Category Archives: Report

Pre-Review: The Surge and Injustice 2

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I’m going to do something I’m not normally wont to do today because I’m feeling overly tired but also overly excited about sharing my experience with both The Surge and Injustice 2 with other people. I’m going to talk about some of the non-spoiler yet intriguing elements of both recently released titles with you all and give you a taste of what I’ve experienced thus far, having had the games for thirty-six hours and played each for roughly twelve. Yes, I’ve had a rough and time consuming time of it and yet somehow I’ve survived to tell the tale.

I’ll start with The Surge, which has strangely enough been one of my most anticipated titles of 2017 ever since I heard about Deck13’s newest project. I was a fan of Lords of the Fallen in all of its Dark Souls glory and although Deck13 has been around for sometime that was probably their most successful and most quality-driven title to date. I mean, if you’ve played it then you can agree Venetica hardly takes the cake so prior to The Surge there weren’t really any real contenders anyway.

The Surge is everything you’ve heard it to be including a science fiction, exo-suit wearing, machine fighting Souls-style role-playing game. It sports some truly gorgeous visuals that fit right in with the rest of the realistic visuals depicting a dystopian industrial setting in a video game in the year 2017. But where it stands heads and shoulders above the competition in the Souls-game lookalike market is the combat system which is intuitive and fresh although still bears a resemblance to Lords of the Fallen.

In fact, for Deck13’s next project they could very well do something akin to Lords of the Fallen 2 if they wished and I’m sure it would be incredibly well received and also well done now that they have two triple-A caliber titles under their belt.

The combat system is dynamic and fluid in its ability to shift focus from each individual enemy limb and even different targets on the fly. It focuses on many of the same elements that Lords of the Fallen did but it also introduces a new and already critically appreciated dismemberment system like some role-playing version of Dead Space come alive again. Not only can you strategically maim foes and slice and dice your way through their exo-suits but you can also keep choice equipment and gear that you hack off if you time your strikes right.

It’s far more than a gimmick as this is pretty much the main way to grind and progress your way through the game and also it keeps the combat perpetually entertaining as you perform finisher after finisher like nothing we’ve seen since Darksiders II. Things can get a little repetitive at times but the combat keeps the otherwise same encounters fresh and constantly interesting throughout the experience when you aren’t exploring the deadly industrial setting. In some ways The Surge’s world reminds me of a smaller version of the expansive canvas that is Nier Automata. Both certainly have a lot of the same decaying urban vibe going as well as the whole mechanized foes shindig down.

So far my biggest takeaways for The Surge are that it looks and handles smoothly and beautifully, the combat is brutal and effective and entertaining, and the sheer amount of loot and cosmetic upgrades is astonishing. If any of that sounds intriguing to you and you don’t mind a little grind as you play through what will probably be at least a 40 hour experience that is already highly replayable, then I think The Surge may be a game for you to consider.

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As much as I miss some of the cast of the original Injustice: Gods Among Us who don’t return in the sequel for reasons ranging from death (in the story mode) to irrelevance in this particular universe, the updated roster is better than ever. We may have traded Ares and additions like Lobo and Scorpion but now we have Ragey Rage Monster (Atrocitus) and Swamp Thing for example.

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve moved on from The Surge to Injustice 2 and I do hope you’ll stick around if you’re only reading this particular post for one of the two games mentioned. I’ve taken the liberty of playing through and also watching (courtesy of YouTube) every ending and cutscene in the story mode in order to be sure that I’ve missed absolutely nothing in terms of narrative prior to playing multiverse and multiplayer modes. As such, I can now officially call myself an even bigger DC nerd and Injustice fan- Injustice 2 not only builds upon the structure of the previous game but it adds in more depth than really seen outside of the Mortal Kombat series (also currently held by Ed Boon and NetherRealm).

Side note: Both Deck13 and NetherRealm Studios have some of the classiest and coolest studio logos among developers, I mean let’s just take a look here. Obviously NetherRealm wins but hey points for simplicity as well.

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“Classics never die…”

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“Alert Captain Kenway immediately!”

Returning to the matter at hand and continuing my already hazy stream of consciousness (or ramble or whatever) here… Injustice 2 does everything correctly in terms of following in the footsteps of its predecessor and it also adds carefully to the cultivated mix of gameplay and story in decisive fashion. Some of the new character models look a bit strange but that’s easily remedied by unlocking new skins and animations. The setting for each stage and the rich roster more than make up for any minuscule beef I may have over character designs such as the Joker or Superman.

Injustice 1 offered a high level of replayability and it’s easy to see that Injustice 2 also offers that in the newly minted multiverse gameplay mode as well as the variety of online offerings and challenges. The mobile app seems to even be better integrated this time around and although quality wise it is a lot lesser than its peers it is still an interesting use of a mobile app for once in gaming history aside from shameless marketing plugs and Smart Glass actions.

I won’t spill the beans on the best moments although you’re welcome to watch the nearly three hours of story cutscenes and endings. However, I will say that you should definitely play the narrative if only to serve as a good tutorial for what’s to come in other modes and an introduction to the world of Injustice if you’re unused to it. You may think you know DC characters but this is an entirely different ballgame and it’s a lot more difficult to discern friends from foes. Things are significantly less confusing concerning alternate universes this time around but that’s still a thing too.

Oh and in case you wanted to know, there are some sweet cameos and moments where characters that aren’t currently on the available roster make appearances within the story mode or otherwise are referenced. So be on the lookout for the slew of interesting DLC content to surely follow as well. And thanks you NetherRealm for making me not absolutely abhor Barry Allen anymore (as much).

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Thought Blog: Call of Duty WWII

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Sledgehammer Games has dealt in Call of Duty stock prior to the upcoming entry in the multi-entry series. They not only worked with Infinity Ward and other subservient developers on Modern Warfare 3, but they also developed the solid Advanced Warfare as their first main addition to the Call of Duty chronology. In a series that now spans at least five confirmed timelines things can sometimes seem cluttered and jumbled, mixed up here and there year to year but otherwise a veritable mess.

In a bid to discover some of the personal glory that Battlefield 1 and DICE did with their look at total warfare in an older era, Activision and Call of Duty itself are returning to the previously overdone and oversaturated WWII market in order to rekindle some of the initial magic. As a note, Call of Duty hasn’t been to the second Great War since 2008’s World at War although some elements of 2010’s Black Ops did feature segments in and around the WWII era.

Previously Treyarch and Infinity Ward were the heavy hitters in the series however as of late and at least as of the previous three titles, Sledgehammer has picked up the slack where the other titans have fallen. Infinite Warfare was interesting and a pretty comprehensive package catering to all sorts of players and yet for many it was deemed a dud and not received as well as previous titles have been. Black Ops 3 was likewise seen as a cluttered mess that couldn’t make sense of what it wanted to be despite some interesting new features and a truly crazy single player campaign featuring the usual star studded cast.

As it stands, Advanced Warfare may be the last entry to really net a lot of praise- both for Kevin Spacey in his role within the single player campaign and for it being Sledgehammer’s first solo outing and a successful one at that. Prior to 2014’s Advanced Warfare, Call of Duty Ghosts (Infinity Ward) was deemed one of the least stellar entries in the franchise and 2012’s Black Ops II was an excellent multiplayer addition with some spectacular choice-making single player elements but otherwise started the series’ shift towards science fiction and what many consider a downward trend.

Returning to WWII is a somewhat expected approach and yet it is nonetheless a bold one as well, even if only as a direct response to Battlefield 1’s WWI setting. The critic in me cringes at the terrible naming convention that deemed it necessary to call this game ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ and yet you cannot fault it for simply encapsulating what they plan to offer: the full breadth of the total war experience across the European theater. From the start they could’ve easily used this as an opportunity to somewhat reboot the series and simply called it ‘Call of Duty’ and still made the exact same game they are making despite it being in yet another timeline and yet another setting.

