Great Things

//Great Things

Reviews: Star Trek: Beyond

I saw the new Star Trek film “Beyond” this weekend. When we first arrived at the theatre I could hear some folks complaining that a movie was at 97% capacity. What that movie was I didn’t ascertain. I began wondering what films had just come out because a film being filled to the brim isn’t altogether common. This is the second time since we’ve lived here that this has been the case; I cannot recall the last film but that experience was also this year.

We walked into the theatre and gave the ticket master our phones (we were using a program called Atom, something I may write about at a future point). He checked us in and told us the movie was playing in Theatre Hall 7. Alright, off we go!

The moment we passed the “mystery” point of 7 we realized which movie was packed. The mystery point is that moment as the stairwell finally dips to where you can see over it into the theatre proper. A slow unveiling of the room via an ever lowering wall. Nearly every seat was taken save for the front two nosebleed rows. Regal has a very unusual design in Canyon Country where a number of their seats are absolutely awful. We grabbed the best two eats of that awful set. If we’d be in the literal and proverbial bottom, we might as well be the royals of that zone.

Hall 7 packed further and further as the previews went off. Until I presume they just stopped selling tickets because there was basically nowhere to sit anymore. I wondered how many people that were there, like us, using free movie tickets. If not that, is this movie really doing that well? I suppose we should dive into the movie itself and see if I should be surprised by the turnout.

 

The short answer is that no; I shouldn’t be surprised. Star Trek: Beyond is a very enjoyable experience. I would start by saying that the marketing for this film is some of the worst I’ve seen in years. Beyond has a marketing team that is on par or worse than the team behind the Ghostbusters commercials. I’m starting to wonder if marketing teams are actively trying to sabotage the film they’ve been hired to market. When I saw the trailers the movie looked bland, earthbound, and I couldn’t parse a single plot thread from it other than action.

Going into this film I had no idea what to expect other than it would probably be good. Not because of marketing, they had failed me miserably, but instead because of viewer feedback. Friends and family had all seemed to agree that it was quite good. If I do care to write about spoilers I will likely do that in a separate post. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film should be able to read this without it impacting their experience too much. Alternatively, just know that you’ll likely enjoy it and go give it a watch. It’s pretty great.

 

By the first five minutes of the film you’ve probably already figured out if you are going to like it or not. Our packed theatre was reacting pretty positively by that point which suggests that most people who will like this movie are going to know in short order. Beyond that point it maintains quality or gets better depending on which of the many facets of the film you are hoping to be satisfied by. The actors all handle their parts well, I’m not one to learn an actor’s name, so don’t expect any specific names on this list unless I’ve been pummeled by it. Spock continues his onslaught on my mind to erase his prior character of Sylar from Heroes. At this point I don’t know if I could see him as anyone but Spock. Kirk too is really solid, I think he has grown into the part to the point where I think I’m officially very glad he was picked for the part.

The new faces are great too. I don’t know whether you’ve seen any trailers, and god help you if you have, so I’ll keep this bit vague. But the film doesn’t really introduce anyone that overstays their welcome. This may be in part because of strong casting but is also likely assisted by Simon Pegg writing the script (alongside another name I’ve forgotten). As seems to always be the case, Pegg’s writing is top notch. I enjoyed every joke, and though the story didn’t really surprise me I enjoyed every twist and turn therein.

The cinematography is pretty great as well. Apparently a fair bit of the film takes place in Dubai, as the twelve trillion credits to the city at the end can attest. And by “takes place in Dubai” I don’t mean in canon, but rather it was filmed there in some capacity. There is only one point in the film where you are suddenly reminded you are watching a film. A surprisingly bad piece of CGI that is almost confounding given how much effort they put into the rest. I wondered at the time if it was supposed to wake you up for the climax of the film, if by some weird twist of fate you happened to be getting drowsy. Otherwise my only other criticism is that because of our seats the blur effect used to mask cuts during action scenes was almost nauseating. I don’t even really get motion sickness but it was working me over. So I would warn future viewers to have a seat where they can see the entire screen to compensate.

Everything else you would consider to be present in a good film can be found here. The sound design is just dandy. I will admit I’m teetering on whether or not I like the Wilhelm Scream. These days I think it might take me out of movies more than it provides me with a chuckle. But otherwise the music was fitting and it helped to tie various scenes together.

