Sadness and Silence in Epilogues and Epitaphs

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Although I very recently wrote another piece on Dragon Age, I’m here to give you yet another spoilery good time. This particular piece applies only to Dragon Age: Inquisition but more importantly it applies to two characters and their potential fates after the events of Inquisition itself. Those two characters are Commander Cullen- who has been present in either presence or speech in every Dragon Age game to date, and Warden Blackwall- who is in fact much more and much less than that.

To start with, I’ll talk about Blackwall’s epilogue segment that stems from romancing the female Inquisitor and go from there. As it reads: “After the Exalted Council, Warden Thom Rainier was summoned to return to Weisshaupt fortress. Reluctant to leave the side of the woman he loved, Rainier ignored the Wardens’ request for nearly a year. When the messages became too urgent to ignore, he left for his duty, promising to return. Weeks turned to months, and then years. The promise remained unfulfilled. Eventually, a gift came to the Inquisitor, unsigned, with no accompanying letter. Wrapped in aged leather was the Warden-Constable’s badge and a single pure white griffon feather.”

To assuage some necessary confusion, Warden-Constable Blackwall is actually not Gregory Blackwall but in fact a former Orlesian captain by the name of Thom Rainier- on the run after a messy debacle years ago. There are other companion quests which cover this revelation but otherwise it comes up in the Trespasser DLC and later as codex entries if Rainier is no longer with your party. If the would-be Warden is pardoned however, you can still pursue romantic options with him and should you continue to do so until the game’s true ending you will see such a epilogue entry perhaps as well.

It’s such a sad thing to read and may be one of the most emotional of all the potential epilogue endings as it seems obvious that many Wardens, Blackwall included, met their end at the hands of Darkspawn or other horrors plaguing the land they’ve sworn to protect and serve. What makes matters worse is that the man dedicated himself to the woman he loved and fully intended to return but when it had been so long and it seemed perfectly clear that he would not, all she received was his badge and a symbol of the Warden and their memory. Although Blackwall may not be the memorable character that Varric or Cassandra might be in Inquisition or Dragon Age in its entirety, that is a truly sad tale to hear.

This brings me to the second epilogue entry which seems to be one of equal sorrow and one that pained me to read on one of my many playthroughs as well. Commander Cullen, as a former templar knight, of course suffers from lyrium withdrawal and addiction which is also the driving focus of one of his unique quests. Depending upon how you resolve or don’t resolve this issue, you may be treated to several endings in the official epilogue for Cullen.

If Cullen is still taking lyrium at all, regardless of the Inquisition’s final choice- disband or continue in any capacity, you’ll be treated to the grisly details that follow: “There was no sign of him until a year later, when Scout Harding heard rumors of a Fereldan man begging for lyrium in the streets of Val Chevin. According to Harding, the man she found was in the final stages of lyrium madness. He barely remembered himself, let alone her. It is unclear whether Harding gave the man a few coins, or a gentle knife to end his misery. What is clear is that Commander Cullen was gone.”

Considering the fact that the alternative means a prosperous and often happy future for Cullen and even potentially a female Inquisitor, this is purely a sad and desperate tale to witness. I only ever receive bad outcomes due to purposeful choices in the Dragon Age series- decisions made in order to utilize a very particular world state for a new adventure in the future perhaps. Even still, it pained me to hear of Cullen’s fate thanks to my inability to step in as Inquisitor and put him on the cold turkey path to survival and regaining his former vitality and stamina. Despite being one of the three characters that act in a purely advisor role and not also a party member during combat role, Cullen has been an integral part of Dragon Age lore as much as Leliana has been since the beginning.

These were just two of the most memorable and intriguing and particularly sad endings in the true ending to the game, however there are plenty of other outcomes for these characters as well as your other party members and important players you’ve encountered throughout the political landscape of Thedas. I do hope fans of the game will have enjoyed this particular blog and that if you haven’t played the game I haven’t spoiled the best parts for you quite yet. Cheers.

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Dragon Age 4: Go Bolder, Not Just Bigger

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I recently replayed a pretty thorough runtrhough of 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition and let me just say that the game definitely stood the test of time these past few years. Inquisition is easily the best game in the series- managing to successfully implement the strategy of Origins and the action focus of DA2 while also providing a lovely narrative and plenty of lore and exploration. I find it highly comparable to The Witcher 3 in many ways and all of them are good, so despite my personal belief that Wild Hunt is the better game, Inquisition all but ensures that Dragon Age remain one of my favorite series ever.

Although we recently got a fourth Mass Effect game and it wasn’t quite what fans should have expected or were clamoring for, I have high hopes that when a fourth Dragon Age title eventually releases sometime after Anthem or any other in-house projects are completed, it will be yet another stroke of fortune for role-playing gamers. The ending of Inquisition and specifically the Trespasser downloadable expansion largely set up the theoretical next title and certainly both the state of Thedas as well as the conflict inevitably to come. Why, with your very last decision you decided whether or not the Inquisition should remain unchanged and unopposed or whether it should be altered in any way. Beyond that, you even decided to seek redemption for the Dread Wolf Fen’Harel and the Elven people or to condemn them and do battle in the future.