As overdone as the setting was for so many years in the early 2000s, I cannot help but notice how graphically impressive the game is looking already and that it already seems to have Sledgehammer’s trademark narrative focus instead of the monumental attention to every single set-piece moment that Infinity Ward likes to push. Sure it will inevitably live up to the majority of WWII cliches- the gung-ho sergeant that wants to “kill the Nazi scum,” the calm and collected leader that wants to make it through alive and without subjecting his men to the cruelest horrors of war, and the grizzled war veteran side by side with green recruits. But I think the experience itself seems already promising enough.

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Aside from the obvious focus on some of the lesser trod battles of the European theater, the single player campaign looks to focus on the moral repercussions of war as well as the visceral nature of the fighting. I’m eager to see how a return to such ‘Medal of Honor’ gameplay as requested healing in comparison to immediate super-human healing from injuries over time works as well. The game is making it clear that although this will be a similar experience to the previous ones, it is going about things in both a more traditional and entirely different way. For that reason and surely others, WWII looks like it’ll be more than just a visually updated version of events we’ve already played through.

Focusing on single-player would hardly be fair to those of us who also enjoy the other gameplay offerings of the Call of Duty saga and so it’s also praise worthy than once again Sledgehammer Games is offering both Zombies and multiplayer components. Exo-Suit Zombies was an interesting take on the classic formula in Advanced Warfare and yet something tells me once more seeing Nazi zombies will curdle our blood and elevate our pulse in the most appropriate fashion. As for the multiplayer component itself, despite offering some of the expected PvP content it also sounds like Activision is really going after DICE and some of the Battlefield cake- large objective based battles and completely unique character class ‘divisions’ for one.

I applaud Sledgehammer for going the traditional route while still managing to find ways to inject new life into both the series and subsequently the game. It’s commendable that rather than create the same overdone science fiction super trooper tale we’ve seen for the previous few incarnations, they’re opting to return to the literal roots of Call of Duty while still producing new ideas in that older setting. Of all of the developers lately, Sledgehammer seems the most likely to take risks and reap the potential rewards of those design decisions as well. Treyarch used to be the one to do that and Infinity Ward has always stuck to a pretty similar model outside of last year’s Infinite Warfare.

I personally appreciate pretty much every Call of Duty game for the experience that they offer but even I can see the franchise fatigue constantly on the border of gamers’ hazy vision and lurking, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and render a particular series iteration irrelevant and disdained. Black Ops 3 narrowly dodged that bullet and Infinite Warfare caught the brunt of the blast of criticism despite doing so many things differently and being quite literally out of the world to the degree where people argued as to whether or not it even deserved to be tagged as a Call of Duty game. As much as people buy the games, it’s constantly astounding to see the flak each one gets for literally no reason at times- fans complain about getting the same thing over and over again yet complain when they receive something new and different as well.

I could go on and on about my thoughts with regard to the series and this upcoming release and yet I think now is as appropriate a time as any to end it as well. What are your thoughts about the upcoming game? I personally have no doubt that Sledgehammer will do their best to give the community the most authentic and quality driven experience that they can and although I foresee some criticism in regard to the setting I do think they will fare better than both Black Ops 3 and Infinite Warfare have. Thoughts, comments or concerns? Feel free to comment and give voice to them here.

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My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 4

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It’s been a little while since the last post in my ongoing retrospective that focuses heavily on my favorite games of roughly the past decade and the previous generation up until present day. Although I’m only covering a small chunk of video gaming history, there have been plenty more excellent releases in this time besides the ones that I’m listing- ones that I’ve predominately mastered or otherwise completed and completely enjoyed. This particular post will be emphasizing the years 2011 and 2012 and as always you can feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my favorites.

2011: Dead Space 2, Killzone 3, Crysis 2, The Witcher 2, Shadows of the Damned, Bastion, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Island, Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Batman Arkham City, Skyrim.

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The first Dead Space game was an exercise in mastering horror and all of the genre defining cliches that often accompany it. The second title was a master stroke in adding even more action to the mixture without sacrificing much in the way of tension or outright terror. Although the third game has since let many people down on the horror side of things, the first sequel showcased the ability to ratchet up the stakes as well as the action-fueled setpiece moments. It has so much going for it and added a lot of memorable content to Isaac’s terribly great story.

Killzone 3 was the final game in the series for a long time and in many ways is still the capstone to an excellent trilogy of games despite Shadow Fall also continuing the narrative even if it avoids many of the old characters’ outright appearances. It amped up the gameplay in nearly every conceivable way and looked downright gorgeous whether it be in singelplayer or competitive game modes. It was a versatile game for many reasons and just went to show that Guerrilla Games has their heads screwed on right when it comes to gameplay first.

Crysis 2 is a brilliant and beautiful game. I have been a big fan of the series and have enjoyed the fact that each game seemingly got better and improved in at least a few ways even if the second is ultimately my favorite even over the infinite customization options offered by the third. The story in Crysis 2 was interesting and fittingly tense when it had to be as well as adrenaline pumping when the action exploded for real. It was probably the most graphically impressive game of this list and for this time period and still has beautiful visuals and smooth gameplay even today. It’s just a shame not too many people hopped on board with the fantastic multiplayer elements.

The Witcher series has long shown gamers how to successfully pull off this sequel business. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings expanded every single element of the first game and it did so with ease and a narrative that should drag even the most reluctant fan into dark fantasy worlds and writing. Although Wild Hunt has since stunned even more players into awe inspired silence, Assassins of Kings set the tone and the pace for the bigger things that were to come and still stands out as one of the best games of all time as well as possibly the best game of 2011- especially as far as PC titles are concerned.

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To this day I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Shadows of the Damned’s darkly vibrant, gory romp of a horror adventure. And that’s entirely a good thing I think at this point. It’s deeply disturbing at times and equally interesting at other times. There are definite elements of horror and thrilling scares and grotesque creatures but within the same exhilarating experience is also crude humor and absurd encounters as well. It’s gritty when it needs to be and gutsy when it can afford to be and the amount of risk in the creative process and development just goes to show that a little thought can go a long way.

Bastion really set the tone for so many arcade games to come in terms of the independent developer scene on major consoles in the previous and current generation. Not only was it an overture for the eventual release of Transistor, but it was an intriguing and enjoyable experience in its own right- deftly melding a fantastic world and interestingly developed characters. Bastion doesn’t just share a name with one of Overwatch’s most intriguing characters, it shares the sense of quality and the intrigue and mystery of many of those characters’ backstories as well. And that’s always a compliment.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution hasn’t entirely aged well for whatever reason as far as the odd controls go, but the narrative show definitely gone on and hasn’t just continued in terms of Mankind Divided. I’m saddened to hear that Square has put the franchise on pause for the time being but it does remind me that there were greener pastures in the past as well and Human Revolution rekindled a desire I had already had for the series and its intrigue. Sure, the plot can be dense and confusing at times but you can hardly beat the set-up of a dystopian future ruled by corrupt corporations and occupied by cybernetics and titans of engineering- it’s all so Blade Runnery that I cannot help but adore it.

Dead Island is somewhat of a guilty pleasure at least compared to some of these titles but it’s no less enjoyable for that factor. There’s a paltry story at best but the gameplay is where it really shines and where the sequel could’ve had so much more promise if only it had done the right things better and paid attention to quality over quantity. The mere set-up of a quest driven zombie adventure on a massive island that has so many hidden details and secrets is enough to spark interest for most people. Couple that with some interesting enemies and a thorough weapon and dismemberment system like something out of Dead Space and you’ve got a fairly solid game.