So that’s that I suppose for a more broad review. You already found out what you might have wanted to know. I liked it, quite a bit. I dare say that I loved it. It wasn’t perfect but it made me smile, and on a few occasions it made me feel. Beyond was bombastic, but quiet, touching, but funny. It hit a lot of different notes. Ultimately the movie never surprised me but I don’t think it was lesser for that. Sometimes the obvious can still be very enjoyable and this was definitely one of those times.

By | 2016-08-02T23:22:33+00:00 August 2nd, 2016|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Star Trek: Beyond

Review: Pokemon Red & Blue

2016 is the 20th anniversary of Pokemon. I can safely say that this is one of my favorite video game franchises, if not the best. I could go on for many posts about what I love about Pokemon and I just might make a month out of that sometime. But for now we’ll just talk about the re-release of the original Red/Blue/Yellow Gameboy games on the Nintendo eShop. The 90s were something of a magical time for video games. Not because all the best games came out that time (but, holy shit, does the SNES have an amazing library). But because game developers had to make incredible games with very limited tools. Limitations breed creativity and it was so very obvious at this time.

It’s because of these limitations that reviews of older games need to be somewhat specialized. You could expect an inventory with 10,000 slots in it for a Gameboy game but that would just be foolish. Pokemon Red is 1MB big. Let that sink in for a moment, that’s a holy shit kind of moment right there. The sprites for raindrops in modern games are at least this big if not many times larger. It’s incredible to think that an entire game is inside that single MB. It blows my ass away so hard that I don’t know if I’ll be able to sit right again.

There is a lot that could be better in Pokemon Red, and I know, being a man of the future, that these things have largely been done. So this game is something of a time capsule reminding me of the promises I hoped for the future and how well the future turned out. The inventory, painfully small in Red, would grow to bursting in the future. The moves which are anything but balanced in the originals find their way to a beautifully honed edge in the future. And so on, and so forth.

How does the game hold up? Remarkably well! The music is mostly hits, they fit a lot of emotion and drama into a very small space. The artwork for most of the pokemon is absolutely great from the front, maybe not-so-much from the back but the artwork from the back is at least very inventive. Lest we forget that there are at least 150 (151 counting Mew) Pokemon Sprites from the front, another 150+ from the back, all the trainers, and even special event sprites like the ghost of Lavender Town. And, speaking of Lavender town, lets hear that song.

Sweet-tapdancing-christ. Every note is chilling, it’s a minute and a half of nightmare inducing perfection. This is the kind of thing that hits you throughout the entire game. Meticulous care to every pixel, every sound effect, and every motion. This is the kind of game that fills me with hope for my personal work and simultaneously fills me with dread. It shows me just how good developers already were in the 90s. How much they could fit into so little, how much they could get right on the first try.

I’ve been enjoying my entire time in the harsh lands of Kanto. Each Gym Leader, save for Erika, has been punishing and delightful. The level of their critters, and indeed the Pokemon of all trainers leading up to them, has routinely been at the level or higher than my own team. Part of this is my unwillingness to grind, but it means that each moment is intense. And the criticals, sweet jesus, every other move seems to degenerate into madness and tears. I love it.

And let us not forget the knowledge that soon I’ll be able to dupe via the magical majesty that is Missingno. I am so genuinely excited to dip back into the world of exploits that has been stripped clean from modern titles. The desire to nickel and dime users has lead developers to patch out any bugs that might “tarnish” their multiplayer or cash shop experiences. I don’t give a single care to the multiplayer world of any game, and I most certainly don’t respect cash shops. Every gym leader I defeat, every zone I clear, is one step closer to that great moment. I’ll be surfing up and down the side of Cinnabar Island and then BLAM…there it is.

I’m very excited. I purchased the 20th anniversary 3DS that came with both games and a custom theme. The print job on the plates is top notch. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear that the artwork was literally painted onto the plates. The theme itself is great and the pokemon SFX replacements for all the theme sounds, as well as the Pokemon music, is a great touch. I’m happy each time I open up the 3DS and it really sets me up for excitement as I load up the game.

