Thursday, 31 January 2013

Legion of the Damned (Book Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way.

If you’ve looked up any criticisms about this book you’ll know that the main characters aren’t from the chapter on the front cover. No member of the Legion itself has a speaking role and largely are explored as a background presence. Rob Sanders himself has written a articles on this subject; defending his choice of title, focus and even just expanding upon minor details surrounding the book. I would strongly recommend anyone with criticisms to look at these and see the thoughts behind the novel.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1-4 (Comic Review)

Well you demanded and demanded and demanded for it so here it is. Here's the review of the first issues of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic and an analysis of it based upon my personal experiences.

Truth be told I had no interest in this, no inkling to read it and quite frankly no indication that this site would even remotely consider reading it for review. Since looking at it I have had a profound change in opinion and have very strong feelings in relation to it. Extremely strong feelings which while complex still allow me to describe this series in two distinct words: Shit sandwich.

Two very bland covers filled to bursting from end to end with putrid, disgusting human excrement which I would not so much look at so much as even consider examining. That I would not be interested in were it not for the fact people were hell-bent upon forcing it upon me. 

However, this doesn't refer to the comic. This refers instead to the fandom which has build up around it. You might recall not too long ago that I made a brief post in answer to those spamming this site with demands for this review, who had been harassing me to write about this subject. As a result I made my stance very clear upon the series. If you wanted me to review it that desperately then offer to submit the material yourself, in printed format, and I would happily look at it.

The response to this was not only continued demands for me to make a review but several angry responses that I would not willingly do it, trying to shame me for making such a statement.

A few attempted to claim that I was being unfair because I had read comics before and not demanded anything like this and that this was unfair, clearly failing to read what had been posted. Others that this was "ponysecution" as if I had some sort of inherent hatred of them. Well as you were warned my opinion of the franchise would be heavily influenced by my interactions within the fandom, and with you continuing to throw accusations and spam my way here it is:

The cartoon and comic are bland, unremarkable and nothing of great consequence. MLP is a franchise made for small children, with an overly cutesy design and outwards appearance. The covers if you will. The actual content and bolstering aspects within the franchise consists of its fandom and how they interact to it, all of who are apparently arrogant, overbearing pissants. 

They are sort of people who cannot accept that someone is not interested in what they are and that everyone must like their chosen francise. The sort who will repeatedly force it upon someone, trying to browbeat them into accepting their will and praising what they believe to be something which can only be praised and not criticised. Spamming demands in an effort to force them to accept their will.

The sort who will throw fits the moment someone does not immediately comply with them. Who are too illiterate to obey basic instructions and will scream accusations of persecution the moment any sembilance of dislike is made towards them. Shrieking "hater" at the top of their lungs and acting as if there is absolutely no grounds for them to not enjoy everything they adore.

The sort who will take something basic, unremarkable and above all else forgettable and try to hype it into being "edgy" "intelligent" "deep" and "meaningful". Ignoring just how well any of those terms might apply to the franchise in favour of using them to try and hype them into being the single greatest thing produced in the last decade of entertainment. Trying to force others to accept this as fact.

The sort who respond with terms which would allow them to attain what they desire with statements like these:

"Arrogant bastard how can you so blindly hate a series like MLP Friendship is Magic? You're demanding people pay for something you reivew with no benefit to them and the site you claim you'll be posting on. You disgust me."

"troll can't even get things right."

"This is ponysecution! You never asked for people to pay for reviews before!"

That is what makes it so vile. I could not care less about how well written the series or comic might actually be because the fandom supporting it is a mob of fanatics. Were this true for any franchise from Mr Men to the works of William Shakespeare I would be saying the same thing. I would not care less how well their series of choice is if the fans supporting it are as toxic, arrogant and blind a mob as these bronies. 
I'm sure there are plenty who are nice people, and again, I have no problem with people who enjoy the show. I just wish they had actually shown up to request this as opposed to this mob.

So there is my analysis. It does not matter just how good the actual cartoon, comic or any other media is because those supporting have a sizable population of fucking lunatics who think that they can demand their way. Neither is worth becoming interested in, or even trying to look at, because of those who already do. The ones who storm onto forums out of the blue and spam memes, images and threads for the sake of it because they think others must conform to their own beliefs and opinions. Ones which apparently absolutely no one has any right to object when they do.

And please, do not try to claim there is any form of hatred behind this and spam this blog with slander. 

My attitude towards the MLP series can be best be described as apathy. My feelings towards bronies can be best described as dismay.

Tomorrow we will be resuming our usual reviews and returning to the products of the Black Library. I hope those who did not demand that this be created will enjoy that review.


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and all related characters and media are owned by DHX Media and Hasbro.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (Film Review)

Like novels, animated adaptations of video games are something which started to emerge during the 90s and have crept more and more into being a common feature of big name franchises. They’re usually used to just boost profits and their actual quality varies between passable to downright awful. Very few manage to actually be good enough to warrant more than a rental, but Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is not one of those few. It’s okay, vastly better than Dead Space: Aftermath but not Halo Legends by a long shot.

The story of the film follows Mass Effect 3 character James Vega and his previous career in the Alliance military. The film builds upon events he previously spoke of such as an encounter with the enigmatic Collectors and showing signs of having the potential the game often spoke of. That’s about it really, showing Vega defending one world for several years and eventually tying into an event he spoke of.

As with many of these OVAs it unfortunately doesn’t add much to the universe. There’s nothing we didn’t know before or needed to know presented here and while it’s nice the writers didn’t mess with the timeline too much, this is basically an inconsequential side-story. It doesn’t tie into later events or give things a greater scale, if anything it actually causes problems by leaving some loose ends. With one character repeating the same incident which made Shepard special to begin with, yet will never be mentioned beyond the events here. Not that the Citadel Council would have likely accepted anyone else trying to warn them of the Reapers, but they could have at least made some background codex entry of her actions in the third game.