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For the longest time it seemed like Gears 3 was it for the series and MY GOD what a fitting conclusion- like Epic’s version of Halo 3 to compare it to another potential trilogy ender. Dom, dear old Dom- RIP buddy cooperative action and memorable moments across the initial trilogy galore. If you haven’t played the Gears series you should really hop on the band wagon and buy Gears 4 so that you can get the access codes for 1-3 and Judgment- I promise you won’t be disappointed because ironically the story is oftentimes the bigger draw than the gameplay itself. Somehow Gears ended up being the most one of the more narrative focused shooters out there.

Dark Souls started the epic and terrible surge of brutally difficult games that we’ve since played- from games created by From Software to games that reek of generic Souls cloning. Without Demon’s Souls we wouldn’t have Dark Souls and without King’s Field we wouldn’t have any Souls-games, however Dark Souls marked the explosion of popularity for the series and its masochistic fans. I continue to play the first game to this day and it retains its originality and enjoyability and difficulty even now.

The Batman Arkham series is one of the best series of all time and easily the greatest superhero series outside of fighting games that feature multiple heroes across muliple stories. Although it has since has some less than stellar additions, the core trilogy of Asylum, City, and Knight are pretty spectacular (forget Origins because it was okay but bleh). Arkham City stands as the narrative highlight and offers the best quests in the series to date. Every boss encounter was original and well done. Every line of dialogue was enthusiastically delivered and believable. And boy oh boy the story was mind shattering at times.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over five years since The Elder Scrolls V hit gamers everywhere with its brilliant addition to the Tamriel universe. Skyrim is still a staple in many gaming libraries and constantly a topic of discussion as well. There has been talk of the potential for a sixth game after all, but honestly I still find myself content to traverse the realms of Skyrim over and over as Bethesda continues to tweak their MMO adaption of the series as well. I would never turn down more Elder Scrolls but I want to see the next game hit us as hard as Skyrim did.

2012: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Mass Effect 3, Journey, Xenoblade Chronicles, Fez, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Sniper Elite V2, Spec Ops: The Line, Darksiders II, Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Far Cry 3.

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Forgetting the fact that Amalur was essentially a one-hit wonder that subsequently bankrupted its studio despite decent sales and critical acclaim in terms of reception, it is a spectacularly underrated game as well. It has the sense of a high fantasy role-playing game and yet for every niche cliche it establishes roots in it also branches out into uncharted territory with interesting ideas that haven’t really been done since or seen before. Not only is it an enjoyable experience and competent RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur is just a genuinely good game.

It wouldn’t be fitting to not talk about the capstone to Commander Shepard’s spacefaring experiences here, ending issues or otherwise. In the wake of Mass Effect Andromeda’s release and the issues that have come with it, let us not forget the amazing trilogy Bioware gifted players around the world with and the amount of player feedback that went into the flawed masterpiece that is Mass Effect 3- both before and after its release. When a developer loves their work enough to tweak the experience after release and offer players a more thoughtful ending, that’s when you know that something special has been made (well and screwed up a bit as well).

Journey is truly a work of art and if you need to hear more arguments about the matter I invite you to happily google video games as an art form for more data and research to support that thought. As an experience it cannot be matched, not even by today’s standards or by other equally intriguing and compelling indie games. As far as the game itself goes it both looks and feels artistic and the artistic integrity of it should never be under scrutiny either. It’s like great titles such as Limbo and Little Nightmares where it’s an enjoyable game but also a thoroughly worthwhile and thought provoking experience.

Xenoblade Chronicles has had sequel content and additions made to it but nothing has quite lived up to the amazing quality and expansiveness of the first title. I was shocked when such an epic game released after virtually hearing little to nothing about it in terms of coverage here in the west. The fact that such an epic game could be made and not much have been said about it just seemed to be contradictory in so many ways and an egregious breach of gaming’s moral code in others. If you have a Wii and haven’t played the game then you’re missing out on quite possibly the best title outside of Twilight Princess.

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Don’t even get me started on Fez 2 rumors or Phil Fish’s antics, but Fez is an indie darling even in a year dominated by Journey and a two year period shared with both Journey and Bastion. It’s a callback to the old school exploration and platforming titles and truly an authentic and enjoyable one at that. Coupled with the fact that it melds new school and old school ideas, it is also thoroughly impressive that the title was all pretty much created by the talent and drive of a single Fish himself. Love the man or hate him, his art speaks for itself.

There hasn’t really been one single defining moment in the gaming community that has sprung up around Telltale’s episodic installments quite like Episode 5 of TWD Season One and Clementine’s experience with Lee culminating in her choice to put him down or let him turn into the zombies they’ve been narrowly escaping until that point. If I just ruined an entire series for you then I apologize but you’ve had five years to see what everyone was crying about for yourself. Similarly if someone ruined the Red Wedding for you then you had like a decade to see what all of your geek friends were sobbing over after reading A Storm of Swords so hey. The episodic format is a bit stale now but you can’t beat the series that made it as thrilling as it has been at times.

Sniper Elite V2 is a how a remake and reboot should be done as it is summarily a bit of both and a bit of neither. Sniper Elite was first made somewhere in the 2004-2005 period and was a competent and interesting shooter at the time. Sniper Elite V2 has since changed many aspects and turned the series into a franchise for Rebellion Games that has spawned three main series titles and a trilogy of Nazi Zombie content as well. All of which has been invigorating and interesting, but none of which would have been possible without the reception of V2 and its dynamic slow motion kill cams. It’s like a sniper’s version of Mortal Kombat and it is gory and gratifying.

Spec Ops: The Line deserves all of the talk it gets for how it handles trauma and so many other aspects not often discussed in video games, much less so in shooters. It is a brilliant game and also a thoughtful evolution of an otherwise defunct series. Honestly, as a one-off kind of experience that may never be replicated it’s an amazing experience and one that I think many different types of gamers would enjoy. If it ever does get the sequel it would most definitely deserve then I can only hope it lives up to the legacy and the shock value established in this particular title. Maybe a jungle adventure like something out of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now…

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Just like the forces of evil could not fully contain either War or Death, the release of Darksiders III cannot be contained or prevented by the death of a publisher or subsequent acquisition of developers. As thrilled as I am for another installation of the series (so much so that I blogged about it prior to any news of a new release) I also constantly revel in my enjoyment of the previous iteration of the series that leapt from the linear path of the first to the open world and embellished lore of the second. For all that I adored in the first game (a lot of things actually) I came to love and appreciate fully in the second- with its Diablo meets God of War meets Zelda structure.

You already know how big a fan I, like many people, am of Borderlands and the second game in the series by this point. Not only have I established my own series of blogs in regard to the replay of the second title but I’ve also delivered many comments and bits of discussion on the lore as well. Borderlands 2 is something that you don’t always see with a gaming generation- it is an icon and a high water mark of excellence that can’t often be replicated, whether within the same series or even within a genre. And yet I still have high hopes that Gearbox can strike gold yet again with their highly anticipated third main installment and make me feel the same way the blood and guts and loot filled adventure has in the past.

Dishonored 2 is every bit as original and as stellar a the first game but for whatever reason the game’s sales have not been reflective of that and it hurts my heart to say so. The first game is fittingly a fresh adventure into something that Bethsoft has some experience in personally but has otherwise left largely to games like Thief and Assassin’s Creed before. Dishonored features dynamic choices that actually matter and colorful characters within a colorful world that you can both interact with and affect in numerous ways. Although the sequel has expanded upon much, the lore and sheer ability to do virtually anything imaginable in the first game are what make it one of the most intriguing experiences of all time.

Far Cry 3 is an island in the series and probably because it offered the freshest start as well as the most original and unique gameplay elements in a series that was otherwise headed downhill after the flawed African safari of Far Cry 2. Although I enjoy the series as a whole and can recognize the great elements each iteration has implemented, FC3 is easily the most quality driven experience and outside of the unique setting for Primal it is the best and brightest excursion to date as well. Far Cry 4 piggybacks too much of the gameplay elements and sheer shock value in terms of colorful characters to get much love from me despite that experience still being a grand one.

