All Good Things…..


I started this blog over two years ago, and i’ve had a blast working on it. However, it’s now time for me to move on. I’ve now got a PS4 and am going to start trying to do more reviews for games that are more current, and thus I can no longer take on the moniker of “poor mans geek”. By the time you read this i’ll have started my new pages, “Ludophile Lab” and “What William’s Watching”. I’ll still be doing reviews, trailer impressions and editorials, but i’ll no longer be doing them on this site.

If I’m following you, then I enjoy your content and for the first few hours, days or however long it takes, i’ll go about re-following everyone I follow now so that I may keep up with your content, and I hope that, if you follow me now, you’ll follow me on my new pages as well.

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Justice League vs Teen Titans Review


By William Shelton

Director: Sam Liu

Screenplay By: Bryan Q. Miller, Alan Burnett

Release Date: March 29, 2016 (digitally)

Run Time: 79 minuets

Rating: PG-13

Score: 3.5/5

The first review I ever did on this blog was the DC Animated film “Justice League: War”, an animated retelling of the New 52 origin story for DC’s flagship title. I didn’t care for it. So much so that I haven’t watched any other DC animated films after that. However, with this coming out at almost the exact time I’m planing on starting a new blog and wanting my last review here to be a special one some how, I thought I’d return to where this all started and take a look at the new DC Animated film: Justice League vs Teen Titans.

The film opens with the Justice League engaged in a fight with a few supervillains. Everyone goes down rather easily but one villain, Weather Wizard, tried to run for it. While running he steps in what looks to be a shadow that ends up possessing him. When the Flash catches him, the now possessed Wizard announces “Azarath calls, the child must answer”. Superman goes to attack, but even he is no match for the demon. The Justice League figure they are going to have a much harder fight on their hands than the one they Just got done with, so Batman calls Robin (this being his son, Damian) and tells him to keep the civilians safe.

This doesn’t go over well with Damian, who’s trained all his life to be an assassin and now feels he’s being forced to the side lines. So instead of doing what he was told, Damian hijacks the…batplane…batjet….not sure what that should be called…..and fly’s it directly into Wizards chest, forcing the demon out of him. This has the side effect of forcing the last of Batman’s patience out of him. Batman sends Damian over to the Teen Titans to learn how to be a better team member. And as always, this doesn’t please Damian.

The young Robin is instantly stand-offish towards his fellow titans Beast Boy, Raven and Blue Beetle. This climaxes in a fight between Robin and Blue Beetle, where Beetle loses control of the alien tech connected to him and he nearly kills Damian. Raven uses her magic to heal him, but in doing so the two of them get a look into each others minds. Raven is terrorized of Damian and asks for him to leave her alone while Damian finds himself more intrigued than scared.

Starfire, now the groups leader and mentor rather than an acting member, takes the group to the fair hoping that some some, non-training related activities would help the group bond a little, and as it turns out she was right. Everyone has a great time…until a group of demos come for Raven, saying that her father, Azarath is coming for her. The team fight off the demons and return to the tower to come up with their next move, but when they get there they learn that the Justice League has also learned that Raven is who Azarath is looking for and try to take her. The titans resist, saying that this is their team mate thus their problem to deal with. But as the two groups are arguing Azarath possesses the Justice League and use their powers to take down the teen age super heroes. In order to save her friends Raven agrees to go to her father. Now it’s up to a weakened group of teens to save their friend, the Justice League and the world.

One of the complaints i’ve heard about the movie was that Damian came off as “whiny”. I understand this complaint, but I don’t agree with it. I personal see Damian as being incredibly depressed and just not knowing how to deal with it. He was raised as an assassin and is very good at killing, but upon becoming Robin feels he’s constantly being held back by Batman’s rules and ideals. I saw a lot of my younger self in Damian, so seeing that character learn to get over these same kind of feels I had at his age endeared me to the character more than it might have otherwise. But also like me at that age, Damian was a little prick and I totally understand why some would be put off by him.

My main issue with the film is that it felt rushed. At under 80 minuets it would have been hard not to have been, but I feel like a lot of the scenes could have used some expanding, rather than constantly moving from one plot point to the next. The creative team did pretty well with what they had, but if a 90 minuet “directors cut” ever came out I think it would help the over all film immensely. I would have liked to see more bonding and more fighting as a team rather than separately. Another thing I didn’t like: the stupid T tower. Yeah, I remember this from what little of the show I watched, and I didn’t like it then either. Sorry, it just looks dumb. But that’s nit picky.

However, in a year when we’re getting two big budget movies from both the major comic book companies where their hero’s are fighting each other, I’m kind of surprised how well this handled that same topic. I went into this thinking it would be another edgelord made grimdark film about hero’s fighting, but what I got was actually a pretty sweet film about a group of teens learning to get along andd trying to help their friends. Even when the team has to take on Superman it’s never even considered to try and hurt him too much, just do whats needed to push the demon out of him. There is once scene where superman hurts someone a little more than necessary to force out the demon in them, but it’s a minor slip up in my opinion.