Even if you can look past that it’s insanely generic. The story feels like it’s been written to hit a series of key notes and clichéd events rather than independently thought out and it visibly suffers due to this. You have an untested hero, a seemingly unstoppable threat, an ensemble band of character types and even a villain who switches sides only to die at the end. Despite all that happens, despite being set in a universe with a huge possibility for much greater stories the actual plot Is of no notability. You could make a drinking game out of the number of basic action film/horror film situations you’ve seen a thousand times before but you’d be smashed before the second act was over.

So it’s generic and acts as a side-story not expanding upon anything which came before, does it at least serve as a good entry point to the series for new people? Not really. Paragon Lost doesn’t take the time to explain a lot of either for the setting or villains. It says the Blood Pack are mercenaries and other basic details but never goes beyond that so a lot of people will likely end up being very lost. For all the flack Dead Space: Downfall and some of Aftermath might have gotten for explaining things people already knew, they at least made sure newcomers understood some of what they were watching. Admittedly the characters wouldn’t know who the Collectors are so they couldn’t do much with them, but it’s hard not to think how much is not being told.

If there is something to be credited with it’s that many of the basic elements beyond the story are fairly decent, with only the plot being the weak link in the film.

The English voice acing cast consists of a few of FUNimation regulars, Vic Mignogna being the one most people will recognise, and those with a few decades of voice acting experience. None of the main characters come across as weak and the voices fit their characters perfectly. Well with the exception of the asari have an oddly vacant quality to their lines which makes them sound like the actors are directly reading off of the script in practice. That aside it’s not outstanding but it’s a cut above average and there’s a visible effort to make use of what they’ve been given. Plus Freddie Prinze Jr. again proves that he can make Vega likable despite his character’s shortcomings. The only problem with them all is that the script can’t seem to decide if they’re actually spec ops or a rookie unit whose not seen combat until now.

When the action does take over from the story it suddenly becomes a vastly better film. The battle scenes are easily the highlight and while they often dip into back flipping Matrix-esque gunfights once too often they’re still enjoyable to watch. There’s no added-in shaky-cam or the usual frenetic blind rushes of cinematography sometimes found within bad one shot anime, instead moving fluidly from one combatant to the next. This is helped by visible bumps in the animation quality when people are charging into battle, even if they do feature overdone visual action clichés and unsubtle computer enhanced graphics.

The animation style as a whole is mostly unremarkable. Bland but doing nothing exceptionally wrong just with strangely smooth looks when it comes to skin tone and more subtle expressions. It’s much more suited to the more alien looking creatures of the MEverse than human ones. The collectors and oddly shark-like krogan are often better expressive and more dynamic than the humanoid figures and despite seeming less flexible have an added sense of physicality to their presence which the humans lack. Still even the animation also has visible highs and lows. The aforementioned rise in quality when it comes to the actions scenes but suffers horrendously when it displaying ships in flight. Largely because of the cost cutting measure of having the vehicles and some environments being low quality rendered CGI, which as ever sticks out like a sore thumb.

That’s the gist of Paragon Lost. A release with a very flawed and problematic story with pretty good action scenes, average overall animation and decent voice acting. It’s just a forgettable, run of the mill one shot video game tie-in which fails to really rise to the quality fans expect and makes use of the depth of the universe. While definitely not bad it’s nothing worth more than a few days rental, even with the detailed extras on the blu-ray DVD, but unless you’re already a fan you’d be better off finding something else to watch.


Mass Effect: Paragon Lost and all related characters and media are owned by Bioware, Electronic Arts and FUNhouse.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Shadowrun: Tactical Espionage Arseholes - 25/01/2013 Session

So what’s the first thing you do after murdering vast numbers of armed criminals, wrecking two buildings, playing with explosives and taking on a spec ops team? Rearm, cover up, go to work.

This session was distinctively more espionage orientated and less shoot everything in sight. About five or six hours after air juggling a cyborg dwarf and setting countless people on fire the world caught up with us. A small segment of the local 9AM news reported on what appeared to have been a conflict between a group of dwarves and an armed volcano. With charred bullet ridden corpses littering the floor, blackened beyond recognition and a long blood-trail leading outside analysts were wondering what the hell had happened. The police were notably baffled by the presence of two dents in the building where things had visibly crashed through the walls. One roughly the size and shape of a large van the other curiously shaped exactly like a cybernetic dwarf, the occupant of which was nowhere to be found (dun-dun-DUN!).

Unfortunately for Amoral it didn’t take us long to realise that this very large police investigation was taking place right next door to him. Cue two rent-a-cops hammering on his door and demanding answers. Managing to bluff his way into making them think he’d been sleeping through the loud explosions and negotiate his way into having them come back later to investigate properly, he went to fix things. Specifically his van, to make it look less like it had been used to ram-raid an armoured warehouse and buy a replacement fake SIN. Mostly to prevent Aztechnology calling in an air strike the next time they recognise his SIN as the escape driver who abducted a scientist from their spec ops team.

Killbo meanwhile, upon learning that the fight had made it onto the news decided to immediately check his house for signs of intruders. His paranoia at an all-time high after Balrog had been able to so easily find him the previous night. Surprisingly despite checking for two hours straight he was unable to find any bugs he had not planted himself. Somewhat assured that he was safe he got into contact with his black-market pipeline, specifically asking for “explosives of the grenade kind” and meeting him a short while later.

During this meeting Amoral was working hard upon repairing his truck. Bartering with his supplier and landlord for parts he quickly contacted a friend to get a new SIN, he frantically went about rebuilding the van. Killbo meanwhile managed to arrange for a number of high explosives grenades to be delivered to him in two sessions time and grabbed some beer since their dealing was a pub. Thinking that he likely also needed a new SIN and they needed to actually plan their operation in the conference, he headed off to meet Amoral. It ought to be noted that the GM’s was working overtime with his voice talents, doing African, Redneck and Jamaican accents to differentiate his characters. Or at least what I think was Jamaican.