Each of the three expansions within Inquisition do a good job of continuing the intricate tapestry of a story that Dragon Age has been known for as well as establishing unique and new characters on a level playing field with already-known factors. The Descent ushers in a whole literal new world near the Deep Roads and Orzammar while Jaws of Hakkon introduces players to the Avvar culture as well as the story of the first Inquisitor, the Elven mage Ameridan. In both Jaws of Hakkon and Trespasser we begin to see the true nature of the conflict with Corypheus throughout the majority of the main game as well as the underlying Elven presence consistently there.

This blog has obvious spoilers so if you haven’t treated yourself to the lengthy but worthwhile experience that Inquisition is then fly you fools.

Solas is the Dread Wolf, also known as the moniker Fen’Harel- notably similar to Fenrir of Earth’s own mythology, also a wolf. He is a likeable and respectable foe to have and while he may or may not be the Inquisitor’s ally and friend he will undoubtedly be an antagonist in the future, if not a direct enemy in his quest to tear down the Veil and bring back the Elven age of old. In doing so he will destroy the modern age of Thedas as it is currently known and that of course does not bode well for Hawke, the Grey Warden and Hero of Ferelden, or any other characters we’ve built or known along the way. Dragon Age 4 could very well be the last of the series and close the book on many things while leaving others happily unknown.

I want to see the series continue to be as bold as it has been with Inquisition but I also think the size and scope of Inquisition is the perfect fit for a game. I want to see even more narrative exploration and ideas and lore if possible. Give me as much context as needed and make as many references and jokes as you want, I’ll even stand to see some tie-ins from previous choices and the lovely World State generator and save files. I want this to be the most expressive and expansion title yet from the series and most definitely not to fall into the same trap as Mass Effect Andromeda. We shouldn’t see the conflict with Solas coming from an already known perspective such as the Inquisitor or the Grey Warden or Hawke, although that’s not to say we shouldn’t work with them or be able to see their presence as well.

I want to be a relative unknown persona in Thedas and yet still be able to take part in the quest, much like JRR Tolkien establishes with his Fellowship in his lore and mythology as well. One part of many but one integral nonetheless to the completion of the quest to destroy the ring and free Middle-earth from Sauron’s clutches. I want to be able to craft my character and shape my destiny and then form some unruly band or another and whether it be on the Divine’s orders or somebody else’s or even my own, to go out and seek to resolve the would-be Elven and agents of Fen’Harel war on the world. We already know some of the proposed details of this next adventure in terms of what should be coming and what has been teased but I can’t wait to see how every little detail continues to play into the larger scheme of things.

We learned so much throughout Inquisition: for example, all of the old gods (those that actually even were gods and not mages or mortals) were typically spirits or the flip-side of demons from the Fade, not quite the deities they’re perceived or believed to be. As the Inquisition would lead us to believe at the end of DAI, the battle begins with the chaos breaking out between the Qunari and Tevinter Imperium- the Inquisitor him/herself marks the Imperium on the map as the place to begin. While once more a mortal conflict will draw the attention of others whilst the immortals and ancients fight over larger scale things such as world destruction and rebirth, all conflicts will inevitably tie together in the long run. Just as Jon Snow ponders the coming Long Night as the Seven Kingdoms find themselves battling for the Iron Throne, so too will Thedas have to focus on multiple aspects of a multi-faceted battle.

Suffice it to say, this isn’t merely a post about everything I think Dragon Age 4 should be- it’s just a word to the wise. If Bioware is as smart as they typically seem to be, then they should recognize that Inquisition worked and all they have to do is tweak the formula and give us more than before, much like they did with DAI after DA2 and Origins. Instead of going bigger in every aspect- keep the world size the same or make it larger, it matters not, just don’t make the player character any more important or it’ll border on being unrealistic. The scope and scale of the central conflict itself is just as grand as before- the entire world is at stake in one way or another. There are so many difficult decisions to be made and certainly all the endgame decisions in DAI will have some dire consequences as well. I’d love to see that all and more, but I want the time to be right. Take your time Bioware, I can wait and I can remember. Cheers.

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Why Get Even Reminds Me of Perfect Dark Zero

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I’m not really one to shy away from making particularly strange comparisons that people wouldn’t often immediately pick up on so that’s part of the reason for this blog. The other reason is pure and simple nostalgia more than likely. I’ve been doing some experimentation with other new and recent games out there and finally stepping out of my well-worn niche of role-playing and shooter games (as of late anyway). So of course my first step was to boot up titles such as Nex Machina and Get Even among others, seeing as they’re two recent games that have had interesting reviews and concepts in equal measure.

Which brings me to my exact purpose in regard to why I’m writing this particular post: Get Even and its striking thematic similarities to Perfect Dark (particularly Perfect Dark Zero). Beyond the easy to sense similarities- both are action oriented first person shooters or from a first person perspective and both feature a heavy load of futuristic technology, there are some other interesting connections of sorts as well.