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Wildlife Reserves and Hyperion Hijinks

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Well, it’s been a little while since my previous Borderlands 2 romp and subsequent blog- Face Pizza and Flaming Midgets, but I’m here to tell you that drought ends today. I am still painstakingly making my way through Borderlands 2 and will also be replaying Mass Effect 2 more in-depth once I’ve devoted enough time and attention to Gearbox’s epic masterpiece. As usual if you’re walking into this blog series blind it’s gonna cost you probably vision or hearing or something equally painful between my mindless reference making and spoilerific attitude. So really, you’re bringing this upon yourself at this point because you’ve been forewarned twice now.

Like I’ve mentioned previously for those of you who remembered to read the first blog post, while I’m predominately playing through Borderlands 2 to completion, this particular series will actually be focusing on my musings about the series as a whole. So don’t expect a necessary play by play of the game as opposed to some lighthearted commentary on the franchise itself.

It’s intriguing to me to note that the main antagonists of the series have always largely been parts of or heads of corporations. This seems to be one of the most realistic narrative elements of the series just due in part to the fact that a lot of times corporations really are the bad guy after all. I mean, first we have the Atlas corporation in Borderlands and just the overall attitude that these corporations have such a huge stake in the world of Borderlands even if they are sometimes a joke (see Dahl). Of course by the time Tales from the Borderlands and Borderlands 2 has rolled around there’s Hyperion to deal with in all their Handsome Jack glory.

We’ve seen everything from a zombie outbreak on a distant island to the pretty much nuking of the moon Elpis thanks to various corporate bad guys in our time and it really says something ironic about both companies and sometimes environmental regulations. I know, who would’ve guessed there’s anything remotely realistic to be found in the Borderlands series right? I mean, I’d imagine the desolation of the vast majority of Pandora’s already desolate landscape and the forced terraforming and destruction of an entire moon’s surface don’t really do much for company morale or support after all. To be fair, space pirates are more at fault than Hyperion for once in the instance of the latter but I digress.

Categorically, each game has had its fair share of big bads and yet there’s always been a company or band of mercenaries involved somewhere across the narrative in a substantial way and that’s pretty telling of what Borderlands 3 or Tales 2 may have to offer as well. Although I’ve envisioned Borderlands going beyond a mere trilogy I could just as easily see Borderlands 3 as a finale to the saga put in place by both Borderlands and Borderlands 2, as well as even including the decisions made within the confines of The Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands. So far the narrative fits together perfectly albeit in a sometimes confusing way. So why should we make any drastic changes to a narrative formula that works already and not have another big bad stir due to the actions of one company or another?

Vault hunters and vault hunting always have and always will play some part in the narrative, even if it’s a doozy and red herring the size of a gigantic tentacle monster- seriously, that’s already been done. Things won’t and don’t always work out quite how you expect and yet for all of that there’s a big bad corporation as the front man and then of course the popular shadow bad guy a la any Final Fantasy game right behind them pulling the strings or itching to show up in your penultimate encounter. I’m not here to say we should be sticking it to the man or that all corporations are evil and worth disbanding (unless you live on Pandora that is), but it’s definitely interesting to look at how even such an absurd adventure as Borderlands can sometimes find ironic details in the real world as well.

Mainly I’m just entertained by the prospect that this evolving and living, breathing world has so much more to offer as we’ve been shown time and time again. I’m also intrigued by the fact that we are still discovering secrets within it and that the art style alone has guaranteed that it never grows old or wretched in any way. I can still go back and play the first Borderlands game and in fact I often do. You can see graphical improvements even in this cel shaded art style and yet it’s still easy to pick up and enjoy regardless of that simple fact. Much like a corporation constantly improves its business model and sales (in theory), Borderlands as a series and franchise can and will continue to evolve in every way and that’s a truly beautiful thing to ponder in between braining psychos with Krieg’s buzz-saw axe.

As always, feel free to send your comments and concerns my way in equal numbers as I will always read and reply to worthy comments and questions.

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Live-Blogging the 2017 NFL Draft

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It’s that time of year and that time of day again! That’s right, after just a few short months of not blogging about the vaunted (I say semi-sarcastically) NFL, it’s time to hop back on the baggage train and ride it into town. Tonight marks the start of 2017’s NFL Draft Class and the first round of the draft proper. So in order to commemorate that I will be following the events online on various websites- see ESPN and NFL.com essentially if you want examples. Without further ado, allow me to include some of my comments and time stamps as we get things underway.

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett DE: As many have guessed by now and seemingly rightly so, Myles Garrett’s stock couldn’t be diminished enough to keep him from going number one overall. He’s just joined a handful of other defensive linemen to get picked number one overall in the past twenty-some years. I’m not too terribly surprised by this selection although in my own personal mock draft I had Jamal Adams (S) going first.

Est. 8:28pm ET

2. Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky QB: Perhaps many speculated whether or not he would be picked above other notable quarterbacks or whether or not he would be the number one pick, but I doubt many saw the surprise trade of slots between the 49ers and Bears as landing Trubisky in Chicago. It seems as if the Bears are on-board with training a new QB to take over the franchise in the future and they think Trubisky is that QB. My personal pick in the mock draft was Leonard Fournette (RB) to the 49ers of course.

Est. 8:32pm ET

3. San Fransisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas DE: I did not see this one coming at all actually and I don’t think many other people did either. Most seemed to prospectively have Thomas listed around the 5-10 range in terms of where he would go but this pick was obviously given some more thought with the trade down and I think it is as solid a choice for any team that needs considerable work in the defensive scheme of things. San Fransisco probably can’t go wrong here. My personal pick in the mock draft I made myself was Myles Garrett (DE).

Est. 8:36pm ET

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette RB: I can see exactly why the Jaguars capitalized on Fournette not already having been picked and I feel like this is one of the most sound fits for them as well, especially as a high draft pick. They’ve been desperately in need of a good RB at the position and he was bound to go in the first half of the first round regardless of who picked him up. Good call on Jacksonville’s part here and I think it’ll be truly interesting to see how he performs especially considering he’s the first of his position to be picked thus far. My personal pick here was Malik Hooker (S).

Est. 8:39pm ET

5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis WR: Although I’m a little surprised that Davis was picked above Mike Williams at the very least, that is just my untrained opinion showing through as the scouts mostly seemed to agree that he would more than likely be picked first. Davis is pretty much the ideal receiver in this draft class and one of the few to balance both height and weight as well as speed and agility (on top of outright performance) I must add. It’ll be interesting to see how the receiver matches up with the other deep threats and big tight ends that Tennessee boasts on Mariota’s offensive lineup. My personal pick here was Jarrad Davis (LB).

Est. 8:44pm ET

6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams S: I think this is a really good fit especially considering some of the shaking up that has been done lately in regard to the Jets’ defensive scheme. Plus, let’s look at the fact that we may even witness Adams getting to play side by side with former CB turned possible S Darrelle Revis if that ever materializes. Either way, this prospect has a tough road ahead of him but couldn’t be going to a better team in terms of being utilized and thrown into the fire- considering the Jets are forced to match up with the Pats and Dolphins twice a year at least. Not that it matters much, but my pick here was Deshaun Watson (QB).

Est. 8:51pm ET

7. San Diego Chargers: Mike Williams WR: Here’s an interesting pick and one that should be very worthwhile in the long run as well for both the Chargers as a whole and Philip Rivers at QB. Giving Rivers another solid target to throw downfield to when the rest have been so injury prone lately and those injuries have often derailed what would’ve otherwise been a decent to good season can only be good news. Maybe we can finally see the Chargers push for another playoff performance in the near future, even though they must first contend with the staunch adversity they face from within the AFC West year to year. My pick here was Marshon Lattimore (CB).