Pokemon Red has brought back the most beautiful side of Nostalgia for me. It’s a side that has not tarnished with the passing of time. I am reminded that not all glory moments of my childhood were fallacious. Some were genuine, true pieces of joy and luck. I could have been born in any generation, but I got to be in the one that was blindsided by this game. Pokemon Red has pulled me away from four or five other games (including Dark Souls and Fire Emblem Fates). Each time I play them I think about it, and each time I play it I think about nothing else.

Is it a perfect game? No, it was and is an incredibly ambitious project that did a phenomenal amount of things with an incredibly small resource pool. Taking in mind just what they had to work with and what they created though…that for me really paints the picture. This is a great game for anyone that likes a challenge, and anyone that missed out on this moment of history. I heartily recommend it. Really, there needs to be no actual qualifications. Pokemon Red (and its sister game Blue) are both great. Not a single moment of my youth or current adult life has been wasted playing these games, I can say that with confidence.

By | 2016-03-06T21:06:33+00:00 March 6th, 2016|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Review: Pokemon Red & Blue

Reviews: Deadpool

I’m going to just get this out of the way, like I generally do, I really enjoyed this film. I had a great time from start to finish and I really do think this was a great movie. It was one of the best times I’ve had in a theatre in years and I’m genuinely glad I was able to experience it. This movie reminded me of why I like movies and I would recommend it to anyone. Now with that out of the way I’m going to talk a bit more about it. There might be some tiny spoilers incoming, so if you’d like to see the film totally fresh just walk away now and go see it.

Before the movie released I saw basically nothing about it. The first leaked footage had me pining for something that I thought would never be. Then a while passed, and suddenly I hear that it was actually being made. I saw the very first trailer following that and then nothing more. Lucky for me that this was my experience! Because all the jokes from that first trailer are in basically the first 5 minutes of the movie. From every moment following I was in for surprises and a lot of laughs.

And I do mean a lot. I swear the entire audience was losing their minds while we watched this. It was desperately funny almost all the time. Whenever it wasn’t funny it was exciting. And whenever it wasn’t exciting it was interesting. This movie is honest to itself and it does exactly what it set out to do. I appreciate that and I’m happy that it didn’t bend to any unreasonable requests from focus groups of soccer moms. The movie is violent, which is what you’d expect of deadpool. Much like Wolverine, he’s as pretty vicious “hero” character. But I would argue that this movie isn’t malicious. The jokes might be peppered with violence before, during, and after them, but I feel like anyone could go see this movie. It doesn’t get its laughs by demeaning people or anything that generally gets folks knickers in a twist these days.

There is a joke where he’s about to kill a couple of female criminals where he’s reflecting on whether it is sexist to hurt them or if it’s sexist to not hurt them. To some, that might be a throwaway joke, but I thought it was really good. He’s standing there apologizing but at the same time they are trying to kill him. There are a lot of fairly smart jokes in this film, and a lot of lowbrow jokes as well. And for me that’s great! This is what I used to love about movies! Think back to something like Bill and Ted, or Austin Powers. These movies that had tons of great jokes and were just silly. They had fun with themselves and because of it you had fun too! They didn’t need to send a message or tip toe around feelings. They shocked you, they amused you, and by the end of it you were a better person for it.

Not necessarily because it enriched you but because for a few hours you forgot about everything else. You sat there and felt nonstop joy. This, for me, is what movies are about. Feeling great and feeling like every last cent you spent to see the film was worth it. I have 0 complaints about how much it cost to see this movie, and generally I grumble about ticket costs. This isn’t a perfect film but frankly I don’t see the point in nitpicking a good time. Nothing is perfect and this constant struggle to sound sophisticated by pulling things apart has grown tiresome for me.

There were a ton of children at this film. There is a ton of sex and violence in this film. You might think that means I’m bothered by these two truths. But frankly no. Science seems to suggest that there is no connection between seeing this kinda stuff and becoming an awful person. And furthermore the kids at our screening were awesome! They laughed during the funny parts and were quiet whenever they should be quiet. I dunno how I lucked out but we got a ton of fantastic parents at this screening. Sure, culturally, they look bad. But I think they did great! Those were some good kids!

In fact the only bad experience out of the whole thing happened 10 minutes before the movie ended. A couple 30/40 something movie hoppers came in and were loud as shit. But by then it was too late! I had had a great time for the entire duration of the film! Nothing was bringing me down. Even Stan Lee’s cameo was hilarious to me. He’s kind of like an innocent grandfather figure and seeing him in his cameo was just a twisted pleasure.