And unlike in “Justice League: War”, I didn’t end up hating the characters this time. I’ve never been a fan of the Superman/Wonder Woman paring, and I still wasn’t here, but the relation ship felt real, like two people who actually care about each other. And the characterizations in War that I hated so much are no where to be seen. Wonder Woman isn’t a war hungery idiot; she even gives a feminist critique of a film she a Clark watch together, which is just so much more fitting for her character than “i’m bored waiting to meet with a world leader, lets go kill some stuff”. And Superman isn’t this snobbish ass whole who knows he can win any fight and desperate to prove that fact. While the Justice League weren’t the main focus of the film, it was nice to see the characters behaving like themselves instead of the abominations they were turned into. And as for the Teen Titans themselves go, they were all portrayed rather well. While most of the screen time was reserved for Robin and Raven, the other Titans all had their moments and came off as a likable group of teenage hero’s. They got on each others nerves, they weren’t always sure hat too do, they were quike to lose their temper and act rashly: they were kids with powers they weren’t quite ready for and the film sold me on that idea.

I’d be willing to watch more Teen Titans movies from these creators and am really considering tracking down the old cartoon. This was so much better that I thought it would be, and I am so happy to be able to say that. I’m glad that I can actually say I liked a DC project again, because it’s been a lot time since I’ve been able too.

Final Fantasy 15 Brotherhood Episode 1 and Review


It has taken 10 years for Square Enix to give fans a release date for “Final Fantasy 15”(September 30th according to one source), but now just a few months before launch they give us a prequel anime AND Movie? I’d almost dare to say Square have some issues with priorities. It’s hard to be too up set though, because this was pretty good. While this doesn’t make up for the over long wait and whatever clusterfuck that forced them to changed the game from “Final Fantasy Verses 13” to “Final Fantasy 15”, but in all honesty I’m okay with anything that helps us move past and forget FF13.

As I am including the episode here and it’s only 11 minuets long, I’m going to skip over the plot synopsis and you can watch it for yourself. Instead, I’m just going to jump into the things I liked. First of which is the art. Not being the worlds biggest anime fan I’m not quite sure how to describe the art style, but I found it to be simple stunning to look at. Kind of like the game…..they one that was announced 10 years ago……yeah if you cant tell I’m still kind of sore about that. Anyways, good visuals.

I also liked how they incorporated game powers into the fight scene. With the exception of any magic, this fight included all of the combat abilities i’ve seen be used in game play used here: the teleporting attacks, the switching weapons, even helping out party members….i’ve seen all of that in game play. I’m sure it would have been easier for everyone involved if they just picked one main combat option and focused on that, but I’m glad they made such an obvious effort to go beyond the superficial in making this a “FF15 anime”.

That fight scene also might have answered a question i’ve had for a while: what’s the game’s rating going to be? With the demo being attached to “Final Fantasy Type 0”, the first M rated eatery to the franchise, I started looking at the combat and recently began wondering if Square were planing on this being the first Main-line entry to receive the “Mature” rating. But once I saw that most of the enemies you’ll be fighting are going to be robots, that may be a sign that they are still planing on going the T rout by showing us that we’re not going to be carving up real people. I’d be fine with this going either way, but it’s funny that this comes out right around the same time the question popped into my head.

All in all, I enjoyed this and am looking forward to the next episode. How a bout you? Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 5th, 2010

Systems: PS3(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC

Developer: Ninja Theory

Rating: T

Metacrtic Score: 80(PS3)

With the ever increasing likelihood that these next few reviews will be the last I do for this blog, I wanted to review one of the games I’ve wanted to play for a while. Too bad that game turned out to be a massive disappointment. At it’s absolute best the game was just boring, but the game rarely reached those heights. For most of the time I spent with this game the sheer incompetence of its creation made the entire experience tedious in ways I didn’t think it was possible after Uncharted 2 pretty much perfected this particular game play formula the year before.

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The Cast of dull, uninteresting characters.

Story wise things start off well: you, as the protagonist “Monkey”, make your way off a slave ship as it crashes only to have one of the other victims, a young girl named Trip, to fit you with a slaver obedience headband. She tells you that if Monkey gets her safely to her home she’ll let him go, to which he swiftly tells her that once he’s free he’ll break her neck. It’s about here where the story becomes insufferable. Monkey constantly reminds us and Trip on how he plans on killing her for what she’s done until he just…doesn’t anymore. While there is a point in the game where it makes some since to deepen the relationship between the two, they begin acting more friendly hours before this. I’m okay with the turn this story took; hell I was even expecting it. But these turns have too have some bases, and this just didn’t have one. And all of this before the game even introduces “Pigsy”, a gross character who I hated from his first appearance to the last time he appeared before I quit playing.

Not helping matters is how the game just keeps going on. There are three games worth of story here, all of which have been crammed into one. This makes each ark feel rushed while making the game as a whole feel over long. Most of the games plot points feel like there was a story outline the writers were following, but none of them knew how to actually write the story so they just used that outline as the final draft of the script.

While the story at least lied about possibly being interesting at the start, the game made it clear that this was going to be a dull experience right from the start. I made a comparison to the Uncharted series earlier, and with the sole exception of the combat here being more brawling based than shooting, it’s a fare comparison. The game play is divided into Combat, climbing based platforming/exploration and sections where the game forces you to slow down for story sections like the famous Tibet section in Uncharted 2, with the occasional set-piece or puzzle sprinkled throughout.