Est. 8:57pm ET

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey RB: The Panthers broke the bank in a good way here. I can’t help but think they’re drafting the best all-around threat on offense in Chris McCaffrey right now. Although Leonard Fournette went higher than McCaffrey and may be the stronger back, I’m positive that McCaffrey’s usefulness as a ball catcher as well as a runner will definitely come in handy and help the Panthers to rebound from their nonsensical performance last season. There was no real reason why they flopped last year other than post-Super Bowl loss nerves essentially so with a few defensive keys missing but at least one strong new offensive tool in their arsenal they should be ready to go. My personal pick was Christian McCaffrey (RB) as well.

Est. 9pm ET

9. Cincinnati Bengals:  John Ross WR: The Bengals only really had two major options here: to go for a defensive lineman or for a playmaker on offense, whether that be another running back or another solid option downfield for Andy Dalton. John Ross is a strong pick for them despite my shock that he’s gone higher than most experts predicted he would fly. He has some of the most versatile movements of any of the receivers in this draft class and he also boasts some of the rawest talent and greatest potential as well despite size concerns. When it’s all said and done, I think Green and Ross lined up beside each other could be a powerful combination for years to come. My personal pick here was also John Ross (WR).

Est. 9:07pm ET

10. Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes QB: Well I can’t say I’m necessarily surprised that the Chiefs picked out a QB but I can say that I’m surprised that a) they traded up in order to snag this spot from Buffalo and seal the deal early and b) nobody has picked up Watson yet who must be positively fuming. It makes sense to see the Chiefs go ahead and secure their legacy after Alex Smith inevitably departs at some time in the future, and I’m very interested to see where Mahomes eventually fits in with their currently all-over the place offense that gravitates at times towards the run and at times towards the pass. My personal pick (for the Bills) was O.J. Howard (TE).

Est. 9:15pm ET

11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore CB: This is a pretty decent and intelligent pickup by New Orleans, especially when you consider that their defense has been a non-factor for far too long. They need to bulk up on the defensive front and this is a fairly strong acquisition to start with. Lattimore is one of the best corners in his class and should do wonders if immediately implemented into New Orleans’ defense as well. My personal draft only included essentially ten players and then I sort of gave up after that so forgive my lack of draft stability from here on out.

Est. 9:25pm ET

12. Houston Texans:  Deshaun Watson QB: I was just wondering if we were about to see Watson get snubbed further but it turns out he unsurprisingly goes to a team that could use a winning quarterback at the helm. This particular draft slot is interesting if only because it was traded earlier in the year from Philadelphia to Cleveland who just now gave it away to Houston. Maybe Cleveland won’t even worry about drafting a QB this year- if so, maybe they’re semi learning after all? Either way, Houston could use the help and many of its receivers have said they’d most like Watson to lob the rock their way…

Est. 9:34pm ET

13. Arizona Cardinals: Hasson Reddick LB: For a team that could use some big guys protecting the ball and the person holding the ball, this is as safe a pick as they come. Reddick is not only one of the best at his personal position, but one of the most applicable candidates for the lineup in Arizona given a little time and work at camp in order to finesse his skill set a bit. I think it’ll be interesting to see whether or not some of the other LBs in the draft class perform as well or better than he does this coming year as well.

Est. 9:43pm ET

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett DE: When you really start to look at things, the best first round fit for this team of the players that were left at the time of Barnett’s selection was in fact Barnett. It doesn’t get much better than nailing the pick you need after trading for the slot from Minnesota earlier in the season and sealing the deal. Barnett is second only to Myles Garrett in the draft presumptions and also now in terms of being third overall at his position for the draft which isn’t too damn bad after all.

Est. 9:50pm ET

15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker S: Although this is definitely good for Hooker’s draft stock considering I was really starting to worry he would fall even further, this is sort of an outlandish pick for the Colts- not because Hooker isn’t insanely talented, but because they surely could’ve gone ahead and picked up one of the best guards in the draft class. All things said and done, I think Hooker will be a great addition in the defensive scheme of things and for the Indianapolis secondary as well.

Est. 9:56pm ET

16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey CB: Humphrey is a solid addition to the Ravens at the mid-way point in the first round. The Ravens definitely needed some help in the backfield this year and a CB is probably the answer to their prayers as well assuming he can perform well. As the second CB thus far in this draft class, Humphrey should have some lofty ambitions and be ready to hit the road and grind all year long with a squad that’s known to go hard in the paint. I’m excited to see how he lines up alongside or behind some of the hardcore vets here.

Est. 10:03pm ET

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen DT: In the end it came down to pretty much either a linebacker or tackle at this point for the overall first Redskins selection of the round and of the draft. It’s good to see Allen finally getting some love after going down so many slots from where he was initially projected, but then again it’s also gonna be interesting to see him don shades of red yet again- albeit a lighter shade than that of which the evil NCAA empire wears.

Est. 10:09pm ET

18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson CB: In what has thus far been a heavily defense-oriented first round , to nobody’s great surprise, it is semi-shocking that of all the CBs in the land Jackson would be the next in the line of draft succession. He wasn’t in the top three at his position by most standards, but then again since when does that mean anything? If Tom Brady can not even go in the first five rounds and put up the stats he’s done time and time again then what do I care? Congratulations Jackson- I’m sure you’re going to be an excellent addition to Tennessee’s up and coming roster.

Est. 10:17pm ET

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard TE: It’s always good to see someone who has been recognized as one of the best if not the best at their position have the satisfaction of ending up with an equally talented team. Tight Ends no longer operate as they once did and are largely changing up the way a lot of offenses work nowadays. I’m really interested to see how Alabama’s newest NFL prospect fares with the likes of Winston and Evans on the same side of the ball and same team.

Est. 10:22pm ET

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles OT: It’s fair enough to say that Bolles probably wasn’t many people’s first thought when it comes to who the Broncos would be picking as their first round draft pick. That’s no slight against his skill or size or versatility or anything, just merely stating that it is surprising that he would be picked above at least one of the other tackles out there. All things considered, it may turn out to be pretty wise that they went with the offense this time around when you consider the fact that the typical Broncos D is pretty stout these days.

Est. 10:28pm ET

21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis LB: I’m interested in some of the choices that have been made these past few picks because they seem to be gathering superb players that just don’t necessarily fit with what exact needs they require as of right now. This could be a sign of trades to come or deals to broker after camp if these rookies happen to be better than the veterans on retainer who cost more. Davis is a sound player and I think he can make some waves with the lowkey talent on Detroit’s line.

Est. 10:32pm ET

22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris LB: Harris may just be the best at his position and this is probably about where most people would’ve expected him to be drafted as far as outside linebackers with that level of talent go. He’s speedy when he needs to deliver and he knows exactly what he’s doing so I’m really curious as to how well he’s going to match up with the rest of the crew that Miami has been building and how that in turn can affect their level of play this coming year. They managed to be pretty potent last year after all…

Est. 10:40pm ET

23. New York Giants: Evan Engram TE: Here we see another tight end going to a team that has some dangerous potential on the offensive side of the ball. I’m interested to see how they start using their strong tight ends again since it’s been more than a few years since I’ve enjoyed seeing a certain shock jockey ramble around the field like Rob Gronkowski does now. I only hope the Giants can make things interesting again for fans everywhere and Engram seems like a strong enough candidate to bolster the already dangerous offense downfield.