Go see Deadpool, I can’t really think of any reason you shouldn’t. Even the two X-Men that are in it are some of my favorite portrayals in recent times (though the new class has generally been fantastic). Colossus in particular was el perfecto.

Just, lovely. Giving this a solid Great. 5 stars, not “perfect”, but for me it was a perfectly great time.

[There were a number of jokes that went by lightning fast and I missed them. Liz caught them and looked at me. All this means is that I’ve gotta see it again when it comes out on Bluray! Catch all those moments I missed!]

By | 2016-02-14T15:41:40+00:00 February 14th, 2016|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Deadpool

[Review] Star Wars: Episode VII

I guess I should say that I’m going to be doing a fair bit of spoiling here. But I don’t know what’ll get shown in the “previews” in various places, twitter, facebook, what have you. So what we’ll do is I’m going to talk about some other things first and THEN move into my thoughts. I don’t like going to movie theatres. They are just the most awful experience for me. This isn’t entirely on other people but it does spawn from their actions. I’ve mentioned this before but I just can’t not hear other people talking. When I’m in the mall and walking around I’m hearing just about every conversation going by. If I’m at work I’m getting bombarded by every inane conversation going down around me. Whether or not I “keep” the conversation running in my mind is another thing. Sometimes I decide that it’s boring and try to tune it out, but I usually fail. This is why I love headphones, they let me work. I don’t know how many other people have this issue but I can’t believe anyone gets anything done in an office environment. It’s just awful.

So in a movie theatre I’ve got one goal. I want to fall into the film. Once I start watching a movie I basically disembody. My attention is not so much focused on the film as it is within the film. Whenever a noise perks up it throws my body spatially back to where I’m sitting and it’s a bit like being in a car accident (I’ve been in a few). I’m started and annoyed, and naturally it’s never anything of value. If I am to truly enjoy a film I need silence. It’s one thing to laugh at funny parts, to gasp at scary or sad parts, or anything else like that. I’m not a robot, I think, I react to those moments too. They also take me out of the film momentarily, generally with a wrench to my heart or some other kind of punch depending.

When I can’t do this, when I can’t fall into the film, it’s miserable for me. Every minute that passes I get angrier, and angrier. Each person that talks becomes the newest source of my ire and I end up liking them less and less as a human being. In all the films I’ve gone to see with Liz I can’t recall a single thing ever being said by any person that added to the movie. It’s always something that could have waited until after. Each time it ruins the scene. Millions of dollars go into making these scenes have punch, to be funny, emotional, scary, what have you. They have people working long hours and under stressful conditions to make it all “work”. Then strangers basically shit all over it because they can’t keep their mouths shut for a couple hours.

For me Star Wars 7 was basically ruined as far as the above is concerned. I wanted to go see it and be immersed and I had to sit through people talking through every quiet scene. Exclaiming things that didn’t need exclaiming or just straight up ruining the tension by talking about what would be happening. It’s sad too because I feel like it tainted my opinion of the movie as a whole. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I gotten my time. I really wish movies were available at home on release. I just can’t deal with theatres anymore. I pay a lot of money to basically have strangers shit in my lap. That’s not my thing, I know some people like it, but I’m not a fan.

Now that I’ve ranted a bit I’ll talk about my feelings on the movie. I guess we’ll start with how it sounds and work backwards towards the plot. The sound design is astoundingly good. Whenever the movie was loud enough to drown out the people around me I could really taste the excellence. All of the music was excellent. Throughout the entire film I was thinking “I’d listen to this soundtrack anytime.” Actors wise everyone had delightful voices, I’m not saying that’s part of “sound design” per say, but it is easy to make a film bad by having one too many Bobcat Goldthwait’s in it. All the aliens were great, all the people were great, and all the SFX were great. Every blaster sound was crisp and sexy and every ship sound was awesome. This movie tickles my ears.

Visually the movie is stunning. That’s kind of a given these days I guess. But everything looks awesome. The blasters are cool, the locations are cool, and the…well…the cool is cool. The Starkiller base was awesome and I found myself instantly attached to it. “This is cool! This is like the most ominous thing I’ve ever seen!” When that ship destroyed the Republic after charging its weapon from a god damned sun I was like “Oh shit. I think I’m sold.”