And all of it is infinitely more shit than in the Uncharted games.

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At lest the game was nice too look at…once the textures loaded in

I’m not sure if I can say the combat is the worst part of the game, but it is what you spend most of your time doing, so the depths of its mediocrity is what sticks out the most to me. Monkey has three primary attacks, light heavy and sweeping (as well as the ability to block and evade attack) and the game tries to ape the Batman Arkham games combat style with enemy color coding to let you know when to attack or dodge, but the games combat just does not have the depth to warrant this. I won nearly every combat encounter by mindlessly hitting the heavy attack until enemies went down, usually after two or three hits. Most deaths were due to the game not having any form of lock on, so I’d be swinging at a target that just wasn’t there while being attacked from behind. Not helping matters is how the sluggish and overlong the games animations are. Like way to many games when this was released there’s a prompt to use a finishing move for most enemies, and all of the animations seem like there were designed to pad out the length of each fight. Compound this with a noticeable delay for every button press and you have one of the worst combat systems I’ve played in a long time. And that’s before the boss fights.

Or should I say “boss fight”. Even those there are more than one, the first few are literally the same enemy with a few upgrades that I beat the same way each time: hitting it with a stun charge then waling on it until the boss got back up and then repeating the cycle. There was one boss near the end that changed up the formula, but only slightly. Instead of hitting it with a stun charge I shot at explosives. The lack of combat verity is depressing when you look at the enemy verity (at lest with the common enemies). There are several types of robotic foes for you to fight and in the hands of capable developers this would have forced you change up your strategy on the fly each battle. But It didn’t. I won nearly each fight the exact same way: hit heavy attack until it was over. I can overlook some flaws in a game if there is one aspect that really stands out, but there’s nothing like that here, so all the little annoyances just pile up while the big ones become increasingly more aggravating.

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You’ll fight this “Dog” a few times. None of them are entertaining fights.

The exploration sections are just as bad. Even the simple act of walking from A to B is a pain as monkey would often start moving in the opposite direction as the one I was telling him to go. I could deal with this when the camera changed position, but this happened pretty much every time I tried to get Monkey to move. And again, that’s not where the issues stop. The platforming requires you to be in a rather specific spot in order to jump from one platform to another, and if there is no platform Monkey just sits there or stumbles. Platforms you can uses have a shine to them that’s meant to help you know where to go, but I found that this was either unnecessary due to the ease of the section or to underdone to be of any help.

My last issue with the game play is a major one, but it may just be an issue with my copy, so take this complaint with a grain of salt. Near the middle of the game there is a puzzle involving a windmill where you have to have Trip start and stop it in different positions in order to drop each sail. This part of the game gave me more trouble than any other part of the game as my orders wouldn’t go through. After having Trip stop the Windmill and getting on to finish the puzzle I often couldn’t get her to start it again. After trying off and on again for two days, constantly shutting off my PS3 and restarting the game I finally managed to get the commands to work and got through the puzzle with ease as it wasn’t hard to figure out. If that was an issue with my copy of the game, fine but if not that is unacceptable.

The one kind of decent thing about the game is how pretty it can be. Once all the textures have popped in (which an take a while) the games does have a rather nice look to it. The game is colorful and stylized which makes the rusted machines and abandoned cities overrun with foliage a pleasure to look at. But then characters start talking and all that effort is gone to waste. Monkey and Pigsy sounds like every other “gruff” character from the period, meaning they talk like they eat nothing but rocks, except when Pigsy whispers. Then he sounds like every “disgusting fat guy” character mumbling “you like that, don’t you” while watching a porno that I’m sure you’ve seen in some low brow “comedy” you probably didn’t laugh at. Not only does he come off as gross, but it almost sounds like he had two different people voicing him.

I’ve heard before that this was a retelling of the classic Chinese book “Journey to the West”. Having not read the book I can’t say if that’s true or how accurate it is to the source, but I can say that there is a film adaption on Netflix that was pretty fun to watch (though again, I don’t know how accurate it is as an adaption) and that I a much better use of your time that this shit storm would be. I can not think of a single thing this game does that hasn’t been done better somewhere else. Literally the only good thing I can say about this game is that it’s technically not broken to the point of unplayability. There are games I hated more. There are games that disappointed me more; but I cannot think of a single game I played that failed this badly on this many levels while there are so many better versions of everything it has to offer.

1/5

Metal Dead Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 6, 2014
Systems: PC
Developer: Wall Thru Walls Studios
Rating: N/A
Metacrtic Score: 71