Well making the unfortunate start of having Killbo do their research for the floor-plan of the conference centre, they discovered little. Putting “bloody Aztech sciency building” into search engines he found only that every blueprint of the plan had recently been pulled from websites. Amoral promptly displayed his competence managing to not only find the blueprints after a short while of searching but managed an ingenious ploy to try and discover hidden corridors. He put it onto an FPS website claiming to be in the process of making a new map for a game and asked where the best places would be for hidden rooms and areas. Managing to get a few hints of information and advice (along with “lol noob” when he tried to press for answers) we were then rudely interrupted by the returning cops.

Fortunately Amoral had managed to mostly repair his van by the time they got back. Unfortunately Killbo was a convicted criminal still being hunted by Norway’s orchestral societies (long story) and had a hefty price on his head. With their being no other exit without loudly smashing a window, the dwarf proceeded to fire his grappling gun into the ceiling and flattened himself against it as he hid in the shadows. The police entered, examined the van, tried to inspect the vaguely concealed military grade drones (which due to a botched roll were apparently for red light purposes), and left. Business proceeded as usual and we got back to planning our attack. Or at least Killbo started picking out structural weaknesses in the building they’d use to demolish it if necessary. Others were more concerned about the presence of a helicopter pad on the roof.

Killbo also got into contact with one of their inside men for another target, a man called Heinrik, to get information and details. Mainly so that Killbo could attempt to pass himself off as a hired gun to infiltrate a location and find their target. Further planning was also made to fake the death of another target but that will come later.

Realising that they would need to inspect the grounds themselves, the three prepared to head for the location of the building a few miles away. Driving in Killbo’s jeep, after very reluctantly removing the autocannon on the roof, they arrived a few blocks from the park where the building was located.

Arriving there they find that the park was remarkably heavily guarded. Barb wire fencing encircled the edges of the park a good two or three hundred meters from the actual building and was more heavily guarded than a military prison. With various patrols surrounding the place we selected a café nearby to watch them from relatively inconspicuously. At this point Amoral asked if there was any way he could sense anything beyond the fence and realised he needed to get closer. I then asked the GM if there were any guards about Amoral’s size nearby, specifically alone. Giving me an unimpressed look he demanded I roll Edge only to have me get successes on all D6s. Almost as soon as we walk in the café we encounter a lone guard exactly Amoral’s size talking very loudly to everyone nearby.

Immediately we had Leona try to convince him to head out back for interesting times to get him out of sight.
She failed.

Amoral then tried doing exactly the same thing.
He succeeded with flying colours.

As they disappeared out back, Killbo kept watch and Leona approached him from behind and tazered him. Undressing the man we quickly realised it was in-fact a woman disguised for some reason. Realised that we needed Amoral to speak to effectively no one we had him head over quickly and scan only to find nothing and the head back. The only really notable part of this was that a guard, in a brief bit of one sided small-talk with Amoral on the way back, noted that they had brought in PMCs to help guard the conference. One of these was Camelot which Venn was noted to have gone off and joined which could easily end up throwing a spanner in the works.

Arriving back at the place (changing out of the uniform and Leona replacing the guard’s memories to a one-hour stand) we then had Amoral begin to hack into the CCTV cameras for more info. Leona then headed back to the jeep as she pointed out that the very strong magics on the other side, as well as having a barrier, would soon pick her out as staying close by. Killbo also noticed that there was a man paying very close attention to them in the café, and they quickly chose to move shortly after getting inside the network. As they left the man promptly followed them out until they got back to the jeep and left.

At this point the GM pointed out none of us had actually bothered to look up and checked if there were helicopter gunships or not. While thankfully this didn’t involve one being called in to blow us up doe to the man’s suspicions it was still a point of concern as we drove away back to Amoral’s hideout.
Simple planning and recon, the usual run of the mill session in Shadowrun before the bullets start flying.

The only final thing of real note was the GM confronting me on Killbo's extensive gun collection. Having pillaged everything in sight upon fleeing the now defunct Zainou Corp he had stolen every gun he could carry right the way though including multiple assault rifles. Irritated over this fact he wanted me to ditch them claiming that every session from here on I had them their value would go down to the point where Killbo would be spending money to hide his illicit goods.
The bad news was that my final plan of having enough guns to re-enact a certain scene from Tremors if someone tried to ram raid Killbo's house would never come to pass. The good news was that we now had a good dozen guns to plant on people to have them arrested on various charges if required.

<< #1       Return To Index       #3 >>


Shadowrun and all related characters and media are owned by FASA Corporation, Fantasy Productions and Catalyst Games Labs.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Dredd (Film Review)

Go out and buy it. No seriously, if you’re vaguely aware of the character Judge Dredd and love action films then buy this DVD now. Especially if your TV has 3D capability because this is one of the few I’ve seen in which that gimmick is used this brilliantly. There is little to nothing bad that can be said about a film like this as its creators have streamlined it until there is no fat left and manage to completely leave the Sylvester Stallone film in the dust. And this is coming from someone who enjoyed that movie.

Set in the post-apocalyptic dystopia of Mega City One, a surviving metropolis built upon the radiation scarred remains of America, the film follows judges Anderson and Dredd. The former is a psychic rookie near to failing being given one final trial by Dredd, observing her in the field. Unfortunately her choice of crime to investigate, a triple homicide, leads them into direct conflict with the MaMa gang – a major new drug distributer. Trapped inside a city block with the gang their routine check quickly turns into a bloodbath as the body-count rises.

The first thing of note is that anything else trying to be a Dredd action film would have taken after the more exceptional comics arcs. The sort of ones in which there were ground-breaking adventures with consequences upon which the fate of the City or entire Earth depended. In this the conflict itself feels more down to earth, as absurd as that sounds with this sort of setting, which works in Dredd’s favour. Rather than clones, Judge coup d’etat or the Angel family, the gang warfare element makes the film feel like something you could see the protagonists’ facing week in week out. Entrenching the idea that, along with the looks at people’s lives, it serves as a glimpse into the everyday life of Mega City One itself.

