Monday, August 24, 2015

Let's Play Lords of the Fallen - Test Video

Howdy guys I'm just posting this here to get an idea of what people think of it. Obviously there's the audio issue of either me breathing into the mic or it picking up my fan which is something I've sorted out for future videos. I'm mainly interested in whether people thought the video flowed well and whether I sounded reasonably intelligent in the proceedings. I will undoubtedly redo the episode in the future and while I don't think I can do a better opening monologue I can certainly improve on the other aspects of the video.

I intend to play through the entire game with Rogue, I'm unsure whether I'll play any other classes aside from random additional videos to show off whatever boss weapons I can't or don't pick up over the course of the LP. If someone knowledgeable about the game has any specific advice as to what things I should look at, remember, talk about et cetera I'd be very interested in what they had to say.

Don't be afraid to bash the video (aside from the aforementioned audio issues), I'll take any sort of criticism I can get just to get a general idea of what the public perception the video will wind up being.

An idea as to what I could talk about with more specificity is explaining that the opening cinematic is demonstrating the Mimic spell in a very over the top fashion, though since I'm not playing a Cleric I don't think it immediately flows well to implement such a discussion. If you have any questions regarding the game or its status as a "Souls Clone" and why I think that very concept in and of itself has lot of merit then feel free to ask.

Here's me singing Battle Hymn of the Republic for no reason in particular:

Edit: Here's the actual first video, fixed most of the audio issues:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mr Holmes and Bad Lieutenant

Out of the blue my mother asked me to go see Mr. Holmes earlier this week, the rare opportunity to see a PG movie in the wild was irresistible. We saw the film at 3:30 PM and the theater was packed with octogenarians. The film stars Gandalf the Grey as an aging Sherlock Holmes, a wonderful fit for the role. Mr. Holmes takes place in the post WW2 era and Sherlock is at the ripe old age of 93; though they also show him at a comparatively younger age as well (late 60’s/early 70’s). Ian McKellen is only 76 at this point (17 years younger than Christopher Lee) so it’s an interesting age dichotomy as they put on makeup to make him look more ancient and makeup to make him look younger than his present age.

Holmes is effectively a more realistic portrayal of a brilliant detective who has had fictional tales written about his exploits from the dear, absent Watson. In the place of Watson we have his housekeeper; played wonderfully by the incomparable Laura Linney of Truman Show fame, and her young son Roger. In contrast to your typical annoying child role Roger is actually a fairly interesting character and I suppose the closest thing to an audience insert that the film has. He looks on Holmes with wonderment and wants to emulate his every step, but is also reasonably clever in the proceedings.

As a last act in his life Holmes wants to write a “the true story of” sort of adjustment to one of Watson’s tales. However he simply can’t remember it so he takes various herbal remedies in an attempt to adjust his memory, all for naught. In actuality the mental activity of discussing things with Roger is what helps him to remember the tale. Over the course of the film this mystery alongside two others are resolved, with some relatively predictable moments of peril along the way. However the main overarching mystery has an interesting resolution that isn’t entirely obvious and leads to an intriguing ending.

This is on the whole simply a satisfying movie, since it is PG nothing particularly horrible could happen but you can still have the implication of horrible things happening. It is rare for a film to be simultaneously intelligent and “happy” as it were and Mr. Holmes certainly accomplishes that. Mithrandir, Olorin, and Magneto are all wonderful additions to the Holmes Filmography and the film’s appeal to “Genius troubles” might just earn it some Oscar support; though it isn’t nearly as overbearing as most of those movies.

So, what’s the best thing to do after you see a heartwarming PG movie? Well of course you want to go see an NC-17 movie. Admittedly I didn’t realize it when I bought it but the DVD version of Bad Lieutenant definitely has that rating. It’s hard to say whether it would keep the same rating if made today but it would certainly at least be a hard R. I went into this film with relatively high expectations as the unmatched masterpiece that is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans certainly set the bar extremely high.

So how does this film stack up? Well, it has most of the same basic plot elements but not much of the charm or intrigue. Bad Lieutenant is basically all about drug abuse and has very little to do with police work or mystery solving but the pseudo sequel actually accomplished both sides of the story quite well.  There’s also maybe 15 solid minutes of old baseball broadcasting (not historical, though aside from the conclusion most of the broadcasts sound legitimate), and as much as I like baseball I don’t necessarily need that directly in the middle of the film I’m watching. Yes it does contribute to Harvey Keitel’s mood but I think you could chop it down to 3-5 minutes and do just as well.