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a huge Metalhead. I keep my hair long, dyed black and have aspirations to not own any shirts without a band logo on it. And while there may not be a lot of games, movies or tv shows dealing with metal or metalheads, I’ll give just about anything staring a metalhead a try. And that’s pretty much how I ended up buying Metal Dead. I don’t remember the exact circumstances that lead me to the games steam page, but the second I read the title I knew I was going to drop the $5 on it. So now the question has to be asked: was it any good? Lets find out.
The game opens with protagonist Malcolm sleeping while his best friend Ronnie drives down a zombie filled road. Ronnie soon wakes Malcolm in the most metal way possible: blasting some old school death metal at max volume. We learn that the two Metalhead buds had been holding up in their apartment for the last month, but dwindling resources forced them to leave their comfort and relative safety if they hoped to stay alive. We also learn that Ronnie’s idea of “Staying alive” means investigating the source of the zombie horde, and has been driving toward where the host has been gathering. Naturally this both scares and angers Malcolm, who’s attempts to get Ronnie to turn around causes a car crash as well as getting Ronnie killed.
But things aren’t too bad! Malcolm soon finds his way into what’s left of a medical/pharmaceutical office, where a mad German scientist, Doctor Fritz Von Fechenheim, uses some Frankenstein-esk procedure to bypass the zombie instincts in Ronnie’s undead head, and the two friends are reunited once more. From here the two go on a series of minor quest to find survivors in the office and gather supplies in order to escape via a helicopter on the roof. All the while Ronnie’s zombified head reminding you just how Metal the situation is. As you progress in the adventure you’ll encounter a man-eating pot plant, a seizure inducing anime, a zombie shark and Heavy Metal will save the day.
It’s made pretty clear from the beginning that you are not meant to take this game very seriously, and I think that works for the best. While zombies might not be as omnipresent as they were a few years ago that over saturation of undead drama’s have given us pretty much ever version of these kinds of characters we can take seriously, were as comedy still allows for some interesting avenues for exploration. I mean honestly, will you ever see someone use their ability to shred on a guitar used to blow up zombies heads in “The Walking Dead”? Hell No. This is very much a game made to make you smile, and I was grinning throughout my four hours with the game.
My only real complaint with the games story is that…well….it’s not quite metal enough for me. Sure you do use a death metal CD and a guitar solo to progress in the story, and Ronnie does keep excitedly spouting how metal this all is, but very little love is actually given to the metal subculture. I mean, one of the obstacles is a man eating weed strain, and not a single “cannabis corpse” reference? There’s a zombie chef at one point, but no “Butchered at Birth” imagery? While I’m still glad to see some love for metal being shown here, I can’t help but feel that all the metal love is superficial at best. I know the game was an indie title, so they probably couldn’t have afforded any licensed music, but I can’t help but feel some real metal tunes done in the games chip-tune style would have been a real nice treat.

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Game play wise this is a strait point and click game. You use the right mouse button to cycle through interactions like “look at”, “talk too”, “move to” and “touch” and the left button to use said interaction on whatever you click on. You also have an inventory filled with items you can use on objects in the world as would be expected. What separates this game from that other zombie themed point and click game I reviewed a while ago is that this uses more of the classic “moon logic” found in older point and click games, but it still grounds most of the interactions as to not be too annoyingly difficult to figure out. For example, at one point early in the game you have to cook some beans for some one. There is a fully functioning kitchen in the game, but you can’t use it too cook. Instead you have to find another source of heat, which is pretty obvious if you’re paying attention in the early game. It’s a roundabout way of thinking, but no where near as off the wall as some adventure game solutions i’ve heard about before.
While none of the puzzles are hard per se, I do wish the game was a bit clearer as to what you can interact with in the game world. Sure the mouse icon changes, but only if you scroll over an object you can mess with. There were two puzzles I ended up looking up solutions for because I didn’t think to look at certain parts of the rooms I was in. And that leads me to the one huge caveat I have to make to anyone thinking of buying this: it’s a pretty short game. I beat the game in four hours, and it would probably have only taken half that if I wasn’t so very thick at times. For $5 this isn’t too bad and I had enough fun to justify the price, but as “play time” has become a bigger-than-it-should-be topic, I thought I’d bring it up just in case.
In the end, while playing this I was reminded a lot of “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil”, a little known Canadian tv show that used a metalhead protagonist mostly to establish tone than be a show for metalhead, but still created a worthwhile bit of entertainment. That’s pretty much the case here. This isn’t the “metal love letter” I was hoping for, but I still had a lot of fun with Metal Dead. It was a light bit of entertainment that kept me smiling and proud to be a metal fan. With a sequel being green-lit on steam green light, I’m hoping to see more of both this franchise and Walk Thru Walls Studios .

3.5/5

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 14, 2014
Systems: PS3(Reviewed), PS4, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Developer: Telltale Games
Rating: M
Metacrtic Score: N/A