While the characters are not the most compelling aspect of the story they are well fleshed out enough and not based completely upon stereotypes. As such they feel more like real people and this is only enhanced by the fact the script makes full use of every person it has on hand. This is only enhanced by the actors, especially Karl Urban who despite having only his mouth visible (someone listened to the problems with the last film) does a fantastic job at acting. The body language, mannerisms and overall attitude he presents himself with constantly makes you think this is Dredd. Never for one moment do you see the actor behind the mask. In much the same way Kelsey Grammar was Beast in X3 and Josh Brolin was Jonah Hex, the casting is pitch perfect. With the obvious difference being that Urban actually has a good script to work with.

Even ignoring Urban it feels like every person in the film was giving their all with what they had. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson has a definitively clear character arc of growth as she becomes more sure of herself and serves as an excellent foil for Dredd. The viciously pragmatic villain played by Lena Headey is someone who, while not given nearly enough scenes, presents herself extremely well as a gang leader keeping others in line with threats. Not to mention the unnamed tortured gang hacker played by Domhnall Gleeson and, well, everyone.

The action itself is surprisingly controlled for a film featuring gun-toting character like Judge Dredd. While this was definitely because of the limited budget, the way in which the battles are broken up into running skirmishes only helps to enhance the film’s pace. Occurring in exactly the right place and time to never make the film drag or for you to forget that the protagonists’ are effectively running a gauntlet. The highlight of this entire sequence is when the gang-members break out a trio of Vulcan cannons and proceed to almost saw the building in half as Dredd flees from their gunfire. Most are admittedly one sided beat-downs of fights but hey it’s an action film what do you expect. Each of these action scenes are near perfectly shot and at almost every point you can see how the angle, style and presentation could have easily made it a panel of a comic strip.

What is truly a high-point however is how the city itself is presented. While little of it is seen outside of the block, and the 1995 film did have a better handle on the more futuristic designs, the city’s architecture is brilliantly presented. Combining the look of heaving metropolis and brown dystopian environment in a way not seen since Blade Runner. Managing to remain grim but vibrantly colourful and interesting; never reducing it to the boring colourless look found so frequently within such fictional environments. The bright sunlight, mixture of neon colours makes it stand out and looks more like something you’d expect to find in 2000AD’s tales.

Is it perfect? Definitely not. There’s the odd visual goof which stands out and as mentioned before the film does show its budget more than once. What helps make you forgive these things though is that it avoids action film clichés of A-Team firing and plots requiring people to act like fools. This is without a doubt an excellently made film and does the source material real justice. As the opening said you definitely need to buy this one if you’re remotely interested and at the very least rent it for a one night viewing.

Dredd and all related characters and media are owned by DNA Films, IM Global, Reliance Entertainment, Entertainment Film Distributors and Lionsgate.

Doctor Who and DMC Announcement

Two announcements in two days, that has to be a record for the blog.

This is covering two things. The first is that the site will no longer be continuing the Doctor Who reviews. I had been considering continuing them for some time but the current series has simply been getting worse and worse. There's been a visible decline in quality since the ending of the previous series and arguably even before then. While it does have occasional good episodes they are becoming less frequent and I'm not enjoying repeatedly hammering down on how bad recent ones are. This came to a head when trying to write a review of the last Christmas special only to realise I had little to nothing good to say about it and how surprisingly time consuming they could prove to be.
Might I reconsider this in the future? Probably. I have been meaning to do reviews of many older episodes for some time so perhaps rather than being posted of broadcasting they will be occasional reviews of those available on DVD.

The second announcement is that other video game reviews will be being uploaded onto a new website I have joined, There will be occasional update or promotional posts announcing articles posted on the site so you can keep track of them, the first review is already up on there for the Devil May Cry reboot

With that out of the way it will be business as usual here and expect more film reviews very soon.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Answering the demands of bronies

I'm confronting this issue now because it has gotten beyond a joke. I don't know how or why it started but it needs to stop. For the last three days various articles on the site have been bombarded with demands by bronies to review their favorite franchise, either issues of the comics or the cartoon.
Considering there has been no indication that I actually accept requests i'm surprised to find five or so comments a day demanding I review it. Not to mention the fact nothing on this blog even begins to suggest I would be interested in reviewing it.

As such allow me to make something very clear - trying to bombard my articles with demanding spam will get you nowhere. Instead please understand this: Were I to review the MLP comic you all keep spamming me about it would a Founding Fields review, posted on there and not on here. We cannot get the books through standard resources but if you are truly this desperate for me to take a look, purchase and mail it to me. If it meets the site's standards we will then review it. Digital copies will not be accepted as it's the website's policy means we can only accept them if they are from the author or publisher.
The same answer goes for the episodes, if you are that desperate for one small largely overlooked blog to review the franchise fork over cash to do it. I'm not going to spend money to do this because a fandom thinks shrieking loud enough will get their way.

Please also note that I will give you one week to stop spamming every article on the site demanding this. Otherwise my opinion of the series you so desperately want to see done might be tarnished by my the interactions with the fandom.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Top Ten Greatest RPG Endings

For the full list please visit the page here.

In every genre there is one defining aspect which usually makes them stand out and defines them from all others. One specific element above all others which helps them to appeal to a certain audience. In Rogue-like games it’s the potential for failure and the sheer uphill battle you face, with fighting games it’s the ability to break out endless combos and air juggle your opponent through the air for minutes on end, and in RTS titles it’s the potential for how thoroughly you can obliterate them. In RPGs of many subgenres it tends not to be the stats or combat which is the most memorable but the stories driving them forwards. Any story can make or break an RPG, especially in how the ending is handled as Bioware found out not too long ago, so what could be considered the best within the genre?

I was on the fence about this one as it’s not a traditional sort of ending, rather than having a single cutscene it’s a compilation of various stills focusing upon characters and locations of the game with voiceovers. The reason it gets put on the list is due to one specific reason – it provides a much greater level of closure than you’ll find in many other endings. Seeing each specific place you’ve been involved with talked about by its residents and their individual fates helps to give a greater sense of scale to the world and how the future turned out for them. It also gives the added bonus of allowing you to have far more flexible conclusions. Rather than having only one good ending and one bad you can help most people in the game but can still fail to help a few who you met. It’s that added bit of replayability and freedom which makes the Fallout games so great, and it’s New Vegas which does this the best.