First things first, let’s just go ahead and discuss what Get Even is (relatively spoiler free mind you) and how it isn’t exactly related to Perfect Dark’s prelude. As best as I can possibly describe it, Get Even is an intriguing mix of thriller meets psychological horror and first person shooter or action. It’s an eclectic mixture at best and yet somehow that works? Honestly I’m just as surprised as anyone considering the amount of narrative twisting and turning along the way and the relatively low influence of the gameplay itself on how things play out. It’s certainly quite the experiment and we’re not the only ones intrigued by it surely.

In my mind, Perfect Dark Zero is one of those games that doesn’t exactly live up to what nostalgia would otherwise lead us to believe- it’s awesome as far as multiplayer might be concerned but the campaign itself is horrendous by today’s standards and lacks checkpoints in favor of “difficulty.” All of my personal thoughts aside, what the game certainly is would be a first person shooter and action hybrid with some interesting narrative ties and influences beyond the control of the player characters (Joanna Dark) themselves. So where’s that leave us as far as simple common ground can be ascertained?

The interesting dynamic between the characters and the twists of the plot and uncovered revelations and mutations of that story over time are what makes me draw the biggest connections with Get Even and Perfect Dark. As the name would suggest, there’s somewhat a sense of seeking vengeance or at the very least reprieve in the first of those titles while the latter is more of an enigmatic name unless you’ve previously played the series. Names won’t explain any connection for certain however in this case. However it is important to note that- without going into exact details on the narrative of either title, the ever changing nature of the plot and more importantly the player’s perception of that plot and its integral events and pieces is the most unique comparison that can be made.

Get Even deals heavily with context and also with literal memories and experiences. Likewise, Perfect Dark Zero deals heavily in plot progression through experiences with and around other supporting characters. Both titles also heavily rely upon things that happen to these characters in order to push the boundaries of the story and to tug at the fabric or concept of reality and stability in those respective games. Simply put, the reason why I thought of Perfect Dark Zero first when I tried to wrack my brain for a game that Get Even reminded me of comes down to the fundamental information slowly leaked to me throughout my playtime: something is amiss, something is subject to change thanks to what happens to these characters surrounding me (and of course my actions could prevent or cause this calamitous action and consequence).

Furthermore, despite the time gap between the settings of each game as well as the representation of each world, I can’t help but shake the feeling in other instances they could even potentially exist side by side. The technology and potentiality and possibilities on the whole convince me of that fact at times. A guy can dream that everything is in some way connected or related right? Regardless, these are just some very late night or perhaps entirely too early morning musings. Cheers.

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My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 6

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This may be the quickest I’ve actually managed to churn out another entry in my month-spanning blog series. It’s only been a little over a week if memory serves correctly, but you can take the easy way out and find my previous entry here as well. In that particular entry I spoke of my favorite games from 2013 and 2014 so it only logically follows that this entry covers 2015 and 2016- bringing us both remarkably up to date and setting the stage for me to wrap the blog series up for the foreseeable future until there’s more content to develop.

I’ve not forgotten several of my other blog series which require further exposition or outright finishing and I still have several fresh ideas up my sleeve as always. Expect to see more of these projects in the future but in no particular order or at any particular time of course. I’m sure I’ll always essentially be behind on reviews but you may get the chance to see my ‘Games I didn’t Review In X Year’ posts morph into games from even older years as well. Without further ado, let’s get to the matter at hand. Feel free to comment on my choices as you see fit, as always.

2015: Dying Light, Pillars of Eternity, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Undertale, Soma, Fallout 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider

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Dying Light is Techland realizing the full potentially of what Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide oftentimes failed to recognize. It offers essentially the best zombie experience in that vein that we’ve yet to see and it’s still being supported quite well even now. It’s always truly impressive to me when a developer so adamantly supports their project even well after its release and when they prove their love for the title even more so than fans might. The mechanics and the world and the creativity which they allow for is part of what makes Dying Light one of my favorite titles of recent note.

Pillars of Eternity is Obsidian doing what they do best- making a brilliant game as an homage to games of renown in the past and making it both fresh and exciting as well as a thrilling tie-in. What’s perhaps more impressive is that the role-playing game started as a crowdfunded and kickstarted effort and is perhaps one of the best examples of success from that particular platform as well. It’s every bit as much its own game as it is a successor to Planescape, Baldur’s Gate, and all of the most popular and widely recognized RPGs of old out there today. It has a pretty simple interface and premise but don’t let that fool you as far as enriching story and atmosphere are concerned. I’m a sucker for stuff like this.

By now if you know anything about me it’s that you’ll probably never get me to shut up about The Witcher 3, which I still stand by as possibly the greatest game I’ve ever played in my entire lifetime and may as of yet ever play at all. I’ve written blog post after blog post about the merits of the game and the many references to other great works within it whether intentional or not, however now let me boil things down to just a few extra notes. The combat and the story are easily the best in the series and also in terms of how easily they are able to be handled and understood by both newcomers and series veterans. It’s equal parts an accessible package and one that can curdle the blood of even the hardiest adventurers on the highest of difficulties. Wild Hunt is phenomenal in many ways but probably more so for the ways in which it lays itself bare while also hiding secrets under the surface that we are only just now discovering or perhaps may never discover at all.

