Great Things

//Great Things

Reviews: Skyrim

 

Skyrim  So I’ve been quite busy over the last 9 days. During this time I’ve played roughly 42 hours of the latest Elder Scrolls game “Skyrim”. Everyone and their cousin probably knows what this game is already so I’m just going to give a quick overview of what I like and what I think it is missing. To save people time this game easily falls under “Great” on my review scale. It’s a must get and I’d highly suggest playing it through whatever service you have (or buy flat out purchasing if renting is not an option).

Also keep in mind I played this for the PC so what I talk about may not be applicable for the console versions. I’ll also try my best not to spoil any story which shouldn’t be too hard as I’ve been spending all my time on sidequests.

 

There is an amazing amount of content in this game. I’ve spent 42 hours now and haven’t done further than the first 2-3 main story quests. The much mentioned “Throat of the World” has not been climbed by this particular user. I’ve been investigating all the guilds and NPCs quests that bleed from every edge of the game. In terms of character quality and depth I’d say this game does very well. Obviously a more linear experience would see far more deep characters but the individuals you meet in this game will more often than not please you. Either that or I’m very easily satisfied.

One of the most common complaints I see when I make the mistake of looking up Skyrim information online is that the game was “streamlined for consoles”. It’s an unusual complaint that seems to ignore the massive market that consoles bring to the gaming world. In the case of Skyrim the vast majority of these streamlined features are incredibly welcome. Speaking as someone who plays the game with Keyboard and Mouse it is utterly delightful.

Skills can be saved to a list of “Favorites” and from this list you can actually hotkey weapons, shields, and spells to any of your number keys. It is not without its quirks however as currently you cannot have a sword and a shield (or say two spells or two weapons) on the same number key. I suspect this will be fixed in one of the first patches for the game.

Alchemy has transformed into a delightful minigame where you collect plants, insects, fish, and a plethora of other materials from the world and try to unlock what 4 effects they can have. You can unlock the first by eating it and the others come from mixing and matching. It’s a bit like the board game where you asked your opponent what their person looked like and flipped down tiles. The process of elimination is further simplified by greying out previously attempted combinations that result in failures.

Blacksmithing, Mining, Smelting, Tanning, Grinding, and Workbenches all find their way into the game. Also a much welcome removal was the armor and weapon degradation that has been in Elder Scrolls games for as long as I can remember. Enchanting is still in the game and is as delightfully friendly as all other additions and changes. You can easily create a bow or sword of soul stealing and gather up more souls in soul stones than you ever dreamed possible. You unlock further recipes for enchanting by disenchanting old gear (which breaks it). I have a strict addiction to this and break absolutely anything with a new spell on it.

Again enchanting has a minor quirk that has been around time immemorial, you cannot make souls only go into the smallest soulstone they can fit in. I find myself sticking deer inside of grand soul stones from time to time and it is sad. But soul stones will flood your inventory like water from a broken dam and its hardly a game ending complaint.

Combat is heated and visceral, users have complained of the “Swipe swipe move” function but this is how combat has been in every Elder Scrolls game ever. But I can’t recall the last time my guy mounted a monster and began slashing its skull.

Execution

The execution animations that happen when you or your opponent are low on life are very fun to watch and they happen just frequently enough to be entertaining without being obnoxious. I’ve decapitated foes, mounted dragons, lifted people off the ground with my blade in their abdomen and many other wonderful end blows.

Conversely I’ve had a dragon nearly swallow me and hurl my lifeless corpse off the side of a mountain, so it is certainly a double edged sword.

The companion system is simple and convenient. You find a companion, hire them, and take them on many a journey. They are half essential falling to their knees and allowing you time to rescue them, I’ve had to reload many times after dragon shouting a companion to death.

Which is related to arguably my biggest gripe of this game, the autosave happens maybe once in a lifetime. I walk everywhere and almost never fast travel (the world is gorgeous which makes it hard to skip out) and find myself sometimes losing a large chunk of time when I forget to F5. The first mod I’ll be grabbing will be an autosave mod when one arrives.

You can truly live out many different fantasies in this game. I currently play an Argonian who hunts in the wild to collect furs which he then uses to make leather armor and from that some coin. Along this little endeavor I complete quests for the people I meet and hunt down the dragons who have scorched the earth. Mountains, trails, and even cities are not safe from their infrequent but enjoyable assaults. The breadth of animations they have (from perching, to strafing, to idling in the air) are all wonderful and rarely stumbled or broken.

There is probably more I could add, but I find myself having a legitimately high level of fun even nearly 2 straight days worth of play later. This is not the perfect game but it certainly gets many things right. I’m not sure where the expansions and DLC’s will go but I am actually excited about them for once. I’ve not even touched the main story and find myself still entrenched in fascinating networks of relationships, betrayals, and adventures.