You get rid of Ansem, find the king, get Kari back and save the universe but for every victory you have you lose something. The king and Riku are last seen locking themselves inside Kingdom Hearts facing an army of Heartless, Kari is restored but loses her memories of Sora and is separated from her, seemingly trapped where he defeated the final boss. None the less, it’s done in a way which leaves hope for the protagonists, you’ve still halted the villain’s doomsday plan and are alive. There are also hints of larger mysteries and a bigger universe which left the possibility for a sequel without feeling like blatant sequel bait. It’s an odd situation where the conclusion is not completely nihilistic nor does it feel like a kick in the teeth but at the same time you’ve still lost as much as you’ve won.

It impacted on a much more personal level than VII did, which left their fates ambiguous, and unlike X had no one audibly speaking. Meaning the animators had to show rather than tell and it was relying upon animators rather than voice direction to convey emotion. Say what you will about the recent Final Fantasy titles, but let’s face it dialogue isn’t the series’ strong point of late. What’s more is that unlike titles such as those it did give some hope for the future of the side characters; displaying Seifer and Laguna’s lot while the rest were in the academy.  If there is one thing worth criticising it’s that the game doesn’t exactly explain some aspects of itself or how Squall escaped where he was trapped, but I don’t think that’s enough to deny it a place on this list.


For the full list please visit the page here.

THQ Dissolves, Intellectual Properties And Rights Sold To Other Companies

Unfortunately it finally happened. While THQ may have been showing signs of fighting to stay alive and keep producing new titles over the last few months, seeing the developer closing its doors will come as no surprise to anyone.

Despite making efforts to have the entire company sold after reporting bankruptcy in early November, their efforts seem to have failed. Creditors  approved the independent auction of individual series and I.P. rights which was held on the 22nd of January along with dev teams for their most popular titles. The distribution to other companies following the auction is as follows - 

Developer Volition along with the rights to both the Metro and Saint's Row franchises have been purchased by Deep Silver. Best known for publishing Dead Island
Rights to the Homefront franchise have been sold to Crytek, who are not reportedly developing a sequel.
Relic Games along with the licence to create Warhammer 40,000 titles and Company of Heroes has gone to Sega.
The publishing rights to South Park: Stick of Truth and THQ Montreal has gone to Ubisoft.
Finally, Take-Two interactive has purchased Evolve and the rights to WWE titles.

Assets unmentioned such as Vigil Games and THQ's publishing unit have gone unpurchased but what remains of THQ itself will reportedly still be making an effort to find a buyer. Platinum Games is reportedly interested in purchasing the Darksiders franchise but as of yet there has been no indication of backing this claim.

Considering their reliability in delivering quality titles in the past, with an admitted tendency to publish licenced games for films and franchises, and their long history within the industry this is a sad day indeed. While those which have been sold have gone to fairly reliable companies questions still surround the future of a great number of their series, notably Red Faction, and we can hope to see them continue elsewhere in the near future.

The only potentially good news to come out of this is that none of what was auctioned off was sold to Electronic Arts or Activision.

Django Unchained (Film Review)

Looking at Django Unchained you’ve got to wonder what really needs to be said about this. It’s Tarantino, what more do you need to know?  But you’re likely looking for something in detail so here’s an opinionated view of it.

Set two years before the American Civil War, the story follows the tale of a pair of bounty hunters consisting of the ex-slave Django Freeman and Dr. King Schultz. Having used Django to identify men he is after Schultz makes a deal with him to split their cash and help him on his way, eventually becoming involved in a plan to rescue his wife.

It’s about as straight forwards a western as you could expect from this director and it contains more action and payoff than you’d find in Inglorious Basterds. This isn’t to say that Tarantino abandons his trademark style of tension, caricatures, long scenes of monologues; it’s just that there’s more blood in here. More moments in which you see guns being fired and more action to drive things forwards, to more to the amount you’d find in Pulp Fiction than Reservoir Dogs.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the film is the classic genre influences which are presented full force within the first minutes. The title and opening credits are presented in that classic western style font with bright red colouring to an opening song of the sort you’d expect to hear in a John Wayne cowboy film. All of which get you into that right mentality within the first few minutes of starting so you know exactly what you’re in for even as the director’s classic cinematography starts to implement outdated grindhouse shots. With sudden whip-pans, extreme zooms to capture facial reactions and rapidly edited one sided gunfights with slow-motion. The sort of trashy camera movements which only help to enhance the enjoyability in many ways.

If there was one distinctive aspect which did distance the film from previous Tarantino productions it would definitely be the plot. More straight forwards than you’d expect to find in any of his films, the focus is squarely placed upon a single duo attempting to achieve one objective with little to no distractions. There’s no multiple characters never encountering one another with each of their stories interconnecting and even flashbacks used to establish character motivations are kept to a minimum. It’s far more direct than you’d expect, even more so than the Kill Bill duology, which helps with the focus upon the protagonist.

Djago’s past is fairly straight forwards and lacks a truly unique history which would make him stand out. In part this could be seen as some subtle comment upon his role as a slave but more likely it is due to the fact the film shows his growth and development. Growing in terms of skill and ability until he reaches the man he is in the closing credits, rather than, as is usual, having the film be emphasising his background. This is largely what makes it stand out from the director’s other films, but there is also the element of humour to be considered.

While none of the previous films have been known to shy away from grim humour or wordplay things seem to have been taken up a notch. While it has not increased in volume or veered into outright slapstick territory, S.N.L. style jokes turn up far more frequently than you’d expect. An often quoted example is a scene in which the proto-KKK argue over their choice of hoods and cut of eyeholes. It’s done in such a style that if the scenes were taken on their own you’d swear they were from a Mel Brooks script. Its presence largely helps to offset the increased level of violence and give more emotional variation between scenes.