That love was short lived. The pacing was off the chain and not in a good way. If they showed you something it was destroyed seemingly moments later. Beautiful Thai inspired structures housing lots of neat new aliens? Done. Five entire planets? Here and gone in almost the same minute. A planet converted into the raddest damn weapon ever in cinema (that I’m aware of)? Here and gone before it even gets to fire a second time. I’m surprised the Falcon even survived a scene. It seemed like they were dead set to just race to the end of the movie with no regard for anything along the way.

This was a bummer for me because the movie sort of treats you like a passenger. You, along with Fin and Rey, are basically fans of Star Wars that are being introduced to the world at large. You don’t belong here. As is made abundantly clear with both of them (and the audience…in my experience) losing their minds each time a keyword from the original series is prodded. Oh my word! THE Han Solo?! THE Millennium Falcon?! THE Luke Skywalker?! THE Darth Vader?! C-3PO! HOLY SHIT IS THAT R2-D2?!

You are all wondering this brave new galaxy, visitors who want to basically absorb everything around you. This beautiful world that reminds you of a better time. But each time you get settled into a location it is obliterated utterly. I can only hope that this pacing won’t carry into the 8th and 9th films because it’ll be a tough pill to swallow. I don’t think I’d be able to marathon 3 films that move along at such a breakneck pace.

The acting though is pretty damn good throughout. Fin is wonderful and I’m kinda sad someone like him hasn’t been in all the movies. Rey is cool. Once they got over the “I’m a strong independent woman that don’t need no man.” thing they did in the beginning I liked her. I’m not saying that’s a bad message to send people, but the way they presented it was a bit uncomfortable. You’ve got Fin, someone whose been abused and controlled all his life, scared and alone meeting the first person who has ever shown him any level of interest. The first person who has ever treated him like another person. Of course he’d be clingy! This isn’t about the patriarchy, these are the actions of someone broken. Once they stopped the whole “Look the man is trying to save her but she’s the strong one.” and moved onto teamwork and both of them growing as characters I was much happier. I worried the entire film was going to be about Fin being awkward and her being grumpy at anything with a Y Chromosome.

I was more disappointed with the arrival of Han Solo. I don’t think a single person on this Earth expected him to survive this movie. It really felt like he was introduced for no better reason than to kill him. I’ll explain in a few paragraphs (if that far) what I’d have preferred they done but ultimately its over now. Because it was so glaringly predictable it lost a lot of the punch that could have been achieved. It’s like seeing a horror film where one person is a famous actor and everyone else is a nobody. You won’t be surprised when other characters die, they are only there to die.

Up until he dies his acting is spot on though. Harrison Ford is a wonderful actor. I don’t know if he’s a nice guy or anything but his acting abilities have never disappointed me. He just comes across as a really fun, really neat person.

Carrie Fisher did a great job as Leia again. Her position at the head of the rebel army seems real fitting. I’ll be honest, even with people tearing me away from the movie she was able to nearly get me wet in the eyes at least once. I really felt like she was heartbroken with her son. Kylo Ren is pretty much fine with me. Adam Driver does a fine job as the villain, again, in a moment I’ll talk about how I wish they handled him, but ultimately he’s just fine. When he stopped that blaster shot in the beginning I was like…holy shit. This is the raddest thing I’ve seen (this is before the Star Killer base, naturally). His lightsaber is cool to me and it really does show he’s learned from his ancestors. His grandfather lost his hand (and…well most everything else), then his uncle lost his hand. He’s not interested in getting his hand sliced off.

The fight scenes were real good! Now that I’m thinking about it. Rey versus Kylo was a delight for me. As was the shorter fight between Kylo and Fin. And lest we forget the Fin versus Fwip Stormtrooper. “TRAITOR!” That guy, whoever that was, pretty cool!

Anyways. Let’s talk about what I wish had been different and then close out with my concluding thoughts on the movie.

Firstly, when Kylo stops that blaster shot in the beginning I was floored. That was just so cool. But I think it would have been pretty great to show us just how ruthless the First Order are. When they bring the guy up who shot the blaster they should have walked him up to the blaster shot and slowly pressed him against it to get information. Then, when he doesn’t crack, they walk him off with them (as they did) and then the blast continues onwards and hits the fountain like it did in the original. This would have been really tense and fairly clever.