The crime in this film is the raping of a Nun by 2 noble churchgoers, including some rather visceral details. And so for like 25 minutes of the movie Keitel actually engages in police work in an attempt to solve the case, to no avail. After a late interview with the Nun in which she says she has forgiven them Keitel has a crisis of faith and you get to hear the indiscernable Mr. White moaning from Reservoir Dogs for what feels like 10 minutes. He has a mental projection of Jesus who he asks “why?” to perpetually. As a religious person I actually find this scene rather fascinating but I have no idea how someone who didn’t understand that mindset would respond to it (apparently rather well), this is a great scene and sort of makes the movie all by itself.

The rest of the film is perfectly adequate in demonstrating how much of a horrible person Harvey Keitel is (Nicholas Cage’s character is more of a “Chaotic Good” sort). The ending is a predictable enough result whereas the ending of Port of Call is total insanity. I think this film is trying to be disturbing at its core but the thing is, I’ve seen Oldboy and nothing is disturbing now so it doesn’t really work for me personally. I really like dirty cop movies and I liked Dark Blue quite a lot which I saw recently, but this one is just sort of alright. Not a bad film by any stretch but not a particularly amazing one either.

A random criticism I have of the film is that all of the women in the film are ridiculously gorgeous, and if you’re trying to make a film “gritty” as it were you have to dress them up in such a way that they don’t look like that. Port of Call has only one attractive woman in it and even she still looks fucked up half the time, but regular old Bad Lieutenant apparently has a drug dealing/perpetually using woman who just looks fantastic all the time, no side effects guys; those only impact the Keitel.

This review comes off a little harsh but I don’t mean to disparage the film that much.  It’s still quite good and you should see it, just make sure you watch Port of Call New Orleans at some point because that shit is fucking amazing.

Aside: I bought Edge of Tomorrow and saw that yesterday, still pretty damn incredible. Guess what the first trailer is when you boot up the DVD? That’s right, Mad Max. So WB has put out in the past 2 years the best two movies as well as Shadow of Mordor, The Witcher 3 (US distributor, the overwhelming GoTY favorite), Mortal Kombat X, and Arkham Knight, good work WB I dunno how this happened but keep doing what you’re doing.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

What's so wrong with Arkham Knight?

I recently played through the entirety of the new Batman game and am in the process of 100%’ing it. The game is really interesting with superb gameplay, but I acknowledge it has some minor issues going on that prevent it from being superior to City; I’d say it’s arguably on par with Asylum overall (maybe a little bit better, as someone with a gameplay slant). Of course in Asylum you can get perfect variety in almost every fight in the game which is fun and it’s virtually impossible to get perfect variety (around 30 different moves) in Arkham Knight with a finite number of enemies; but I still find it fun to try.

The first major “dungeon” of the game, Ace Chemicals, is utterly fantastic and makes surprisingly good use of the Batmobile, combat, and predator rooms and even has some pretty intense drama at the end of it. The problem is the somewhat non-linear aspect and feel of that dungeon is only duplicated at one other point in the main game; the rest of the game is just a series of short diversions in various different areas. You might consider the usage of the batmobile nonsensical but it does work on a gameplay/puzzle front and that’s ultimately what matters; the main underlying Joker theme is pretty damn nonsensical and that’s probably the best part of the story.

Speaking of the Batmobile at first it feels rather awkward and forced, but over time it sort of grows on you and the game throws some very difficult fights at you assuming limited upgrades (we’ll get to that in a bit) which are really interesting and entertaining. The issue is that early game fights are very bland and straightforward; the game doesn’t ramp up on the tank front until the final few tank battles the game has to offer. Fortunately those specific fights are excellent and you can really see the potential of the Battank. The major tank boss fight in the game is great, though the major regular ass batmobile “fight” is pretty terrible (again without upgrades, probably not that bad otherwise); that isn’t because of the batmobile though just the boss fight itself is badly designed. I immediately started playing through the game again a second time and the batmobile’s awkwardness had almost totally faded away and it was quite fun to use, so I think it’s just a substantial learning curve plus some rather tedious usage of it in the game that turned people off.