Speaking of violence, the gunfights themselves are spectacular. While they tend to be reserved for moments you’d expect, after long tense scenes or similarly built-up scenarios, there does seem to be more of an emphasis upon them. Some taking well over a minute to play out rather than the two or three seconds usually seen in things like Inglorious Basterds. All of which have the level of blood and destruction you’d expect from a film of this type.

As for the quality of acting on screen, just look at who’s in the film. Just about everyone present in the final act and is a major player in events has someone great playing them and playing their character all but perfectly. Whether they be hamming scenes up, taking a humorous turn or are acting out in rage it’s obvious they’re giving it their all. This is especially true of Leonardo DiCaprio (in what will supposedly be one of his last roles for a long time) and Samuel L. Jackson, both of who manage to act out their roles to a degree where you stop seeing the actor and only see the character. Something which is hard to pull off for anyone well established in popular media as they.

Really there’s only so many ways it can be said the film is gloriously well made. Different from what you’d necessarily expect but definitely outstanding. If you’ve enjoyed westerns, Tarantino films, or even just entertainingly vulgar films with a well-crafted entertaining script you’re definitely going to have fun with this. Really, go out and see it while it’s in cinema.

Oh, there is one thing which should be said to anyone planning to see this: The controversy and analysis surrounding it? Everything from Spike Lee’s criticisms of how it was portrayed to people claiming this is Tarantino getting rid of his own “white man’s guilt”? Ignore it. People are overanalysing the film to its maximum and disliking that it either doesn’t turn slavery into some ludicrously over the top elongated holocaust driven by racists determined to wipe out those they hate and those who think the portrayal goes too far.

Despite its historical liberties it never shies away from showing how wrong society was then with its inherent racism, how wrong slavery was and just how abhorrent those who treated slaves could be. At the same time it never goes so far as to lose sight of the fact it was an industry driven by business and cash. For all its moral repugnance it was not some global scale hate-crime fuelled by racism naturally present in every non-Afro-American person. Nor, despite what some claim, is there any case of any “magic negro-ing” in the plot with Django himself clearly being the hero of its events.

All of the controversies surrounding the subject matter should be ignored and all you need to know is it’s a good film.

Django Unchained and all related characters and media are owned by Columbia Pictures.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Kingdom Come (Comic Review)

As with the last book review this is posted in full on and this is simply a preview. If you want to see it in full then please follow the link through to there.

The first thing toreally credit here is that absolutely everything driven by characterisationclicks into place. Usually with Elseworlds or big events there’s the problem inwhich you need to have someone act out of character or like an idiot to get theball rolling (Civil War anyone?) butin this everything works. Events like having Superman leave due to the publicembracing the ideals he has decried for decades is something which feelsentirely in character and why the public would support them is understandable.After all if you had a killer clown repeatedly breaking out of a mental asylumeach week, killing hundreds only to be put back inside again, wouldn’t yousupport the person who permentatly took him down? Even when the story goes sofar to have the president order a nuclear strike dropped on a battle, it’sclearly a hard choice he does not want to make and never manages to demonisethe government itself for this act. Something remarkable considering just howmany big names die in that blast.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Writer's Guild of America Video Game Award Shortlist Based Entirely Upon Membership

There's no denying that with all the progress which has taken place to improve computer games as a whole there is still a visible bias elements of society has against them. They're still regarded as just being games, not worthy of being seen as art or a "true" media like film or music. A common example i'm sure you've all heard at some point is when a film fails and emphasises upon action over plot, lacking any substance, it's described as being like a video game. As if there are none which are more narratively complex than Duke Nukem 3D.
What appeared to initially be a step forwards in having the writing and stories of games viewed as a having true quality to them has only served to emphasise this point.

Announcing some time ago that there would be an award devoted for Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing; the Writer's Guild of America has revealed its shortlist for this category. With so many games having taken narrative leaps forwards in 2012 you can probably think of a fair number which should be on the list. Spec Ops. The Line, The Walking Dead, Mass Effect 3 (yes even with that ending), perhaps even something like Dishonored for its adaptability or Journey for its artistic simplicity.

Well, believe it or not but not one single one of these titles is on this list. Nor are any you would expect to find there. Instead here are the titles on the short-list in question:

  • 007 Legends
  • Assassin's Creed 3
  • Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation
  • Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
  • Halo 4
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss

It's hard not to believe this is a joke isn't it. Well no, unfortunately for us this is actually their list and not only does it contain average examples at best but almost all of these have been based upon one single bias category which excludes a vast number of titles.
This category had two primary restrictions. The first being that it had to have hit shelves between December 1st 2011 and November 30th 2012. Fairly reasonable. The second however was listed as follows:
“Credited videogame writers must have been or must have applied to become members of the WGA Videogame Writers Caucus at the time scripts were submitted.”

So yes, it's not the quality of the storytelling or even the direction upon which it takes which makes a title viable for this award. It's simply who is writing it and if they're a part of their newly created club. Atop of limiting entries to games which would not have even been considered otherwise this condition also excludes any international writers.
Quite frankly the whole thing is at best a sham. It does nothing to encourage high quality writing, ignores a truly vast number of great titles and is at best a sign of how little value the Guild places on scripts within video games.

The awards themselves will be held on February the 17th. Unless the list changes dramatically within the next month it will be a pointless award which misrepresents video games as a whole.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Shadowrun: Business As Usual - 17/01/2013 Session

Shadowrun, for those who don’t know of it, is a long standing RPG game set in the dystopian future cyberpunk earth. Mixing magic with Blade Runner style downtrodden future-tech (sans the sentient humanoid robots) it emphasises upon the corporate wars which exist with each one trying to steal the secrets of the other. To accomplish this, and for plausible deniability, they utilise shadowrunners, teams of freelance espionage agents of varying skill which steal, assassinate, destroy and bankrupt whoever they’re paid to deal with.

