the leaders of the Hand just decides to fight Colleen in New York, for some petty revenge, when the existence of his alternate dimension is being threatened by all of the Defenders. That was dumb, but apart from that all was well. Obviously the side characters aren’t as important in the show, due to the cast already being large, but they all serve a purpose. Karen and Foggy from Daredevil try to keep Matt grounded in reality, Misty Knight and Claire are crucial to aiding Luke in protecting the city, and Trish and Malcom are both people Jessica has to protect and keep out of the situation, despite their efforts to try and help her. None of them really have an arc, they’re more like paper-weights for the characters. One does, however, and this is Colleen. She struggles with the idea of what it is to be a hero in a world where she is an incredibly skilled fighter and good person, but is dwarfed by the incredible abilities displayed by the Defenders themselves. Though I was a little disappointed with the under-usage of many side-characters who I had loved in previous shows, I was also impressed they managed to use them appropriately as there were so many of them.

There are two downsides to this show as it is. I think the main one is the length of the show. Where as all other seasons of all Marvel shows on Netflix have been thirteen episodes long, this show is only eight episodes. The Defenders do not even all meet until the finale of episode three and then do not even get to know each other until episode four, though these are two of the best episodes in my opinion. It feels strange that the show with the largest cast and the show that is supposed to be the conclusion to this section of Marvel’s mini Netflix phase is the shortest. The second downside is that the plot is a bit dumb. Possibly because of the lessened length of the show, the plot is not as good as those of previous shows like season two of Daredevil or as Jessica Jones.

The plot is that The Hand want to capture the Danny Rand so they can use his Iron Fist to open a gateway to another dimension, so they can harvest the bones of dead dinosaur monsters in order to create the ingredients they need to keep resurrecting themselves, so they can remain immortal. While this plot serves to make an interesting relationship between Danny and the rest of the Defenders when they decide they need to keep him hidden, it isn’t as thought provoking as previous titles.

Remember the public and political manoeuvring in Luke Cage? That’s not here. Remember the secretive and psychologically damaging resurrection events in Iron Fist? That’s not here either. Remember how Killgrave tried to convince Jessica that his powers make it impossible for him to do anything moral, even if he wanted to? No such discussions here. Remember how Daredevil and the Wilson Fisk fought for the singular goal of metaphorical position of New York, so they could see it how they envisioned it? Or how the Punisher and Daredevil discussed the morality of vigilante crime fighting? That stuff is gone for now.

This plot isn’t one designed challenge the audience and doesn’t raise and themes or discussions that are particularly thought-provoking. There are a few minor moments, like when Stick suggests the only way to stop the Hand is to kill Danny so they can’t use him to open the portal, but it’s not as thought-out or developed as any similar scenes in previous series’.

To put it simply this plot makes things very black and white: The Defenders are good and the Hand are bad… The good guys have to fight the bad guys.

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But if this plot does something notable it is that it is a good excuse for us to watch heroes we have come to love kick ass together, and for all those references to one and other in their own series’ to actually mean something. It’s not a bad plot. It’s just a much more simple plot than what we’re used to seeing.

I have criticised the hell out of this show and said a lot more bad than good, but I binged this show for eight hours straight and had one hell of a good time doing so. I implore any of you who are fans of Marvel’s Netflix series’ to go watch it now. It deserves a watch. So much effort has gone into this thing and it all pays off well, even if it’s not in the kind of way we’d have expected to. I know I didn’t expect it to end the way it did, given that it was quite silly. But Daredevil was silly when he comically fought Wilson Fisk in that alleyway at the end of season one. And Jessica Jones was silly when she only used her flying powers when the writers didn’t know what to do next. And Luke Cage was silly when he could take on prisoners in a ring without his powers, but got beat up by them outside of it, for some reason, like a pussy. Iron Fist was silly when the Hand gave him comically easy to pass trials when they invited him to a hideout.

But does this mean The Defenders is a failure? Absolutely not. This show is enjoyable, it’s flaw is that is didn’t quite live up to the hype because of the outstanding quality of those before it. The bar was too high and I think the writers on the show aimed a little too low.

But this show isn’t bad.

The Defenders certainly isn’t the best that Marvel and Netflix have to offer, but it’s certainly worthy of everyone’s time and is definetly a good watch. It definetly requires a lot of investment in other shows to be able to fully enjoy, which is perhaps its biggest weakness, but can still be enjoyable by itself if you take those shows out of the equation. So get stuck in.

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