So far on this particular list all of the games have deep replayability and untold value as a complete package. The buck doesn’t stop here as the next in line is Batman: Arkham Knight, the as of now thrilling conclusion to the Arkham storyline and perhaps the most ambitious Batman (and superhero) game in history. I thought things couldn’t get better after Asylum and then came City. I thought we couldn’t possibly see a better project than City and then came Origins- which wasn’t a better thing than City so I was correct at least as of then. But then we got Arkham Knight and boy were even my high expectations met pretty well. I theorized villains and characters that could be in the title and many were much to my surprise and pleasure. I dreamed about seeing Knightfall come to life and boy was it (sort of; also sort of TDKR vibes as well). Rocksteady forever has my appreciation for this series.

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2015 saw many huge video game releases but one thing it had remarkably in common beyond even those blockbusters was that it was most definitely the year of the beard. Geralt of Rivia’s ever-growing scruff and Venom Snake/Big Boss’s remarkably visage are two of the best we may ever see. I considered the fact that The Phantom Pain would and could be the next Metal Gear game and boy was I on the mark. But it was never what any of us expected and I say that in the best of ways. What an amazing epic and what an experience. It either intentionally or unintentionally tied together so many years of Metal Gear history and work and it actually made (sort of) sense. It gave us an experience that was as much entertainment as it was a total red herring and we loved it. Just wow.

Undertale is probably one of the most well-known independently developed projects of late besides Amnesia or Limbo. And that’s good company to be in for a perfectly clear reason: Undertale is an amazing role-playing game and has quirks that will also make it undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had with a game as well. When you include little details like the ability to either befriend or murder all of the potential bosses faced in an adventure then you’re doing something most people would never even think of and more importantly you’re doing something right. Undertale is much more than a game in that it is the sum of an experience as well.

By now Frictional Games is somewhat of a household name in the gaming industry thanks to the success of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the still ever-interesting and horrifying Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Despite having mixed success with their last major project, it’s Soma that really has recaptured my attention and shows me that not only is horror very much alive but it can also sometimes be a veritable journey of self discovery. Without ruining the best of the twists, let me just say that Soma not only has the as of now expected twists but that you’re more than likely genuinely not going to see them coming until they hit you point blank. In a world of derelict stations, underwater facilities, and space-age vibes you’re going to encounter horrific experiments and plenty of terrifying robot models. And you’ll love it.

Fallout 3 is one of the best games of all time despite the plethora of flaws that accompany any major Bethesda title being present as well. Fallout New Vegas is a worthwhile sequel and pushes the potential of the series ever further despite being technically hindered at times and being an experience that proves divisive to the audience as well. Fallout 4 has beautiful graphics but may be the most divisive title to date in the history of the renewed and reinvigorated modern take on Fallout. A lot was promised with the title and it failed to deliver some of that but also showcased plenty more than was expected. It doesn’t have much in the way of additional content when compared to the plethora of content available in New Vegas and Fallout 3, and yet for what it does offer in Far Harbor it more than improves the already entertaining experience. If you’re willing to accept the fact that you’re pretty much shoehorned into portraying a good guy by the narrative, then Fallout 4 is truly astounding in what it does offer by design. It has more within it than any wasteland to date and I’m still discovering new things day by day.

I thought that 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot would be alright but that it was treading dangerous water with the semi-dead series. Then I played the game and was utterly blown away and loved it. Likewise I was skeptical that lightning could or would strike twice successfully for the proposed 2015 sequel. Then I played it and loved every aspect of it that had been crafted bigger and better than before. There are still the moments of survival and horror as in the origin story and yet it also allowed Lara Croft to come into her own as a tomb raider and adventurer, providing more action than the origin reboot and treading the fine line between mysticism and realism that characterizes the new and old series. I cannot wait for what comes next in this series but I am utterly satisfied by what we’ve seen thus far as well and particularly the support the game has gotten in the wake of the anniversary as well.

2016: Hyper Light Drifter, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Stardew Valley, Titanfall 2, Dishonored 2, The Witness, Chronos

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Hyper Light Drifter is every bit the homage to SNES games and times past as well as an admirable story that doesn’t need dialogue to convey the feelings it wishes to convey. Even if the art style or the hardcore elements of the role-playing adventure may not be for you personally, I would still infinitely recommend the title because of the emotions it handles and the soundtrack and gameplay that accompany that. I’ve only since gained a deeper understanding of the true inspirations behind the game by following up and doing my own research of sorts and that honestly just blows me away as much as the experience itself does. If science fiction is as much your thing as it is mine, you’ll love this memorable indie title.