Being fans of Dark Heresy in all its glory it was only natural that myself and a group of friends try it. And a few months ago we did just that, acting out the most obvious and least subtle of thefts. Sent to steal information by a Mr. Johnson from the soon to be defunct minor genetic corporation Zainou in Norway, the team managed to scout out the place and sneak inside under the guise of being security consultants.

The shadowrunners themselves consisted of:

“Amoral Ray” a mecha obsessed physically unfit technomancer living in a van and building warmachines out of junk.

Venne, a troll and a former member of the military. GMPC and unsurprisingly overpowered troubleshooter. The team’s usual sniper and anti-vehicle individual. Job title: Versatile Humanoid Artillery.

And “Killbo” Fraggins, dwarf drunkard and former bank robber along-side other humorously named people. Muscle, paranoid explosives expert and stealth operative. Cybernetically enhanced in his arm, eyes and ears.

Most of that campaign’s events would go better detailed elsewhere but in no particular order they contained:

  • A running gun battle through an airport against equal rights terrorists.
  •  Two drunken rampages.
  • The burning down of offices after framing said equalist terrorists.
  • One forest fire while fighting a vengeful beast spirit, followed by surviving jumping off of a cliff without a parachute.
  •  Several violent back alley gunfights.
  •  The construction of Armageddon on wheels.
  • The word’s first successful infiltration via opera.
  • A basement nerd fight between hackers involving the spirit of a pirate.
  • The parking lot fist-fight, involving two oiled up men dueling while singing, ending with one of them being junp-kicked through a car. A fight so violent it ended with the GM taking a sledgehammer to a D6.
  • A running gun battle with a corporate made combat cyborg capable of taking out tanks.
  • An invasion of Red Samurai followed by grand theft auto of their helicopters and a chase.
  •  Nazi gold.

While many of these events are well worth telling, the fourth from the bottom especially, what is relevant to our story is this – The shadowrunners helped to secure the escape of one fleeing scientist in exchange for information which might help them get inside and that they were successful in cleaning out their databanks. Naturally one highly destructive data theft which involved mass killings and leaving half the facility on fire was not enough for us so a few months down the line our GM brought up another plot for us to run through.


Our story for this one begins several months after that incident, in which the characters drifted apart. Amoral sold his mecha for fitness classes (and became an elf apparently), Killbo went on the run and hid out in Chicago (yes, as dangerous and dumb as it sounds) and Venn abandoned shadowrunning entirely to join a PMC. Unfortunately for two of them, Mr. Johnson was not yet done with the group and soon they were called back to meet him.

Greeting them in a small café, Johnson outlined what he needed in his usual brazen way. They had found a great deal more than expected in the stolen files and were hiring the team to recruit others to help them make full use of the information. The team’s mission? Convince several scientists his company wanted to join them, assassinate others trying to join their rival in Aztechnology and ensure the survival of a certain scientist the group had last helped flee from Norway. Months after being on the run, her old company had found her and sent assassins to silence any knowledge they had of their projects. Joining Amoral and Killbo was a new GMPC, Leona, an African magician rather conspicuously sitting with a python around her shoulders. I only mention her nationality because the GM kept using an accent for her lines.

We were promptly told we had 20 minutes to save her and would never reach her by car. At which point one of Johnson’s personal helicopters arrived, landing on the roof of the café to take us to the location. One small detail I’d forgotten to mention was Killbo’s continued paranoia, in that while he’d not walked in armed to the teeth he’d arrived in the most robust civilian clothing he had – namely the tuxedo worn from last time. As a result when an immaculately dressed man with a pistol, a beautiful dangerous woman with a snake and a gadgeteer genius boarded the helicopter and flew off, it was to a billion James Bond jokes.

Eventually landing ten minutes later on the road outside of the abandoned apartments she was hold up in, the group sneaked inside and began probing the exterior for weak points. While the rest of the group was fairly competent at this, Killbo’s innate paranoia meant he checked every single step and door for explosives. By the time we finally got a decent way inside, the spec ops unit they’d sent had arrived on the roof via helicopter.  Unfortunately for them their target had gotten the foresight to place traps on the roof, and two dived headlong into a tripwire which promptly went boom.

Things got from bad to worse for the hired killers as Amoral’s drones got involved unleashing supressing fire via minigun slowing down the team until Killbo could reach the target. Upon finding the terrified scientist (and getting a bullet in the shoulder for his troubles) the two began running for the ground level with massive explosions sounding from above. As the drones were forced to pull back, after blowing a hole through multiple floors with a railgun round and barely missing the two fleeing within.

Unfortunately the luckless spec ops agents raced down the stairway only for Killbo to hear them standing on the floor directly above. Cries of “WHAT THE HELL-!?!“ were heard as the dwarf ricocheted a high explosive grenade around  the corner, up one floor and directly between the two. Unfortunately for the luckless scientist and shadowrunning muscle, this got the attention of their lieutenant who promptly began sprinting downstairs. And their drones. Crashing in through the windows, a drone armed with AV rounds appeared and riddled the dwarf with bullets, blowing chunks out of him and taking off over half his health in the opening two shots.

Amoral then decided to take matters into his own hands and did the only sensible thing he could: Michael Bay the building.

You see, he’d been wired into the apartment’s systems for a while and aside from screwing with CCTV footage, he’d been looking into each system’s nodes. One of the things he'd accessed was the metric tons of TNT wired into its every doorway and window. A large stack of which the enemy drone was now hovering over. One command later, those inside were blown backwards by a big blast of light, goodbye went the dangerously destructive drone, one entire side of the apartments and several major structural supports. It began to very loudly creak and tilt inwards.

Well surprise, surprise being stuck in a collapsing building was not part of the escape plan and Killbo promptly grabs the scientist, fires his grappling hook into the ground and abseils out. Hurling himself out of the now exploded side of the apartment blocks, hitting the ground and then running like hell along with the others as everything went boom. Diving into Amoral’s car (he ordered it to head there as a way out early on) Killbo was healed up by Leona and headed for an abandoned train station to meet up with Johnson.
Meeting up with Johnson, the man’s limousine promptly pulls up just as they arrive and along with caviar, coffee and vast quantities of fine alcohol he gives further details about their mission. Because he’s just that kind of guy. After listing their target’s names, associates, a potential undercover situation and the dangers of both an uprising and a major figure at the science conference they are to infiltrate; he leaves.