I think Season One of Telltales Walking Dead is the game I’ve given my highest review too (although I kind of want to go back and re-score Dark Souls), and for good reason. With the sole exception of some underwhelming action sequences, that first season is pretty much perfect. Ever since I finished the game i’ve been looking forward to seeing how Clementine’s story continued. Now that I
have I have to say season two just isn’t as good. And before we get into why that is let me inform you that major spoilers for Season One lie ahead. If you haven’t played it already, go do that. You owe it to yourself.
The season opens with Clementine being looked after by Omid and Christa after the tragic loss of Lee Everett. Christa is visibly pregnant, and there is a general senses of optimism in the group. Omid and Christa joke about what to name the baby as the three head into a rest stop bathroom to get washed up. You, as Clementine, head into the girls bathroom alone and soon find yourself being robbed by another young girl. Omid, clearly noticing you’ve been gone for too long , goes in after you and tried to get the jump on your attacker. Sadly this fails and Omid is shot and killed. After the thief is taken care of, we jump 16 months. Christa lost her baby and it’s never really discussed how or why. What we do know is that whatever happened, it clearly broke Christa. She becomes more irritable and introverted, and attempts at conversations didn’t go well. While it’s never said out loud, I got the feeling she blamed Clementine for the death of Omid, which may have added to the strain on their relationship. This soon becomes irrelevant as the two as quickly separated and Christa isn’t seen again.
The now isolated Clementine begins to look for food when she comes across a lone dog and an abandoned camp. The dog seems friendly enough at first, but once you find food it’s own survival instincts kick in and it viciously attacks the young girl, leaving a nasty bite mark on her arm. That bite mark doesn’t do Clementine any favors once she comes across a group of survivors who could help her clean and stitch it up; they don’t want to waist supplies on someone who’s going to turn and none of them can verify that it is in fact a dog bite. So the deal they make is that they’ll hold clementine in their shed until the next morning. If she’s not dead then they promise to help her out. This doesn’t go over well for clem. Fearing infection and exposure (both of which could kill her) she finds a way out of the shed and break into the cabin the group is staying in and gathers the supplies needed to stitch up her arm in what is the single most painful experience in the game. Unfortunately, a zombie makes its way into the shed using the whole clementine made to get out and she has to fight it off using the tools around her. While that alone would have been bad enough, this also alerts the group to the fack that she not only broke out, but stole from them too. This does not endear her much to them, although they do allow her to stay once they are sure she wasn’t bit.

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And in traditional Walking Dead fashion, things only get worse. You learn that the group you’re with is running from a man named Carver who soon finds them and once again you’re on the run. To make a long but ultimately pointless story short, they get caught and soon escape. After three episodes the game begins to really start asking its big question: is having a big group really the right way to go in the apocalypse?
My issues with the game’s story come up almost immediately: this cast just isn’t as interesting. While the story and writing are still on par with what you’d expect from Telltale, and this does serve as a good fallow-up to season one, I couldn’t help but look back at the original cast and wish more of them could have made it into this game. Omid and Christa are gone within the first 20 minutes and the only other returning character undergoes such a destructive mental break down that the sooner you get away from them, the better things are.

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Not helping matters is how the game play streamlines the choice mechanics. In the first game it was always easy and usually more fulfilling to make the “bad” choice, but the outcome and the way it effected clementine often made me want to go back and undo that choice. Here everything is just is much more strait forward and the outcomes are almost all binary. In season one there were 8 different outcomes in episode five as too who would go with you to get clementine back. There is nothing like that in this game. Even where there are more than two ways to handle a situation, the end game wrap up always portrays each choice as a binary choice. I’ll be the first to admit that season one was mostly smoke and mirrors when it came to how your choices actually effected the game, but here even that trickery felt missing.

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Carver. Not a nice guy.

I know I’m coming off as overly down on the game, so let me reiterate: the game is good, just not as good as I would have wanted. It may not have helped that I replayed season one to make sure that I went into season two while jumping off from the choices I wanted knowing in advance the outcomes. In the end there just wasn’t as much that resonated with me the way so much from season one did.
Game play wise things are pretty much the same as the first game with a new interface being the only substantial change between seasons. Other than that the button layouts are the same as well as the patterns used for the more action sections(mashing X then hitting either square, circle or triangle to finish). Personally I found this to work in the games favor as it helps make transitioning from one game to next easy. And as the focus is still primarily on the story, this helps to engage the player in the game with out taking too much attention away from the narrative.
The voice acting, sound design and music is all just as fantastic as it was before, but I do wish I had been allowed to skip the intros and credits for each episode. Neither of these were bad: the credits music was all pretty good and it was nice to have each episode opened with Lee’s voice, but I wanted to keep playing and these just ruined the pacing in my opinion.
In the end, I may not have loved this game as much as I did season one but I did really enjoy it and I’m still looking forward to season three. Nothing in the game matched the relationship between Lee and Clementine, but there was still more than enough to hold my interest for the few hours I spent playing. With the Michonne mini-series being released next month, it seems like a likely bet that the story of Clementine will be continued soon as well, and I’m more than ready for it.

Deadpool Review


By William Shelton

Director: Tim Miller
Screenplay By: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Run Time: 108 minuets
Rating: R
Score: 3.5/5