The upgrade system in this game is extremely robust, however in the process of simply beating the main story and doing one major sidequest I was only able to unlock less than 10% of the abilities available. I forgot to upload a screenshot of it (playing at my brother’s house), but there’s a whole huge ability tree for everything imaginable and most of them have some relatively expensive parts to them. To give you an idea there’s a tree that has close to 20 different nodes that are all exclusively related to gadgets. Essentially you have to do a whole lot of the expansive different sidequests just to even get a mildly upgraded Batman in the end. Ultimately this actually makes the game reasonably difficult in a non 100% run which is a common enough criticism of the previous Rocksteady Arkham games.


The 100% process is actually not overly painful this time around, and this is the main thing this game has over Arkham City; there’s not quite as much Riddler Diarrhea to go around and the rest of the sidequests are generally more interesting than their Arkham City counterparts (and of course the main game is substantially less interesting aside from a few elements). Brad was fascinated by the Super Grapnel in the Quick Look but there’s actually 2 more upgrades to the Grapnel Boost beyond that so you have the Super Mega Ultra Grapnel Boost (5 X button presses then hold) by the end which makes flying around the city incredibly fast, this allows you to make traversal in a fairly large environment substantially less painful. Though the area covered is ostensibly 5 times larger than Arkham City it certainly never feels like it just due to the sheer speed of your character (also there’s not a big fuck-off wall in the middle).

A major change from previous Arkham games that also aids in relieving some of the 100% stress is there’s very few traditional “challenge rooms” in the game, instead you have several different kinds of challenges integrated into the world with a really cool leaderboard system. A personal favorite of mine is the one where you have an infinite supply of enemies and the objective is simple: don’t get hit. The sheer limitless skill opportunity this provides is kind of mind boggling to comprehend but I gave it a good try with no upgrades near the beginning of the game (having no idea what half the enemies were naturally). However even the dreaded Batmobile Challenge Rooms got pretty fun near the end of the game and the one that I thought was underwhelming was fun to do after having learned how to play with the vehicle. As someone with a specific fondness for the old challenge rooms I still welcome the change and especially the more compelling leaderboards for each of these, it really does make me want to go back and perfect each of them.

Overall I feel like Arkham Knight is an outstanding game, the problem is the year that it came out. If Arkham Knight came out last year it would be a strong game of the year contender, but since it came out this year alongside Bloodborne, the Witcher 3, Mortal Kombat X, Helldivers, and of course Rocket League; with Metal Gear Solid V, Fallout 4, and Just Cause 3 still on the way it was really hard to stand out. The game’s handful of disappointing moments and generally hamfisted plot (complete with overly obvious “The Dark Knight” references) combined to lessen its impact. However I still whole heartily recommend the game.

Aside: After playing Arkham Knight I even said to myself “hey this game is totally better than Shadow of Mordor and that was easily the best game last year.” But the thing is I went and played some Mordor just to test out this theory and uh… yeah Mordor’s better.  I don’t think it has better combat or even better exploration but there’s something about the specific feel and tension of the game that Batman just doesn’t have. When I booted up Mordor I checked out my handy dandy ubiquitous 100% save file and to my surprise all of my abilities were *poof* gone and I could run around the world with a completely basic character. Whereas in Batman this is mildly frustrating because you really just want to be a little OP as Batman, in Mordor you become too overpowered too quickly so being decidedly underpowered (while still being a fully capable murder machine) is actually very compelling.

This led to me trying out the “Test of Defiance,” a relatively easy challenge with a fully upgraded character that takes about 35-40 minutes. However, with a baseline character it took me over 2.5 hours and I had lots of really close calls and a lot of usage of uncommon tactics that were nigh useless in the regular game. With zero upgrades in Mordor you have no access to Branding, Combat Finishers, Mounts, Fast Travel, Explosions, Teleporting, and various other things; but to my surprise the game is still fully functional and almost every captain variant in the game is killable in that state (though you’re very fragile so extended combat is infeasible in most situations). The test furthers the complication by making it so you can’t drain enemies for health or arrows, which maximized the necessity of learning and knowing the environment to find herbs and fixed arrow locations. All of this combined to make for a wonderful experience and I can’t help but thank Monolith for unnecessarily patching the Game of the Year edition in and fucking up old save files; good job, it made the game more fun somehow.