Uncharted 4 isn’t the last that we are going to see of Nathan Drake’s world but it is potentially and fittingly the last we will see of Nathan Drake and some of the other beloved characters we’ve come to know thanks to the talented folks at Naughty Dog. Although we are getting a standalone expansion at some point in the near future with The Lost Legacy, Nate Drake’s final appearance is as much his final appearance as it is a flashback to his early days as well. Naughty Dog and this series have come such a long way in their storytelling and set piece moments and this may be the best we’ve yet to see for the likeable thief/adventurer. I won’t spoil the best of the story but let me just say that if you’ve played the rest of the series then this is the pinnacle of that experience and you’d best believe I’ll be thinking about the memorable moments for years to come.

Stardew Valley is yet another example of the meaningful resurgence of indie gaming lately and also a testament to hard work paying off. It has sold pretty well for an independently developed title and that’s probably largely in part thanks to the fact that it has been ported to virtually every console out there now. 2016 was sort of a retro re-appreciation and as such sims were ‘in’ yet again- something I wasn’t entirely sure would ever happen but that I’m glad did. It’s odd when you can put a farming game and a juggernaut such as Uncharted 4 on a level playing field but both stuck out to me and are equally memorable for differing reasons entirely in the sense of matters for this particular year. Stardew Valley functions quite well and is an enjoyable experience because it is so vastly different from the other titles released in 2016.

Titanfall 2 may be the best and my favorite shooter I’ve played in quite some time and it’s not too early to recognize that whatsoever. The campaign may have followed in the footsteps of the typical multiplayer shooter in that it is fairly short, especially if you’ve played it previously and have the fundamentals down, however it also draws some of the most creative inspirations from other games since the original Darksiders did from a multitude of sources. The multiplayer is where you’ll live or die by the Titan sword and I fundamentally love how it has evolved over time from a great experience into an even better one, free downloadable content siphoned in along the way as well. Sure, you can pay for some cosmetic upgrades and whatnot and I haven’t minded shelling out the few extra dollars here and there just because that stuff is genuinely cool, but all of the base extra content and maps and such are completely free and I love that about Respawn’s work ethic. They love what they do and want to share it with as many people as possible. Too bad most opted for Battlefield 1 merely for the name rather than Titanfall 2 for the better game…

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It saddens me like nothing else that both Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2- two phenomenal games by anyone’s standards, didn’t sell as well as they should’ve when compared to other titles selling solely for a name brand. Dishonored 2 is the continuation of an excellent free form experience and will also soon feature a story expansion akin to Uncharted having an expansion to tie up loose ends in the current narrative and add background to previously sidelined characters. We may be seeing the end of the Corvo Attano/Emily Kaldwin era however we may not be seeing the end of the Dishonored universe or the gameplay elements we’ve come to love and appreciate. I once speculated that the original Dishonored could very well be a better game than Skyrim in many aspects and I was not wrong. With the sequel, like Titanfall 2 virtually everything has improved and while some things have been maintained it’s both a thrillingly fresh and familiar experience.

Jonathan Blow is not only an unique individual and creative mind but also a fairly commonplace name in the gaming industry thanks in large part to the success of the indie-explosive kickoff game Braid. It should come as no surprise that The Witness, being another of his projects, is both expressive and enjoyable as well as unique and creative. The Witness channels every bit of the classic Myst vibes that I love in games such as the Myst series and more recently Obduction. However there is one notable difference and that would be the fact that The Witness features some of the most devious and delightful puzzles I’ve yet to play in any game, puzzle centric or otherwise. The Witness gives Portal an easy run for its money in terms of gripping puzzle aspects because the entire island habitat of The Witness is one large interactive puzzle and it’s all divided up into sections that range from lightly impossible to ‘you’ll never guess what this deviously difficult path leads to.’ Sometimes it’s an exercise in frustration but I love it.

I’ve already done my part in talking about Gunfire Games’ Chronos in a post that was equally parts praise and review, however I must still maintain that this is likely the best VR focused game we have yet to see and may yet see for the foreseeable future. Chronos is so enjoyable and works as well as it does because it does not approach VR as most VR games do- it instead operates as an experience that could just as easily work in any other role-playing game and that is where it achieves its main strengths and success. Because it does not focus on presenting itself entirely as a gimmick heavy VR experience, Chronos can instead showcase its brilliant concepts of time and player management as well as a loosely laced in narrative as well. I’ve yet to purchase many VR titles because most of them are largely gimmicks and one trick ponies, however if I had to pick one experience to recommend this (as well as the interesting Adr1ft) would be that solid choice.

And there you have it folks, the conclusion (for now) to my lengthy blog series spanning several long years and plenty of memorable titles. I cannot tell you how many times I considered a game merely because I’ve played it entirely too much only to decide that it wasn’t actually a favorite, merely a time consuming activity. I do hope you’ll comment with some of your own thoughts and also enjoy hearing mine. Cheers.

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Thoughts: Two Weeks Into GOT S7

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I’ve been an avid reader of George RR Martin for quite some time, not just of A Song of Ice and Fire or a viewer of the show itself. So to say I’m a fan would be somewhat of an understatement but accurate nonetheless. The seventh season of the titanic show recently began its arduous journey towards the shows eventual conclusion and already its been interesting to see the dynamics put into place for establishing this season’s battles and encounters. I won’t be going in any particular direction or order of precedence with my points in this post however please do be aware that it blatantly and obviously will spoil the season and show thus far.