There is a lot to like about Deadpool: it’s funny, action packed and a rather nice change of pace from the more family oriented superhero films we’ve been getting the last few years. The biggest issue is that most of what there is too like has been in the trailers. Most of the best jokes and action stunts were featured in at lest one of the trailers, which made watching the actual film not as entertaining as it could have or should have been. It also doesn’t help that the movie just isn’t as funny as I was expecting. Yeah, I said it.
There were chuckles throughout the film, don’t get me wrong, but the films best joke comes right at the beginning with the opening title crawl, and nothing afterwards hits that same high mark. This could be due to overexposure from watching the trailers as much as I did, but even then it’s hard to excuse the movie as the film makers should have known better. Even Deadpool’s trade mark 4th-wall breaking was done in such a traditional manner that I have to ask how uninspired the creative team had to have been to not do more with it. Sure, lines about Fox’s X-men time line being a mess and a jab about the low budget of the film were funny enough, but more could have been done. A lot more.
At it’s core Deadpool is really only two extended action scenes with bits of back story to break up the action and to make sure Deadpool’s comedy shtick doesn’t begin to grate, and I found this format to be rather effective. At the heart of the whole thing is a rather touching love story. While the film tries to toe the “Guardians of the Galaxy” line where they undermine any scene that comes close to “sweet” or “sentimental”, I found the chemistry between Reynolds and Baccarin’s to be so good that this sincerity undermined the films attempt at undermining itself. It’s even pretty progressive in the area as (mild spoiler warning) Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa enters the film as a sex worker. It could have been easy for the film to make jokes about the relationship between her and Wade (the tired kind that assumes that strippers and prostitutes don’t feel any kind of real emotions ever), the film never goes there. It does make 3 or 4 rape jokes that I could have done without tho.
While the central romance is all well and good, it’s the action that keeps this movie firmly in the realm of entertaining to me. Again most of the big stunts were shown in the trailers but unlike with the jokes, what wasn’t already shown was just as good. Even just a few little things that got cut from scenes in the trailer made those bits better than I was expecting.
Everyone in the cast does a great job with Reynolds obviously being the best thing in the movie. As far as I’m concerned this more that makes up for “X-Men Origins” and “Green Lantern” (both of which the film lampoons). However, special mention must be given too Brianna Hildebrand as “Negasonic Teenage Warhead”. Not only does she do a phenomenal job in the role, but having the character there in the first place was a pretty bold move. Her entire presents is just about having a teen age character (what I’m sure will end up being the core audiences of the film) who “gets” Deadpool and just does not give a shit about him. Her entire job is to lampoon the film itself when it starts getting too pleased with itself. My favorite example of this is when Deadpool refers to her as “Ripley from Aliens 3” and her respond is simply “f**k you’re old”. Her presence forces Deadpool, both as a character and as a movie, to up his game and not rely on overly worn call-backs and pop-culture references. While I still stand by what I said about the movie just not being as funny as I wanted it to be, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been had the creative team not thought in advance to have this character.
I can’t lie, I wanted more out of Deadpool than what I got, but I still enjoyed myself. I don’t think anyone other than the underage kids sneaking into the theater will think of this as a classic superhero movie in time, but it’s well worth seeing. It’s an enjoyable film, just not a great one. And for a movie coming out in February, i’ll take “just enjoyable” over what we normally get this time of year.

Darkest Dungeon Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: January 19, 2016
Systems: PC, Mac
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Rating: N/A
Metacrtic Score: 86 (PC)

Mental health is a topic a lot of games deal with, but few do well. For all the “Sanity Bars” and cheap jump scare hallucinations we get in games, few if any games have ever do anything really unique with these mechanics. Most games don’t deal with the root cause of mental illness or explore the metal scaring seeing the kinds of horrific sights that often accompany the kinds of quests video games regularly send us on. Well it would seem like the team at Red Hook Studios have noticed this fact and have taken it upon themselves to change this by releasing Darkest Dungeon, a game arguably more about the mental aftermath of questing than the quest itself.

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The game opens with you receiving a letter from a long distant relative asking you to claim your birthright: your families ancestral home which now plays host to a horde of unholy horrors he himself unleashed in a mad pursuit for glory and power. Before ending his own life your relative begs you to come home and undo what he has done. And so you and and army of mercenaries go marching right into the mouth of hell itself.
There’s not a whole lot of story here, but the game is amazingly written and is accompanied by some brilliant voice work by actor Wayne June. While most of his voice stabs are reused a little too often I never grew tired of hearing the man’s voice. I know I tend to do voice acting and sound design stuff last, but this guy is at least half of what makes this game so damn powerful. June sells the hell out of both his laments over his folly bring doom to the world and his questioning encouragement of your journey. Hearing him claim, even after the 100th time “these nightmarish creatures can be felled, they can be beaten” when landing a critical strike always made me want too push on, where as hearing “Success, so clearly in view. Or, is it merely a trick of the light?” reminded me that, no matter how well I was doing, the road ahead would be long and not easily won. While it would have greatly benefited the game to have recorded more dialogue, it’s not something I can really hold against the game as every line is gold and is perfectly delivered.

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As great as the voice acting is, no game can survive without game play, and that’s where Darkest Dungeon shines the most. I said at the beginning of this review that the game is arguably more about the mental toll adventuring would take on video game protagonist and that is expressed early on with one of the games best mechanics: the stress bar. This fills under a number of different circumstances, like taking damage, low light, going hunger and more. Once the bar is filled the first time the character gains a positive or negative (most often a negative one) “quark”, that range from becoming focused and determined to becoming paranoid and delusional. If this bar fills up a second time the character runs the risk of having a heart attack. This means that you can have a full party at the level cap not take any damage still die if you ignore their mental well being for long enough.