With his job done for the night, the chauffeur asks them if they need a lift anywhere then promptly tells them to get the hell out of his car and walk. Departing from the vehicle, having looted practically everything inside with Killbo clinking slightly from the sheer number of booze he took and Leona having smuggled out the coffee machine somehow, they go their separate ways.  To plan, to rest, to prepare and get ready to begin their work after that day’s explosively violent escape.

Unluckily for the lot of them, the night was not over yet.
On his way home, Killbo is ambushed in a dark alley and as he’s cold cocked across the head hears the words “’ello Fraggins.”

Walking up one hour later he find himself in a warehouse surrounded by dwarves, two of them very familiar to him. Old members of his gang Balrog and Gundalf. Yes this entire theme thing was based upon the joke name of one character, how did you guess?
Having double crossed them before they could enact their planned double crossing of him, Balrog is back with a vengeance demanding the money from their last raid and Gundalf looking for excuses to break Killbo’s neck. Tied to a chair and with all his guns removed, the shadowrunner was left only with his concealed grenade launcher robot arm (inoperable due to the ropes), eye laser tool and wits. Or rather what little brain cells could pass for wits, being a person whose tactics seemed to revolve around “punch and/or shoot it until it stops being a problem” or “bluff/sing while bluffing then shoot it”.

Trying a few tactics to escape such as getting Balrog close enough to threaten to take him out with grenades he has in his arm, trying to laser him in the brain only to realise he was wearing mirrored shades (at night no less); he eventually manages to come up with a way of getting outside help. Under the guise of getting in contact with the private account he establishes, he gets a comlink off of one of the goons and messages the two other shadowrunners. With Balrog quickly backing out of range of the grenades before Killbo can use them and Gundalf being effectively illiterate, he is left to freely message lots of details to them. Mostly by buying time via distracting the two via continual filibustering, misdirection and getting them into arguments with one another.

Luck seemed to be on our heroes’ side as when Amoral tracked the signal it was originating from right next door to his residence. Better yet Balrog’s goons were not the brightest bunch, not even bothering to patrol the area just openly stand outside the door with shotguns. This left him largely free to scout out the area and put a spanner in the works, especially when Leona arrived minutes later and made them both invisible. Being a man with miniature drones and Gundalf being bionicised from head to brass balls, Amoral’s first natural instinct was to send in a microdrone with nanites to hack the man’s arm. Becoming more and more suspicious, Balrog was none the less highly surprised when, in mid demand for his cash, Gundalf’s gun arm jerked away from his captive’s head and loosed a blast into his leg.

With their boss rolling on the ground and screaming something along the lines of “Shoot the bearded bastard!” Killbo was quick to take advantage and upon passing a composure roll yelled “You heard him shoot Gundalf!” With the criminal mastermind rolling on the ground in pain, the minions blasting away at the dwarf terminator as he took cover behind the luckless Killbo, the world exploded. Amoral’s truck blew in one wall, crushing two dwarves and deploying drones with the technomancer himself following behind it. Those not caught in the path of the wheeled incarnation of death and storm of bullets were promptly set screaming on fire; with Leona releasing what can only be described as a small solar flare upon the mob.

Still secured to the chair, Killbo proceeded to take on both his former comrades. Getting his bionic arm free and made Balrog’s day worse via punching in the wounded leg. Gundalf then returned the favour, punching Killbo partway across the warehouse. As Balrog snuck away (due to the GM wanting him to survive to be a reoccurring enemy), and with most of the dwarves now vaporised or riddled with bullets, that just left the two dorf cyborgs fighting one another. Well, with Gundalf being built to punch-in bank doors and Killbo being someone whose inbuilt laser could have trouble opening a can on the good day, this is about as one sided as you could imagine.

Managing to make use of his grenade launcher, getting one in Gundalf’s mouth mid villain rant only to have him somehow survive, it quickly devolved into a fistfight. Or rather what would be a fist fight if Killbo knew how not to fight dirty and Gundalf didn’t have a sledgehammer. Lobbing his still booze ridden jacket over the cyborg’s face, Killbo promptly lasered it, showering the goon with exploding alcohol. Something which did little more than enrage him and give Gundalf burning attacks. Well, that and force Killbo to shirt-rip Kirk style as what was left of his tux caught alight as well.

Clearly on the losing end despite getting a few good shots in, and Amoral deciding that due to anime laws this should be settled between the two of them thus staying out of it, Leona decided to take matters into her own hands. Summoning a beast spirit and having it immediately possess Killbo to turn the odds in his favour.

Now as a brief aside to explain something which happened next, everyone involved in this was using Chummer to keep track of characters. It was easier than rewriting character sheets after all and solved a few issues of keeping track of the status of multiple NPCs but it had caused a few glitches and errors in the past. Well that was what happened here. We noticed that the program was freezing up, taking a long time and generally had a lot of problems. We then realised that it was trying to make Killbo possess the spirit. Well as a result of this we decided something special was to happen.

Despite glowing red, apparently having claws now and looking like something the Warp would spit out on a bad day; Killbo still possessed total control of his body.  Well, as well as this power-up giving the stealth berserker the ability to shrug off point blank blasts, it boosted his strength to the point where he could hit like a jackhammer. The end result of this was Gundalf being machine-gun punched across the room and several inches into the corrugated steel wall behind him. Also with Killbo leaving some scars for him to remember, in the form of a several inch deep fist-mark into the man’s steel chest and lasering graffiti into his back.

With corpses littering the ground, most of the room on fire and violently elaborate fistfight having taken place, the usual for us now, the team departs before any police can arrive and to actually get on with the job they are being paid to do.

For our heroes, this is just business as usual.


Shadowrun and all related characters and media are owned by FASA Corporation, Fantasy Productions and Catalyst Games Labs.