First of all, I’d like to point out that whenever a minor or side character that is not one of the hallowed main characters receives special attention in an episode, they typically die a tragic and grisly death later. So I really, really, really hope Greyworm isn’t going to bite the dust like dear old Ser Barristan Selmy already has on the show. Also, all roads apparently lead to Dragonstone- as Jon Snow seems to be heading there and Dany is of course currently residing there whilst Cersei undoubtedly plans to attack there. We may see several more large battles yet- Casterly Rock and perhaps Kings Landing still included, however the Greyjoy conflict on the high seas was one of the bloodiest and boldest battle scenes in the series to date.

The Battle of the Bastards is one of the highlights of battle scenes in modern entertainment and certainly of the show, yet for every bold stride it made the Greyjoy civil war had such raw emotion and manic fashion. Euron is obviously crazy but you can’t fault him for his boldness- he went and seized the gifts he promised the current Queen of the realm and he also took his insubordinate niece hostage whilst Theon vanished into the ocean in a PTSD induced fit. The relationship between Theon and Yara Greyjoy has always been a strained one and yet now it will be more so and perhaps Euron would even use that to his advantage and as a way to torture the eldest Greyjoy rather than outright killing her.

I’m eager to see how Euron looks so alive and well after seemingly taking a few dagger swipes to the midriff in his choreographed battle with two of the Sand Snakes whom- as we all know by now, are infamous for coating their weapons in various poisons. Perhaps Euron picked up some magical remedies in his time on the sea as well, the world may never know. Regardless, the first battle surprisingly goes to Euron/Cersei who we should really, really never underestimate in the slightest. I feel like Ellaria Sand and her daughter’s fate are pretty much sealed at this point considering either Jaime or Cersei would be apt to execute them immediately merely for the death of Myrcella and the betrayal of Dorne. I’m quite curious to see what “poetic justice” Cersei deems fit to author.

Of other interest to me is the interaction of Arya and Hot Pie, something we’ve seen done before but something that was also quite a bit different and less personal this time around. Arya seems a lot more detached and understandably preoccupied with the intent of killing Cersei rather than interacting with her old friend. Hot Pie on the other hand just had to go and make a comment about also being a “survivor just like you” which means the divine hand of direction is more than likely going to swoop down and order a band of mercenaries or a gang of thieves to terrorize Hot Pie’s inn and slice the poor boy’s throat.

That wasn’t the only reunion for the youngest Stark girl as she also met her former direwolf companion Nymeria and her adopted wolf pack. It was a touching moment even if it ultimately played out exactly how the majority of Arya’s relationships thus far have: with either herself or someone else leaving and abandoning companionship in favor of self sufficiency. I got the feeling that Arya herself understood this could and would be a possibility as her heartbreak gave way to pride in her direwolf mirroring her own decisions ultimately. Plus, now she gets to chase after Jon Snow and probably run into Sansa along the way seeing as Jon is due for a meeting with his own flesh and blood whether he knows it or not.

It’s interesting to see that Melisandre is still doing what she does best: orchestrating things from behind the scenes and moving about with all of the players in the game. Whether or not shes had much success in the past, I am at least glad that she’s bringing both Dany and Jon one step closer to more than likely discovering his heritage and what their destinies may hold in store for them as well. She does serve her purpose well when the time comes, even if that also happened to lead Stannis Baratheon and his family to their deaths. Speaking of families that have suffered greatly, let us not forget that Jorah Mormont may yet get the chance to reunite with his Queen or with his own clan if he ever returns to the North and is cured of his affliction thanks to the helping hand of Samwell Tarly.

One of the scariest things undoubtedly to be coming down the pipeline right now also pertains to the North and that would be the fact that Sansa will be governing while Jon is away and Littlefinger will undoubtedly be either trying to manipulate and coerce the girl or whispering in her ear. He holds the knights of the Vale at his disposal and could quite easily ransom the North and Winterfell or even Sansa at any given time if he thought it was a strong enough and had the guts to do so. This would be an interesting turn of events and yet I still think at this point in time if he steps too far out of line Sansa could very well order his execution at some point, mistake or not to do so. For the time being he’s at best an unreliable ally and at worst a creep and villainous schemer.

It’s going to surely be such an interesting meeting for Jon Snow and the others set on traveling to Dragonstone. Snow goes to potentially barter both an alliance with the Targaryen Queen and to hopefully receive the permission to mine dragon glass or obsidian in order to defend against the impending wight attacks. I’m definitely curious not only as to how asking the King of the North to bend the knee will go- historically, not very well after all, and also as to who makes it to Dragonstone considering the rumors about what characters will end up where. While there is the setup for an interesting Jon and Tyrion reunion, we also have the unique possibility of there being an Arya and Hound reunion at Winterfell around the same time. Even more pressing though, what happens when the Night King slaughters the Nights Watch and shatters the Wall before emerging into Westeros?