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Unlike “sanity” stress is a thing that can both be reasonably “measured” and manged, so right from the gate Darkest Dungeon has a leg up over it’s competition by demonstrating that they have a better understanding of Mental health than other game developers. This also allows for more diversity in the realm of mental afflictions they can cover. Instead of relying on only visual and auditory hallucinations (the main ways “insanity” is represented in games) characters here have a range of mental afflictions. They become paranoid and refuse healing from party members, they starve themselves or over eat, the become fearful and run to the back of the party. There are a number of ways to reduce a characters stress, but most of them revolve around assigning a character to a leisure activity in town (like a bar, brothel, meditation or prayer) which takes time and they won’t be available to go on quests until they are rested.

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Each of these, along with other town based shops, can be upgraded with family heirlooms you find while questing. And unfortunately these are often in short supply and upgrades are expensive. Worse yet, everything is worth upgrading. Just in the area of stress release you can upgrade each of the 9 activities to cost less, reduce more stress or open up for more than one person at a time. But you also have to upgrade the guild to open up more attack for each hero, the blacksmith to upgrade weapons and armor and the stagecoach to bring more people and open up more slots in your roster. Neglecting any of these could be the beginning of the end, but you won’t be able to do everything.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about combat yet.

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Out of all the characters you have in your roster you can only bring four into any dungeon. This is pretty standard for RPG’s. However, where a character is placed matters just as much as who you bring. Some skills can only be used in certain places, and they can only hit enemies in specific spots. For example my main knight could only attack if he was in the first or second position, and he could only hit enemies in those same position. So I always had to have a long range character in the back who could pick off anyone who was in the third or fourth positions on the enemy line. But both the healer and the Plague Doctor (who can poison enemies) I wanted on my team could only use the skills I needed them for in the third position. So every time I went into a dungeon I had to ask myself, do I want to be able to do some extra damage, or do I want to spend more money on food and healing items? This was never an easy choice and I often felt I made the wrong one. I also felt that making the other would not have helped as much as I would have hoped.

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I only have two real issues with the game. The first is that there are a number of difficulty spikes that seem unfair most of the time. While this was mostly an issue with boss fights (which I understand are supposed to be hard) but when a game says the mission is suggested for level 1 characters, and my level 3+ guys refuse to go on the mission “because it’s beneath them”, I expect a full team of level 1 characters to be able to get through. And yet on just my second boss fight I was forced to abandon the mission numerous times because my team just were not going to make it, each time gaining more stress for suffering the defeat which only served to make the next run harder as I was either going in more stressed or with less money for provisions. Speaking of provisions, whatever you don’t use gets sold and turned into part of your earnings after each mission. This annoyed the crap out of me. It’s a small thing I know, but god damn, why do I have to buy more torches and food before each mission? Why can’t I at lest have the option of keeping these for next time? Am I going to magically not need food and torches next time? No, of course not. And as seeing that I hadn’t just gone and beaten the final boss it’s not like there isn’t more to do, so why does the game think it’s ok to sell all my stuff?

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If you’re thinking this seems like a lot of time and energy for very little reward, you’ve hit the nail on the head. But that is one of the best parts of the experience. In most other games if things went wrong as much as they did here I’d be constantly pissed off and angry. That’s not the case here because it’s clear from the outset that this is a fools errand. This is not a game you breeze through, it’s a game you scrape by. This isn’t a game you beat but one you claw your way through with bleeding fingers and broken nails. I highly recommend this game provided you can manage your own stress. No joke I could only stand to play this for an hour or so becuase every time I sat down to play because I quickly found myself needing a breather.

*All pics here were downloaded from Red Hook Studios Press section of their website. I do not own these images and will remove if asked by the contents creators.

4/5

XCOM: Enemy Unknown Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Systems: PC(Reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360, iPhone/iPad
Developer: Firaxis Games
Rating: M
Metacrtic Score: 89(PC)
When the earth is invaded by an unknown alien foe, you are placed in command of the new XCOM department. On top of sending out and commanding units to combat earths new enemy it is your job to keep the facility funded, staffed and expand it as you see fit. You answer only to the council of countries who fund the program. So long as you keep the panic down in their countries you are free to battle the alien menace however you choose.
That about sums up the “story” for Xcom. While the story’s not exactly “District 9” I was never bothered by this as it helped the more global nature of the game shine through. Not only is the council made up of countries from all over the world, but the soldiers are also equally diverse in race, gender and ethnic background (even if there could have been more diversity in the character models). To me the lack of any real narrative or even major characters helped establish that this is everyone’s fight, which I appreciate. It even makes me wish there were more games that dealt with globalism and geopolitical cooperation, but this was a good start.

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The story may not have held much allure, but the game play loop has an almost addictive quality too it. You spend your time split between missions and base building, and each reinforces the other. As you complete missions you gain new bring new alien materials back to the base to research which opens up new weapons and armor to bring into battle. When you add that to a pretty well rounded difficulty curve and base building, it becomes easy to lose hours of your life just going through the loop of “kill aliens, bring back material, upgrade equipment”. Not helping you break away from this cycle is that most research and engineering projects take time to build after you buy them, making it easy to justify playing one more mission to help pass the time before realizing you’ve done nothing constructive with your day. But hey, you needed those satellites, right?
As addictive as the loop is, Xcom still has it’s issues. The biggest being a pretty major lack in verity. While the game is good at introducing new or upgraded alines to fight there are only three types of missions you’ll be doing: abductions (kill all the aliens), terror missions (save as many people as you can and kill and the aliens), or UFO crashes /landings (kill all the aliens but try not to damage the UFO in order to maximize mission rewards) with an occasional VIP rescues sprinkled in. Making matters even worse is how nearly all of the games environments look alike. While you’re missions take place all around the globe, you never get a real senses of the country you’re in. In fact, at one point a downed a UFO only for one to land as my next mission, and both times not only was i fighting in a forest, it was the exact same one. This never stopped the game from being fun, but 16 hours in I’m dying for a change of pace.