I’ll probably throw up an album sometime soon of my journeys through Skyrim, but for now lets just end with that dragon above sleeping peacefully in the mountains.

sleepingdragon

By | 2015-02-08T20:09:33+00:00 November 20th, 2011|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Skyrim

Reviews: X-Men: First Class

AskBD.jpg (576×834)

I will get this out of the way immediately, to say that I enjoyed this movie would be an understatement. I’ll discuss it in, every so slightly, more detail in a minute.

But this film has things in it, things you should see, one of the most entertaining hero movies, and an origins at that, that I’ve ever seen. I’m going to probably hype this a bit, so if you just wanted the gist I suggest you read no further and just go see it at your earliest convenience.

They need to get ticket sales, we need to have these folks reprise the roles at least one more time. It was…delicious.

 

 

So where do I begin? How about with my facial expression for most of the movie. I’ll give it my best shot, since I don’t own a tablet personally.

image

Mouth open, tongue watching the film alongside me, as endless nerd porn was thrashed against the screen. Yes, admittedly, there is literally women in their underwear (and to anyone that shocks, you obviously didn’t read old X-Men comics), but I mean more the action, the lore, the mutants they chose. Sure a couple were strange, but it was delightful to see the cast overall.

I got actively excited during the film, I was chilly, sweaty, incredibly jolly. It was almost worrisome how much this film pandered to my baser nerd instincts. I thanked it for every second and for the…

Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Shaw, for those of you that don’t know the lore I won’t spoil it for you. But the fact that you read this far insults me. Why the hell aren’t you out watching Kevin Bacon? Or the rest of the cast for that matter?

I'm Charles Xavier, I'm about to have sex with your mind.

James McAvoy is good, really good, really really good. He plays the young Professor Xavier that I always imagined. It hurts at times because you realize he isn’t actually Professor X, and that when you scream like a 12 year old girl at him the moment you meet him he’ll probably file a restraining order.

I didn’t know his name before the film, I think he’s even been a satyr in another film, but damn. Damn. That’s really all I have to say.

I could regurgitate about much of the cast, but they are almost entirely amazing. Michael Fassbender destroyed the screen as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful Mystique, blah, blah, blah, I really can’t remember anything that irked me.

Is this even a review anymore? Am I just groping this film? It feels like it. I effectively paid for it 4 times (part of a mistake with Fandango) and I don’t feel the least bit robbed. I have not, in a long long time, been this damn happy after a movie. I’m telling you this days after we saw it. Is it the greatest movie ever? No. Is it one of the most entertaining times I’ve had at a theatre? Yes.

There were people talking during the film and some 30 year old asshole was kicking my seat the ENTIRE time. Neither of these things could break me away from the holy shit that was going down on screen.

So that is all. I’m slapping this into my great category, if you are a dork, please go see this film and I apologize if I’ve overhyped it. But I’m not sure that is possible.

By | 2015-02-08T20:04:27+00:00 June 15th, 2011|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: X-Men: First Class

Reviews: Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat 9 Cover

Mortal Kombat (more accurately Mortal Kombat 9) is the first fighting game I’ve bought in quite a long time. I do not hate fighting games but generally the hardcore emphasis on playing with people I’ve never met leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As much as I like to think my fighting skills in games aren’t terrible I’m reminded that no amount of practice will beat the free time of a teenager.

That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. I’m glad folks find things they are good at. But I digress. I bought this game initially because it came with book ends. Which I think immediately has caused a few folks reading to think “This guy is an idiot.” Fair enough!

 

What’s good? This question is fairly beefy. Mortal Kombat is probably one of my favorite purchases in the last year. The amount of content is staggering. There is a movie length story mode you can play through. It’s good enough that I’m tempted to play through it again. After you’ve finished this many hour long story you will find yourself still having the standard fighting game ladder mode in 5 flavors. This ladder mode has multiple options consisting of 1v1 and 2v2 which are both fairly self explanatory. You then have 3 “test your X” modes. Test your Might allows you to play the classic “I can brake something impossibly hard with my pinky” mode from older MK’s, then you have “Test your Sight” which is a great coconut game “find the ball” mode (authentically tuned to to use skulls and dismembered heads instead of coconuts), and finally you have “Test your Luck” which is a mode where the game randomizes bonuses, penalties, and enemies. I found all of them pretty fun and none of them felt ham handed.

“Shamelessly nabbed image from Amazon.”

  Speaking of content let us not forget the massive amount of characters in this game. Just off of memory I’ve played Smoke, Noob Saibot, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya, Jax, Cyrax, Sektor, Scorpion, Shiva, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Reptile, Cyber Sub Zero, Johnny Cage, Shang Tsung, Striker, Kano, Katana, Mileena, and Sindel. I know I missed a few so I did a quick search: Quan Chi, Kabal, Baraka, Nightwolf, Jade, and Ermac. There are 27 characters not including the God of War: Kratos. Each of these characters has 2-3 unique costumes that add a ton of extra flavor.