All of these questions and potentially even more could be raised or even answered as e push forward into the season and I’m severely interested already. These are just some of the most prominent things I’ve thought of thanks to the happenings of the first two episodes, although there are plenty of other issues on my mind as well. For example: how far has Gendry been rowing by this point? What will the fate of both Tormund and Dolorous Edd be when the Night King attacks? Will the Brothers without Banners and Thoros and the crew finally make it to their destination? Ahh, so many questions…

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Three Interesting Takes from Comic Con

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Although I’m not entirely sure to what degree we will ever again see the unique talents of the great Sir Anthony Hopkins within the realm of the surreal and bloody terrific West World HBO reboot-ish show that he helped to establish, I must say I am excited to see telltale trailers of a second season. That wasn’t the only pleasant surprise to come out of Comic Con thus far as there were plenty of other panels and trailers that piqued my interest to observe. I’ve since narrowed my perspective to three- Jigsaw, West World Season Two, and The Shape of Water.

However, let it also be known that Netflix made a great showing for themselves- featuring everything from a fairytale meets gritty cop drama action flick to additional series and shows. There were some cliche yet refreshingly interesting ideas on hand in terms of horror- I’m going to be talking about effectively Saw 9 or 10 or whatever Jigsaw is canonically just because it looks utterly ridiculous and entertaining if grisly and horrible as well. Michael Fassbender seemingly met his end in grisly fashion in The Snowman- featuring a unique and interesting and surely full of twists serial killing story.

Bryan Singer is bringing his talents to The Gifted- a show set in the world of the X-Men yet pertaining to newly discovered mutants in the shadows of the public eye, and I’m more excited about this than the new seasons of Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow, or even perhaps Supergirl. I will say that the Superman/Girl prequel-ish show Krypton seems interesting enough as well. The 100 and Vikings have long been a source of entertainment and solace for me so those two shows definitely look to be shaking series tradition up and are likely going to break our hearts all over again.And as far as I can tell, Ready Player One looks like it will be given justifiable treatment by Spielberg and crew, so that’s only a good thing.

But let’s talk about my three main topic sources here now that I’ve covered the plethora of other great trailers and shows that were catered around.

The only reason that Jigsaw really stood out to me was that it seems to be bringing back a lot of classic Saw accoutrements but also adding an influx of not only action apparently but new machinations and twists and turns to the already thoroughly convoluted series. Saw has certainly had its moments- from its indie ish low budget beginnings to the colossal 3D flop of an ‘ending’ of sorts. However Jigsaw has piqued my interest because it brings up new questions about old tricks and also seems to at least as far as in the trailer shows, prove an old dog still has some unseen tricks to show off.

Is Jigsaw really alive and kicking? Is this all the devious devilish work of some protege or copycat killer? Is all of this just some sick and twisted playground already set up in the past and ready to be carried out by unseen henchmen? Will we actually get a steady stream of plot to go with the sure to be there gore and difficult decisions and dumb choices? All of these questions and more may or may not be answered in the movie itself but one thing is certain: hide your kids and hide your saw  blades or else both are liable to be either abducted or sunk into the head of some poor schmuck.

My second topic of interest is none other than the second series or season of HBO’s popular West World. Season One offered many twists and turns and we quite literally aren’t out of the woods (er, park) yet. Dolores seems to be adapting to the role of villain laid out before her by one-time instigator and writer Robert Ford, we still have the beloved Bernard to sort of follow behind and see what happens as he picks up the pieces of undoubtedly a greater scheme at work, and we have yet to really see Teddy or Elsie come back on screen but hopefully we won’t have to wait long. Many of us were left with burning questions after the end of the previous season and I think some are due to be answered as well as new ones added to the mix. I don’t want to know everything, just the most integral details in regard to key plot aspects.

And then of course there’s the Man in Black who is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing and ambiguous characters in the show for many obvious reasons if you’ve watched the first season. I can’t wait to see how things continue to play out for him now that he’s realized his dream of a perfectly aware robotic/AI filled park and that everyone is on an essentially level playing field. It’s a dog eat dog world and survival of the fittest is the only course of action that’s viable anymore. I’m intrigued by the prospect of both new characters as well as continued revelations for previously existing ones or even a continued exploration of depth and adaptation to new roles as well. Now that most technicians are likely dead or less likely to want to create more advanced AI or repair existing ones, our beloved characters are nearer and dearer to our hearts as the dangers become more apparent.

Last but surely not least, Guillermo del Toro as is often the case pretty much boggled my mind and piqued my interest all in one fell swoop. I’ve always enjoyed del Toro’s work in the past and he provides either perfectly paced action and excitement with interesting settings or characters, or he provides truly enveloping and emotional plots with slightly chilling aspects and unique qualities. Sometimes he tosses all of that into the blender and gives us a bit of everything if we’re talking about Crimson Peak in particular (RIP Tom Hiddleston’s face). The Shape of Water in typical del Toro fashion seems to have a star studded cast as well as an intriguing plot revolving around a mute woman who only feels appreciated and whole when conversing with what I can only best describe as a mer-man.