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Customizing Soldier Load out can keep them alive and make the Deadlier

It also wouldn’t hurt if the maps were a bit bigger. For the most part the small and mostly linear maps made the game feel more like a turn based cover shooter rather than a strategy game. In fact, with a simple pallet swap this could easily have been souls as a “Gears of War” RTS. If the maps were just a bit more open tactics like flanking, suppressing or flushing would be more viable. As is though, my main battle strategy was get behind cover and either overwatch (shoot an enemy when they come into the characters sight) if nothing was in view yet or shoot at what I could see. That’s not too say no thought when in to my battles, but not as much as I would have hoped for or expected.
Another minor annoyance was aiming explosives. You movie the camera by simply moving the mouse, which is also how you aim grenades and rockets. Because of this. Whenever I went to use one of there tools I had to fight with the camera as the game thought I was trying to look at something the distance in stead of thinking I’m trying to shoot the asshole a few yards in front of me. I understand with the games verticality that the developers couldn’t have just used an overhead vew for this, but it’s hard to believe they found this mess to be the best solution and I really hope this gets fixed in the next game.

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Map verticality opens up some maneuverability, but more open maps would have been nice

The sound design was pretty spot on through out the game however. The three types of guns i’ve unlocked so far (Normal, Laser and Plasma) all sound unique enough as to be distinguishable from sound alone and the explosions sounded like they really could send foes as high into the air as they often did. The voice stabs your party says get old, but they sound fine. Hearing a muton enter the battle horrifies me each time as they keep getting harder to kill so I can never hear them and be comfortable until I know for sure that it’s dead or one of the originals and not the upgraded monstrosities.
I wasn’t expecting this. I only picked this up because it was in a humble bundle and XCOM 2 comes out next month. I have little experience with strategy games and was never really itching to get into the genre so I was more than happy to ignore the XCOM franchise. But I have to say, to my great surprise Enemy Unknown has been occupying my thoughts more than any game since the original Dark Souls. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding and has one hell of an addictive game play loop. So far i’ve played for 16 hours, and most of that has been spent putting off the end mission in order to keep playing. I really like this game, flaws and all. So much so that if it wasn’t for the fact that I know my computer wont run it, I’d seriously consider buying XCOM 2 day one.

3.5/5

Portal Review


By William Shelton

Release Date: October 9, 2007
Systems: PC
Developer: Valve
Rating: T
Metacrtic Score: 90

Due to the fact that I’m now back in school full time, my game time has been pretty limited lately. I was planing on reviewing the original “Witcher” with how well the third game has been revived, but I just haven’t had the time. So as the weeks past after posting my review of “Hotline Miami” I begun to get anxious over my lack of content and started looking for shorter game to review. So here we are, I’m reviewing Portal because it’s only two hours long and I could finish it (again) in a single sitting without it eating into my homework or sleep time.
By now you know Portals story. Even if you haven’t played it the games impact was neigh inescapable so I’m sure you know the story by pure osmosis if nothing else (though I think it’s a myth that there are people who still haven’t played it yet). Because of this the game is incredibly hard to talk about. Sure, I could add to the choir of people praising Chell as a non-sexualised female protagonist or I could reaffirm that GLaDOS is one of the funniest villains in recent memory, but you don’t need me for that. It was out of my frustration in dealing with this that I had to ask myself one simple question: was Portal actually a good game, or we’re we too distracted by the clever writing and promises of cake? To answer this I played the game for a while with the sound off, to see if the game play alone would carry the experience. So with out the games trade mark humor, did Portal hold up?
Kinda….
While it’s no secret that the first 2/3erds of the game are tutorial levels the writing and clever puzzles kept the game fun and held players interest. However, once you have to rely solely on the game play the first few puzzles are pretty dull. This makes since for the first couple as the game has to introduce you to the mechanics, but I blow right through nearly every puzzle until the room where you get the second half of the portal gun. And as this is a puzzle game at heart, having such easy solutions kind of kills the mood. Even with the games short length, that still means I wasn’t having much for for nearly an hour. I found that once you get both portals and the turrets are introduced the game beings to shine even without GLaDOS’ presence, but it takes way too long to get to that point.
In the end what you have to remember is this: while it may seem like I’m being harsh on the game, that’s only due to me trying desperately to find a new angle to beat this particular dead horse from. I choose to have a sub-par experience just to give myself something to talk about. When playing the game the way it was meant too it’s still absolutely brilliant. Sure, the fact that the game loads between each level means that the pacing drags a bit and there are a few too many times when a door wont open until GLaDOS finishes talking which I personally found kind of annoying. Whether or not you want to spend $10 on a two hour game is entirely up to you, but it is a grate two hours if you so choose.

5/5