  Cyrax and Sektor (as well as Sub Zero) are all met in the story prior to the Cyber initiative. This is a small touch but I was giddy as a school girl to see so many characters before their iconic changes. Jax without cyber arms, Kabal without melted flesh, The ninjas as mentioned. The new character Ermac was wonderfully designed and his presence in the story reminds me in no small way of the Borg.

Borgity Borg Borg

  I believe at one point Ermac even says “We are many and you are but one.” which seems like play off of “The one who is many. I am the Borg” from Star Trek: TNG. I have no complaints about this and the subtle touch helped me enjoy Ermac even further.

  The balance appears to be quite solid as well. Again I’ve only played PVE as the PSN has been down for over a week. The only major complaint about character imbalances comes up with the non-playable boss characters and will be mentioned further down.

  Not only does the game have a solid single player ladder, a solid story, and a roster larger than almost any other modern fighting game, it’s still packing some extras up its sleeves. There is a couple hundred level long challenges tower, some of the challenges are funny, some are clever, and some still will anger you to the point of killing a hummingbird.

Fatality! (Awesome PB skills btw)

    While playing the game you will also collect “Koins” which I presume have a better name than that but my coffee has not set in quite yet. The currency can be used to buy things from the most creative “bonus store” I’ve ever seen. It’s 4 parts big, a graveyard, a forest of hanging distended corpses, a bog of equally nasty bodies and ghouls, and a field of living people attached to diabolical (and worryingly still actually real in history) torture and execution devices. You spend your money here to “activate” the various things and can either watch a gruesome animation or simply skip to the goodies.

There is honestly so much to this game that I imagine even now I’ve forgotten something it has to offer. Of the many titles I’ve bought spanning many genres over the last year this game has undoubtedly the largest day 1 collection of things to do.

Shamelessly taken from Amazon.

What’s Bad? This part will be substantially easier for me to write. There is after at least 24 hours of play only a single complaint I have to make about this game. Perhaps with time I’ll find more but for now it is thus: The Boss Mechanics. Dear god, I understand that Mortal Kombat has a fabled history of creating very imbalanced boss fights to help drum up the drama but I feel they missed the mark here.

Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat 2 had a very simple mechanic, if he hit you you would fly across the screen like a missile. Had they done that in this game I would have been happy as a clam. But they did not. What was done is Shao Kahn hits you like a freight train and he ignores most hits. Did you just punch him in the groin? Shao Kahn don’t care, he’s going to drop a 200 lb hammer on your skull. Did you just jump kick him to the face? Shao Kahn don’t care, he’s going to stick a spear in your ass and laugh (usually in that order).

Goro and Kintaro are fairly straight forward, you jump at them and uppercut them. That’s what I did over 10 years ago and its nice that they feel the same and are just as fun to beat up. But Shao Kahn definitely was a dropped ball. Fighting him is not fun, it is endlessly aggravating. The only 2 points in the story that I wasn’t having fun were involving him. Everything else was a challenge, he was merely a bore. You beat him by abusing game mechanics and frankly that shouldn’t be how a boss is handled. This is hardly enough to kill the entire game for me, but if he were to get patched out tomorrow I don’t feel I would be missing him.

What’s left? If you enjoy fighting games you should grab this today. Rent it, Borrow it, or Buy it. The X-Ray combat mechanics I felt would be trashy but they really do add a fun way to pummel the ever loving hell out of your foe. The character art is over the top, the men are powerhouses, the women are bombshells, and the entire thing just exudes campiness. But it’s that kind of campiness that is desperately missing from modern gaming. If Duke Nukem is the…*ahem*…Duke Nukem of FPS’s, this is certainly the Duke Nukem of Fighting Games. A completely over the top fun fest that feels oddly believable.

I still haven’t collected everything and I’m thinking that this might be the title I actually go for a platinum in (once the PSN is back). If Netherrealm and WB can pull of DLC as high quality as the base game I think there is much money to be lost in my future.

I will also add here since I don’t look at graphics when judging a game that they are equally gorgeous. The quality in this game is spot on. Again I wouldn’t want you to pick it up merely because of that but if that’s what gets you in the door the rest of the package is sure to titillate.

Just remember when playing the story. Once you reach the Shao Kahn Fights. Two things to remember. First time? Low Fireball. Second Time? Down Up, Sweep. These will get you passed those fights in a jiffy and back to the fantastic (given the topic) story.

Without a doubt this is a great game and perhaps the best fighting game of the year.

Awesome Bookends are Awesome

“Also these are pretty awesome.”

(I found 2 more extra content slips pulling these out for the picture too).

Great

By | 2015-02-08T20:04:01+00:00 April 30th, 2011|Great Things, Reviews|Comments Off on Reviews: Mortal Kombat