If that wasn’t interesting enough on its own, throw into the mix blatant disregard for life, the exploits of what seems to be a 1940s or 1950s scientific establishment complete with borderline barbaric ideas and practices, and the dramatic entanglement of this woman, this creature, and everyone in between them. It’s seemingly a love story as much as it is a lowkey chilling tale about modern medicine, appreciating people for all of their unique flaws and/or capabilities, and also a gripping dramatic tale. In essence, I’m uniquely interested in the potential for a story here and although I already see where there could be plenty of pitfalls or pandering and catering to particular audiences, I’m somewhat okay with all of that because Guillermo already owns half of my heart and mind as is.

And those are just some of my thoughts stemming in particular from the interesting trailers that have been showcased around Comic Con. If you’re currently attending Comic Con- SDCC or anywhere else you might currently be or already have been, feel free to comment with your own takes or your own most interesting and intriguing new films, games, or other entertainment. Cheers.

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How SEGA Should Approach Alien: Isolation II

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The Alien video game series, much like the titular movie series, has experienced its fair share of ups and downs over the years. There have been innovative flops such as Alien vs Predator, there have been outright horror stories such as Colonial Marines, and there have been sleeper successes such as Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation.

Not too many months ago I watched the highly anticipated Alien: Covenant and was much more pleased with it than I had been with Prometheus in terms of pushing the series and its speculative origins to the brink and successfully exploring new ideas as well as old. That got me thinking about the potential for another installment in the video game series, particularly one that catered more to the type of gameplay and audience that Isolation did rather than anything AVP or Colonial Marines may have attempted to do.

Details wise, it’s pretty much impossible for us to see another game from Creative Assembly themselves as the majority of talented designers who worked on Isolation have since left and gone on to other projects. Those that do remain recently wrapped up their work on Halo Wars 2 and are supposedly in the talks to continue their work on an as of yet pretty much unknown IP or project. However, that doesn’t mean SEGA couldn’t or even shouldn’t (or wouldn’t) tap into the same or similar sort of creative mindset that led them to select the bright minds at Creative Assembly as their leads for Alien: Isolation. There are a number of talented studios out there and far be it from me to say who should get the chance to put their own spin on such a popular series.

Ironically, I think perhaps the best route to go besides implementing a fairly fresh story like Alien: Isolation, albeit one that fits categorically into the original universe and into Ripley (by extension, her daughter) and others’ story, would be to detail the events between Prometheus and Covenant. This is where things are going to get a little bit hairy so if you’ve yet to play Isolation or don’t want the majority of the Alien/Prometheus series ruined for you on accident as I happily and nonsensically drop details, leave now or forever hold your peace.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed how canonically the story of Isolation fit just as well into the original universe as Covenant and Prometheus are starting to fit into the entirety of the series, I don’t want to see what is essentially Alien: Isolation II. I want to see something that is similar but not the same. As fun as it would be, I don’t want a sequel- I want another Alien title that takes the best elements of Isolation but boasts a new story and slightly different enemies and encounters as well as some brand new ideas. What better way to do that and semi-ironically make a movie tie-in game of sorts than to detail certain events from David’s previous experiments and the untimely death of Elizabeth Shaw after the events of Prometheus but prior to Covenant?

Allow me to clarify a little bit further. In order to be successful I think the game would have to include more of the aesthetic and elements of Covenant than Prometheus for sure, but that it should also maintain what worked in Isolation and not be a shooter or anything other than pure survival horror at its finest moments. The storytelling and pacing could be much similar to Isolation but perhaps set in the derelict ruins seen in Covenant or in the downed ship that David crashed. I would love to see a small team of engineers or something perhaps crash land on the exoplanet and slowly fall prey to David’s mischievous and diabolical experiments along the way. Michael Fassbender could even lend his voice and likeness to the character should it actually be feasible to include in-game.

Rather than the enclosed hallways and occasional open areas of the Sevastopol space station players could instead explore equal parts open fields and enclosed tombs and ruins of likewise free-form sort of levels and encounters. Many of the dynamics that made the first game thrilling could easily be re-implemented here as well and remain just as fluid and fresh. I would love to see the slightly varied looks of the alien creatures as they develop throughout the story and although it wouldn’t be exactly canonically accurate to have the classic look for the Xenomorph itself, the Neomorph and such variations of chestbursters and whatnot would be a sight to behold still.

There are numerous directions that SEGA could choose to go or not go in with the series but rather than some paltry attempt at another shooter or yet another AVP sequel, I’d much rather see survival horror in the vein of Isolation’s success. Whether or not the story is anything similar to the recently released Covenant or whether it features an entirely new time, story line, or characters matters little in the grand scheme of things. These are merely some of my farfetched ideas at this time.

If you have any of your own thoughts about what a theoretical next Alien title should or could or shouldn’t or couldn’t do, feel free to comment and I’ll happily discuss the series and my own thoughts with you. Cheers.

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Milly Schmidt

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