The next thing is the Starkiller base. This was a profoundly interesting set piece and a genius idea. If the planet the rebels are on was destroyed their organization would be relegated to the stars. A mobile enemy is far more dangerous than one that is grounded. Additionally this would mean the star the Starkiller base is around would be depleted (as it was drained to a dark husk, somehow, in the film). So the base would need to move. This provides you with a really cool impetus for the second film. Especially if we find out that the rebel base that IS hit is not the main one. Perhaps via bad information or maybe the rebels knew they’d be followed. So basically, we keep thinking the rebel base is going to be obliterated in this movie and then after the blast is fired the rebels watch a far off planet explode.

In either case, that would have been fun for me. Really tugging people along and not giving them a hint to what was coming until after the big moment has concluded.

Nextly, Han Solo and Kylo Ren. What would have been really clever here is to make everyone think that Han Solo is going to die (as we all did anyways) and make it really seem like he will. Then we get to that “will they, won’t they” moment. We hear the lightsaber flash on, maybe Chewie screams or something. Fires at Kylo who jumps back revealing he turned on the saber in Han’s hands. Han holds onto the saber, the burning blade from it mere inches from his heart. He looks up to his son and realizes that he teeters on the edge of light and darkness (much like Luke, or Darth before him). Another blaster shot from Chewie, Kylo tugs the saber from Han’s hands and slashes the blaster shot out of the sky. It explodes blinding him for a moment. When he regains his vision Han has backed out with Chewie.

Enraged by his failure, Kylo goes after Rey and Fin, just as he had before. But instead of having a tough time fighting because of his injury, he has a tough time because he is furious with himself. Furious at his weakness. It clouds his vision and hinders his control of the force. Ultimately this weakness is what leads to him losing to Rey. He sees this as a sign that he must kill his father, that his decision not to is what lead to his facial injury.

Additionally this startles the audience because EVERYONE thought Han would die! If he didn’t see it as a sign to kill his father it could be a great turning point for him in Episode 8. During an altercation of some sort he accidentally wounds his father. Holding him in his hands, just as Luke had Darth, but instead of this being the moment of his father’s salvation, it becomes his damnation. Turning him to the dark side, truly.

That’s all I remember from the film that bothered me, not much really. And nothing I said above is “better” objectively. It’s just things that would have been better for me. My experience at the movie theatre was bad, arguably terrible. But my current feelings is that the movie was good. I feel like a movie feeling good, when my time watching the movie is terrible, suggests that the movie was otherwise great. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, and I don’t think it’s the best star wars ever made (since its basically a retread of Episode 4), but it is leaps and bounds better than the 1st prequel film.

The action was solid, the actors were solid, the plot was solid. Everything about it felt impassioned and almost no scene was plagued with data. Lucas had a big problem with thinking “more == better” when really too much data leads to a difficulty parsing out the noise. Before you know it you aren’t sure who to be listening to, who to be watching, or even why you are trying. It feels disrespectful to the viewer. All the remasters of the original films came across to me as a direct insult to anyone they were marketed to. Suggesting that we couldn’t handle the more reserved original releases or that we need things to constantly be in our face to remain focused.

The prequels pushed this further. Everything felt loud and childish, obnoxious and rude. This movie was loud and boisterous when it needed to be and quiet and contemplative when it needed to be. The pacing was still too fast but I never found myself insulted by the movie. It wanted me to have fun, and it was a fun film. I’m going to give it a great but it’ll be sorta limited to the time between now and when I get to “really” see it on digital release. Once I can watch it without people invading my space or my mind I’ll know for sure.

By | 2015-12-28T22:27:51+00:00 December 26th, 2015|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on [Review] Star Wars: Episode VII

My Top 12 Games of 2015: #01 Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

I’m sure this surprises nobody. Loving this game is almost a cliche, but much like most well loved things there is a good reason behind it. Over the years there have been few gaming certainties for me. Nintendo generally will provide me with good games, Blizzard will entertain me with fun stories, and CD Projekt Red will release a game that is better than I expected a game could be. I’m not a cynical man, I actually enter into most things with what I call Optimistic Realism. Basically I expect nothing but not less than nothing. This means that generally speaking I walk into experiences happy.