Est. 10:44pm ET

24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley CB: I’m a little chocked the Raiders didn’t opt to pick up Reuben Foster at ILB since nobody has yet and that’s a position they could look to fill. As far as a first round selection goes though, I’m not necessarily too sure what they’re thinking outside of Conley’s combine performance here. Conley isn’t a bad player by the numbers and he’s lithe as well as speedy and able to deliver at his position. I’m curious as to what they see in him personally over the rest of his peers at the same position, but then again we may see that he gets molded into the perfect shutdown corner that Oakland needs this coming year.

Est. 10:51pm ET

25. Cleveland Browns: Jabrill Peppers S: Peppers certainly got a lot of hype coming into things and although that has died down over the past few weeks he’s certainly going to find himself at home with other strong defensive prospects on this Cleveland team. It’s becoming pretty obvious which way the Browns are leaning with draft picks this year but I must say I’m also a little bit surprised they didn’t use their trade with Houston to pick up a tight end that hasn’t been claimed yet as well or something along those lines.

Est. 10:56pm ET

26. Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley DE: Atlanta made a literal last second trade up a few slots with Seattle and because of it they nabbed a pretty good pick on defense. McKinley could certainly help a team that only lost the Super Bowl and blew a double digit lead to force an overtime play against the increasingly clutch Patriots because they suffered a second half lack of defense after all. So I think it’s safe to say they can focus less on the already potent offense that they have and more on their obvious needs up front with defense for now.

Est. 11:07pm ET

27. Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White CB: Cornerbacks are a hot first round commodity at times and that’s become more apparent as yet another high-end corner has been picked up. The Bills earlier trade with Kansas City means White gets to call the wilds of Buffalo home for the foreseeable future and can do his part to give some much needed assistance to the struggling team. Defense should be a priority for the Bills and they’ve made a strong opening statement with this particular pick at the helm of their 2017 decisions.

Est. 11:10pm ET

28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton DE: Looks like the Cowboys managed to fulfill one of their most needed draft wishes in picking up a pretty solid defensive end. In the few contests where defense was the deciding factor, the Boys weren’t always as hot as they were when they ran away (quite literally) with things on offense. So a solid defensive prospect like Charlton really cannot hurt them in the long run and I’m interested to see how they can mold him and grow him as well.

Est. 11:18pm ET

29. Cleveland Browns: David Njoku TE: I really want to see the Browns do well this year, or at least anything but repeat their performance from last season. With their third pick in the first round courtesy of the Packers, they’ve picked up yet another amazingly talented player that should be able to bolster the team’s performance. To me, I think the Browns are being wise for once- having finally learned their lesson. If they really want another QB, they can pick one up in the latter rounds and maybe they’ll even be pleasantly surprised by a Dak-like performance as such. It’s been proven that you can take a decent QB and give him the right tools and gain success. So maybe they’ve done the right thing in grabbing a bunch of other lethal weapons for now.

Est. 11:23pm ET

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt LB: Man, what can I say? Despite a lot of people not having Watt going in the first round at all, I was really looking forward to this. I think Pittsburgh sees all the potential that Watt has to offer and then some. So many people thought the Packers would get the guy and they almost did if not for their trade with Cleveland. As it stands, Watt has notorious work ethic and could grow to be even better than his renowned brother- only time can tell.

Est. 11:29pm ET

31. San Fransisco 49ers: Reuben Foster LB: After some trade deals between Atlanta and Seattle and then on to San Fransisco, Foster’s new and (finally) anticipated home is the 49ers. I was almost of the mind that he would get bounced to the next round entirely but apparently it wasn’t to be and someone finally saw the potential enough to step up. Alabama is notorious for churning out linebackers and running backs and big guys all around so I’m curious to see how San Fransisco decides to implement him into the game plan and how their defense turns out at all this year. So far he’s the only really “needed” pick they’ve managed to land.

Est. 11:38pm ET

32. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk OT: We haven’t seen many tackles go just yet but the Saints went for a relatively safe choice and didn’t shake things up too much to end the first round. I’m a little bit surprised that nobody in the final few moments decided to pick up Dalvin Cook at RB considering he’s not too shabby and lord knows the 49ers could’ve used him and Saints could use the depth even with newly acquired AP. As it stands, welcome to the NFL Ramczyk and welcome to the Saints.

Est. 11:42pm ET

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Pokemon: Indigo League Retro Review S1 E1-5

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If you know anything about me and my writing in general then you probably know that not only do I write about a variety of subjects, I also enjoy writing semi-nostalgically about how old television shows hold up by my current standards as well. I’ve written about episodes of The X-Files before here as well as Season One of The Clone Wars, which I plan to continue at some point in the future but can also currently be found here.

Chances are, if you watched Pokemon: Indigo League in your youth or adolescence then you’ve grown up with and are pretty familiar with Ask Ketchum and the rest of the interchangeable crew of trainers (most notably Brock and Misty, I would venture to say). You undoubtedly remember the shenanigans Team Rocket would pull off- or rather the shenanigans they would hilariously fail to pull off. Chances are, you may even remember many of the episodes and their morals themselves fairly clearly. Regardless of your circumstances or what you may or may not have retained, I’ve taken the liberty of rewatching the entire season and breaking it down into bite-sized portions for individual episode reviews (in several batches).

Without further ado, let’s get to talking about Pokemon: Indigo League’s first five episodes- from “Pokemon- I Choose You!” to “Showdown in Pewter City.”

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Ep. 1: Pokemon- I Choose You! | 22m

For a series starter and the premier episode of a lengthy saga- that being Pokemon in general and regardless of what subtitle may accompany each season, the first episode of Indigo League does a really good job of cementing a lasting resentment of the entitled Ash Ketchum and ironically making viewers (at least of my age and right now) immediately dislike the young boy. That having been said, it also manages to bring him in a circular and redemptive arc by the end of the episode and beginning of the second- showing that there are at least two sides to every character and that maybe he’s not quite so bad as he seems. What initially makes you disdain the entitled lad will inevitably morph into recognition that yes, he has his flaws but he will do anything and everything for his friends and companions. As such, this premier episode is a perfect beginning to the season and the fifty-one episodes that will follow. Grade: A

Ep. 2: Pokemon Emergency | 22m

The second episode of the season follows directly on the heels of the previous one and essentially serves as part two of a two-part episode. Ash and his newfound friends- both Pokemon and human alike, head to Viridian City and encounter the dastardly doofuses of Team Rocket. Despite the dire situation that they initially find themselves in and the demeaning words of Team Rocket and a scheme that will leave the local Poke-Center devoid of its main constituents, Ash and his crew of course manage to one-up the morons and send them packing in style. Although it helps to bring viewer favor more in line with actually liking Ash and in finding hilarity in each and every Team Rocket encounter from here on out, the episode has its strongest moments in the first half rather than in the next. Grade: B-

Ep. 3: Ash Catches a Pokemon | 22m

This episode carefully balances the morals and themes representative of the previous two and seems to pull it off a lot better- rather than being too heavy handed with either comedy or tragedy, it walks a thin line down the middle. Truthfully, there are few genuine tragic moments in Pokemon as it is ultimately catered towards children and young adults, however some moments are sad and that’s something that permeates even the happier episodes when issues like friendship and treatment come up. After Ash catches a Caterpie and realizes that Misty is deathly afraid of all bug-life, he of course can’t help but terrorize her while all Caterpie wants is to be recognized as a friend and companion by the two of them. It’s heartbreaking in a way if only for the short period of time before Ash actually appreciates the Pokemon more fully and before Misty manages to overlook her fear in favor of being more open and less resentful. Grade: B+

Ep. 4: Challenge of the Samurai | 22m

Not only is it the first episode to not feature the prominent pocket monsters in the title itself as a shameless plug, but “Challenge of the Samurai” also features a fast-paced and pretty exciting plot as well when compared to the last few episodes. Caterpie has quickly evolved from his initial form into Metapod- the cocoon-like second evolution that looks pretty good but pretty much operates as a more functional land-Magikarp for all its knowledge of combat. When the group encounters a trainer in the woods who dresses as a samurai and vows to face each new trainer in battle, Ash wastes no time in challenging the trainer and basically being as arrogant as he possibly can be. Thankfully the two trainers are basically mirror images or each other and essentially their battle devolves into a stalemate between their Metapods until it is rudely interrupted by an angry swarm of Beedrill. As one might expect, this leads to Ash abandoning Metapod and later returning to witness its evolution and subsequent decimation of the swarm. Grade: B

Ep. 5: Showdown in Pewter City | 22m

Here we finally get to see the introduction of another key cast member in Ash Ketchum’s interesting and often varied ensemble- Brock (the Rock?). After dealing with some collective Team Rocket (and Meowth) shenanigans which I’ll essentially avoid for now considering their plans usually retain the same one-dimensional purpose of stealing other people’s Pokemon, Ash makes his way to his first gym battle. As he faces off with a pretty desensitized Brock (because dramatic and tragic backstory!), he realizes that he isn’t strong enough to win the battle quite yet and not nearly as ruthless as Brock seems to be. Flash forward to Ash being tutored by a mystery merchant on the outskirts of town and you get a little more backstory about the hardness that Brock showcases as well as his motives. Predictably, in their second face-off Ash eventually gets the better of Brock only because the two otherwise evenly matched opponents realize that they should better care for their Pokemon and their families and futures. Oh, and the mystery merchant turns out to be Brock’s estranged father who has finally returned and the rest is history. Grade: A-

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So there you have it, the first segment of Indigo League’s episodes and subsequent reviews and grades. Feel free to comment with your own nostalgic or opinionated thoughts as well as gripes, concerns, or any feedback at all really. I look forward to providing you all with some more fresh content in the future as well as the next post regarding Pokemon: Indigo League.

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My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 3

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It’s been roughly a week or so since my last report on the matter, but it’s more than time to move on to the next segment of my ongoing retrospective glance at some of my favorite games year to year. Although I’m only covering about a decade worth of time, there have been plenty of excellent releases in that time period and as such some haven’t quite made the cut here and there. This particular post focuses on games that I played to 100% completion in the years 2009 and 2010 and that I thoroughly enjoyed on top of that. As always, please feel free to comment with your own opinions and concerns and give me feedback as well.

2009: F.E.A.R 2, Killzone 2, Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Halo 3: ODST, Uncharted 2, Borderlands, Dragon Age Origins, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin’s Creed II.

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For me personally, FEAR 2: Project Origin is the premier FEAR game of the three that have been released. Whereas the first was thoroughly chilling and offered some excellent and frenetic online multiplayer, the second upped the ante in every single way and gave us the best protagonist of the series (who would later be unceremoniously exploded in the final game). It combined the perfect amount of bullet-time shooter glory with chilling horror vibes and gore. All things considered, Project Origin was a fun romp and offers plenty of replayability in collectibles and DLC as well.

Killzone 2 is another sequel which is worlds better than the original both in terms of ambition and sheer success. Although Killzone 2 is my favorite game in the series, even I must recognize that the advances both Killzone 3 and Shadow Fall have made makes for a perfectly justified argument for any of Guerilla Games’ excellent shooters. Perhaps it was the initial experience of being able to finally take the war to the Helghast or perhaps it was the gritty and amazing visuals of the time, but Killzone 2 stands side by side with such PSN greats as Uncharted 2 from that time period in my mind easily.

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is an amazing and completely underrated and underappreciated game. Not only is it the sequel to the pretty spectacular Escape from Butcher Bay- a game created as a way to essentially push the Riddick franchise and to send it into the world of gaming, but it is also a complete package in its own right. Few other games have nailed the dark and gritty science fiction tones that Assault on Dark Athena did and does and even fewer have managed to pull the entire thing off as well. There are so many innovative elements that I loved in the game and it’s hard to believe that it came out this long ago when it still holds up well today.

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Long before Logan embraced his dark side more often on the silver screen, we gamers were treated to a rare thing indeed- a mature X-Men game and a movie tie-in that actually ended up being better than the movie it was based upon. Although X-Men Origins (the film) received plenty of harsh criticism and is a sore point with fans even today, I dare say few people could argue the blood pumping action and adrenaline inducing rage that the game offered. Not only is it a fulfilling and truly invigorating experience but it is one of the few notably good superhero games out there as well. X-Men Origins: Wolverine really laid the foundation for the small niche that is the mature superhero genre.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood may be the last truly great game in the series outside of the mostly on-rails shooting of Gunslinger which semi-made up for the failure of The Cartel which was some garbage to say the least. It’s essentially a game that lets you take the best elements of shows like Deadwood and mix them in with other shows like Hell on Wheels and see what happens. And the coolest thing is that this was all in a pre-Red Dead Redemption world as well, so in many ways it pointed the torch and led to the reinvention of the western game genre after all. The first Call of Juarez is a pretty classic story but the grim brothers the sequel centers on tell an even darker tale.

The Batman Arkham series is perhaps the greatest licensed gaming series of all time and certainly holds the title of greatest superhero series of all time in my mind. Arkham Asylum started things off and like the initial Mass Effect it charted a course which the rest of the series would slowly evolve, modify, and perfect over time. I’ll never forget the first time I got to play and enjoy the dark and thrilling version of Batman’s world that is the Arkham universe or utilize my detective skills in order to piece together a larger puzzle. Sure, I knew things would eventually always come down to me and the Joker but after all what else could possibly go wrong?

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Stranger things have been known to happen but I’ll wager that few would’ve thought ODST would be the sleeper hit it turned out to be, despite it bearing the trademark Halo name. Who would’ve thought that what is essentially a detective story and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ mission would turn into one of Bungie’s most successful campaigns of all time and potentially the most memorable and gritty multiplayer offering either for that matter? ODST may not have topped the highs of Master Chief’s adventures in Halo 3 and it may have preceded what is arguably the most complete Halo package of all time in Halo Reach, but it was and is still amazing in its own ways.

In many ways, Uncharted 2-4 are on equal playing ground whenever the argument for which is the best game in the series comes up. Uncharted 2 did things first however and as such I think it deserves the brunt of this discussion for originality and for the sheer fact that it has such technical and graphical mastery and impressiveness for its time. Truly, Uncharted 2 featuring virtually no loading alone is one of the most impressive achievements in any game prior to 2010 and even in any game prior to 2017 for that matter. It was not only a fairly seamless adventure but one hundred times better and smoothed out the flaws to be found in the first jungle romp of Nate Drake. Whereas it may fall in the middle of the series, to me Uncharted 2 features some of the best characters and situations we’ve yet to see in Drake’s adventures.

Borderlands is a love story just as much as Deadpool is. Yes, you heard me right. It may be a love of glory and loot but I’ll wager the infatuation there still counts in many ways and that people enjoy it as such. Although it changed from what was initially pitched as a pretty realistic looking shooter on an alien world, I couldn’t be more than thrilled with the art direction that launched one of the most iconic and well-known gaming series to date. The art and humor often go hand in hand and I think that’s one of the most important design decisions we’ve ever witnessed. A cast of colorful characters and plentiful armaments makes the first Borderlands and all of its amazing downloadable content one of the most complete packages- prior to Borderlands 2 of course and the notably epic Handsome Collection in years since.

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Dragon Age is perhaps the most KOTOR-like game since KOTOR II itself and I’m here to tell you that’s an amazing feat on Bioware’s part. Perhaps the graphics haven’t necessarily held up over time and perhaps the experience has since been all but dwarfed in many ways by the expansiveness of Inquisition, and yet for what it’s worth it is still one of the quintessential role-playing experiences in gaming. Origins is one of the lengthiest and most fulfilling RPGs I’ve ever played and the level of choice and consequence for the time truly took my breath away. I’ll honestly never forget some of the storylines and the fact that Bioware has been and will continue to be one of my favorite developers.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 upped the ante in seemingly every way- the campaign was bigger and better, the multiplayer more refined, and the game modes bordered on the insane as the sheer amount of creativity and attention to detail was shown with each new collection of maps and modes released. It introduced the underappreciated special ops missions and an excellent cooperative mode as well. Modern Warfare may be the high mark for the series but Modern Warfare 2 is as good or better in literally every single way. Although I find MW3 to be the most replayable of the trilogy I cannot take away from the fact that at one time MW2 was the best and brightest the series has ever been and were it not so desolate eight years later and understandably so, it would be just as good now.

Assassin’s Creed II is a game that is over eight years old and yet it still represents what is essentially the best iteration of the series in every single way. Sure, we’ve had plenty of excellent experiences in the franchise since but there have also been plenty of mishandled and misguided entries as well. Assassin’s Creed II went bigger in every single way and it pulled every trick off. Whereas some of the other titles since have been hit or miss in many aspects, Assassin’s Creed II is the flawless total victory that the series needed and has been searching for ever since. I’ll never forget stepping into Ezio’s shoes and pursuing my quest for vengeance against the Pazzi Conspirators and across mainland Italia.

2010: Darksiders, Mass Effect 2, Bad Company 2, God of War III, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, Singularity, StarCraft II, Halo Reach, Fallout New Vegas.

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Darksiders: Wrath of War is that rare game that comes along and copies a lot of what so many other successful series are doing and yet turns out to be all the greater for it rather than stumbling into the abyss. There are elements of God of War, Zelda, and even Portal unashamedly aped and placed into the Darksiders universe and yet it all fits together so seamlessly even in this first more-linear adventure that it’s actually quite impressive. I’ll never forget when I first placed and realized that each boss battle was going to be one hell of a time and that each gruesome finisher was better than the last. Truly, Darksiders is one of the series I would like to see come back in a big way and I really hope it gets its third chance.

Mass Effect 2 is my favorite game in the series hands down. That’s not to say Mass Effect 3 wasn’t thoroughly spectacular despite a mishandled ending and the critical acclaim it flushed down the drain because of it. However Mass Effect 2 represents the series at a time when it made me feel the most for its characters and when things felt so important and deep and real. The stakes have been higher before in the series but nothing quite made me feel it like infiltrating the Collector base and taking the fight to the Reaper’s puppets in the Omega 4 relay. There have been other amazing Mass Effect moments since, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that Mass Effect 2 represents the Empire Strikes Back of the original trilogy and is in many ways the darkest and best point.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is the best we’ve seen Battlefield in some time, if you’re not considering Battlefield 3 and 4 when they worked and weren’t brought down by so much technical difficulties and crappy campaigns. Battlefield 1 is fairly impressive overall but I’d still go so far as to say that the Bad Company series is the only one to boast actually good narratives in the Battlefield universe. Not only that, but Bad Company 2 features perhaps the most spectacular array of multiplayer maps and modes of any of the core series titles. Hardline is irrelevant essentially and 3 and 4 offer most of the same maps while 1 is a refreshing take we haven’t yet seen, but BC2 just blows them all away. The series introduced Rush and we’ve seen how influential that and survival modes have been since.

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In a year where we also saw a nearly God of War clone in Darksiders, it’s only fitting that the reigning champ of bloody brawls and the toppling of veritable gods comes back into the picture with its best game yet. As thrilled as I am to see Kratos reinvented in Norse mythology in the future, God of War III is the best we’ve ever seen the series go as it went bigger and beyond anything ever done before and nailed each and every moment. It’s not GOW without some controversy along the way, but I truly have loved the narrative and gameplay elements of each title in the series and this final console iteration (well prior to the mediocrity of Ascension) is no different. Kratos is brutal and unrelenting and one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time, if he can even be considered anything remotely heroic.

Remedy has crafted some gems throughout the years but one of the best and perhaps the cultiest of all of them has been the original Alan Wake- a slightly toned down horror thriller that missed some steps but retained its heart and essence despite bundling the true ending behind downloadable content. Although it essentially pulled an Assassin’s Creed II and hid chapters from players unwilling to pay for them, Alan Wake is an original and trippy experience and one I’m ever so glad I’ve had. I’ve played the game many times as it also has a somewhat arcadey feel to it and makes for an easily enjoyable and visceral experience. Alan Wake plays like something of a combination of Joss Whedon writing, Stephen King, and the X-Files but it is something that is so much more than all of its inspirations as well.

At least until we finally get to see Red Dead Redemption 2 and compare the two, Red Dead Redemption is the greatest western game that you will ever play and it holds up by today’s standards as well. Rockstar is well-known for crafting some of the most expansive and amazing open world games and Red Dead is no different. Outside of GTA V it is undoubtedly the greatest world they’ve yet to create for players to explore and take advantage of. Not only is there so much of a story and plenty of content but it’s all actually entertaining and interesting and something more than a lot of fetch quests and filler material. The story has undoubtedly been spoiled time and time again in the years since its release and yet it still carries so much emotion and sway with gamers everywhere even nowadays. RIP John Marston.

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Singularity is the very definition of a cult classic game- it has some wonky controls at times and it has received some pretty mixed reviews over the years and yet it is such an original and enjoyable and thought provoking experience. Many games could perhaps compare to it nowadays but at the time it was relatively alone in what it achieved and what it forced players to consider. It is very much a conversation on time and its effects and yet it is also a thoroughly engaging look into the Cold War and the changing of history for better or worse because of obscure decisions that could or couldn’t have been made. Raven Software always has something tricky up their sleeve and this game made me appreciate them more than ever- it’s just a shame we’ll more than likely never see anything else come from that universe because there’s so much more potential there.

StarCraft II is perhaps Blizzard’s most anticipated and greatest game of all time. And that’s saying something for a company that seemingly only churns out amazing products whether it be the Diablo series or World of Warcraft or Overwatch. Seemingly everything Blizzard touches turns to gold and StarCraft II pushes the boundaries of what the initial game did in so many ways that it essentially challenges the RTS genre it firmly established itself as the leader of. We’ve been hearing about the potential for a StarCraft I remake lately and that just gets me thinking about how much it would mean if a third game game out since it’s somehow been a whole seven years almost since the sequel released. Blizzard constantly provides content for their games so far beyond their release that sometimes I forget just how old they are.

Halo Reach is the best Halo game we may ever see and certainly Bungie’s greatest testament to the series. It is a love letter to space marines everywhere and features a memorable cast of characters as well as a tragic narrative, which is always a win in classic stories after all. The story of Noble Team and the glassing of Reach by the Covenant isn’t particularly new but having everything come full circle kind of in a Rogue One way and tie into the initial Halo game itself was not only masterful but fan service at its best. Combine that with the fact that Reach offered virtually every multiplayer mode from every previous Halo iteration including ODST and you’ve got a recipe for a game that is entirely playable even seven years later. Take that Call of Duty.

Fallout 3 may be my favorite game in the series but New Vegas is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I feel like every time Obsidian gets the chance to work on a sequel to somebody else’s project they just go out of their way to truly one up them and make the best product possible. Look no further than KOTOR II and New Vegas. New Vegas is more ambitious than Fallout 4 in many ways and still offers new surprises for me even today. Graphically it didn’t push the series in any direction but in terms of story and characters it is world ahead of the other current generation Fallout titles. New Vegas also offers the best downloadable content outside of Brotherhood of Steel and Point Lookout and pushes the series in such interesting directions in and around the Mojave area of the wastes that it can’t help but be aesthetically and intentionally pleasing. Come on- a post apocalyptic Zion? Gorgeous.

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