This game started out strong for me. I’ve always appreciated the non-American aesthetic of these games. A lot of American companies, or companies marketing in America, are strongly hindered by what is acceptable here. What is left with usually feels forced if it is anything but a feel good romp. As if the authors were tip toeing around an army of glass humans. The Witcher series doesn’t do this which is something that I appreciate deeply. The joys and ills of humanity are on full display in their games. Sometimes awful things happen to people who don’t deserve it. Sometimes wonderful things happen to awful people. You’d be hard pressed to find too many games, serious or no, that actually reference the horrors of war. Rape, pillaging, torture. I’m told that Spec Ops: The Line is up there, a game that just kinda tears away at your hope. I’ve not yet played it sadly.

When I play a Witcher game I genuinely don’t know what will happen to anyone. There is no limit to the tragedy and because of it I find myself genuinely worried about them. Apparently this is what makes Game of Thrones so popular (I’m just getting into GOT, so again, guesswork). It also helps that CDPR have some astoundingly good writers. Witcher 1 was fun for me, Witcher 2 was amazing, and Witcher 3 just destroyed me. Every single character I meet, every single quest I take, it all feels alive and genuine. These characters are deep. They have problems, joys, sorrows, problems and victories. Every journey I take with them feels thoughtful and powerful. The content here is rich and varied.

Visually the Witcher 3 is stunning. One of the best looking games I’ve ever played. At max settings it does hit the upper limit of what my PC can handle but turning them down just a tiny bit and it runs at a silky smooth 60 FPS. This is actually kinda important to me because the combat is pretty fluid. If the framerate chops the next thing that’ll be chopping is your head when a monster bowls over you. I tend to choose the hardest difficulty mode in games when I play them, this was no exception. But it means that you really really need to be paying attention. Parrying is vital, dodging is vital, and understanding when to do which is genuinely the difference between life and death.

You can fight things many many times your own level in this game and survive if you have the patience and the skill. That’s a great feeling. But it also means that sometimes I try really hard to do things far far too early. That’s alright though, Witcher 3 gives me the ability to destroy myself and I appreciate that. I’ve already mentioned that I love the story, and now we’ve talked about how the combat is slick. What next?

Well the crafting and side options of course?! The crafting in this game is great. It’s not very complicated but it is more like a “character upgrade” system than a crafting system. You make potions once and then have them for the rest of your playtime. You have a limited number of uses per “rest” period but still. Because of this I look at crafting a bit like completing a checklist and that’s always cool to me.

Crafting equipment is pretty simple (made simpler with the new checklist system where), you can favorite an item and in shops it’ll highlight the stuff you need. Similarly it gives you a good readout of what the items do so that you can compare them with what you’ve got. Also, personally, I’ve yet to find an outfit that didn’t look awesome. The weapons are also a breath of fresh air. Witcher 3 has a fair number of weapons to collect or create.

Once you’ve set aside the awesome quests, the great visuals, and the neat equipment what are you left with? Damn good music and sound design. Everything in this game is crisp and sexy. They put a lot of effort into making the game engrossing and, at times, literally entrancing. I find myself inside of my monitor while I play. My mind taken away to some magic foreign land. Albeit this is a land I’d never, ever, ever, want to visit, but I’m there regardless.

Even outside of the game the company never ceases to amaze me. They had a bunch of free DLC, only to be followed with one of the best DLC offerings I’ve seen in years (which’ll likely get shown up by the one following it). I even bought their Gwent Physical Cards and those are top quality! It’s like this company is incapable of abusing my trust or releasing shit. I’m not complaining, obviously. I do hope that CD Projekt red continues on into the future and I’ll be there to snap up anything they make. They’ve made my year and shown me that it isn’t unreasonable to expect greatness for a reasonable price.

This is an RPG on the scale of anything I’ve ever played before, perhaps larger than anything I’ve played prior (in the genre of RPG) and it never stops being astounding to me. The inventory management system was, at last glance, not the greatest but it has gotten better. Other than that trifling complaint I can genuinely come to you with nothing but praise for the Witcher 3. It made me a happy fella and I’m likely to be playing it again when you are reading this.

By | 2015-12-24T17:42:48+00:00 December 24th, 2015|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on My Top 12 Games of 2015: #01 Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt