Saturday, May 31, 2014

My review of Tomb Raider

So, I recently finished Tomb Raider.

Now, I remember trying to play the older versions of the game and at that time I did not really play that kind of action game. I was way into Rpg’s, and really not much else. Not to mention, the games seem more about the way she looked, rather than the game itself. I had a friend years ago that referred her as boobs croft. Yes, he was an idiot. 

Personally I have never gotten how guys get turned on by video game characters, but whatever.

So, back to now. Tomb Raider, the reboot.

I really, really, loved it.

What worked. First of all, I played it on my ps3 and it was gorgeous. Yes, it looks better on the ps4 and pc, but that doesn't take away from how great it looks. An island setting is a great way to show off graphics as you get to show off beaches, oceans, jungles, etc. It all looked amazing. I can only imagine how great it does look on pc. Yet, it is amazing how great games look now.

Lara herself was a strong, confident, character. It took place before the previous games as is supposed to show just how she became the world class adventurer people know and love. Her determination and strength was on display with all of the cut scenes that deal with her crewmates as she tried to find them and eventually get off the island.

I still don’t get the argument about how games with a female protagonist are hard to create. This game kind of disproves that, but that is a topic for another day.  

Lara did however get her ass handed to her. I mean, wow. Stabbed, shot, crushed, etc. It became hard to see at times, but never went TOO far. She was tough and persevered through it all.  There were so many scenes where she took a beating. Hell, one part of the game you were actually wounded while bandits kept coming and coming. I died SO many times.

Each level got harder and harder, but you kept getting better weapons/tools to help you. You could also upgrade weapons and get skills. It was a nice balance to be able to have some kind of system in place to help you through the game.

What did not work. The tombs were not that challenging. It wasn't a huge thing, but hopefully in the next one there is more exploration, and less fighting.

Also, the ending was too easy. I found this to be the case in the Uncharted games as well. It is an interesting thought as these kind of games are so hard to begin with. It makes me wonder if this is intentional. It did not really take away from it, but the last fight was basically hitting a few buttons and it was over.

Overall. Tomb Raider did a great job of rebooting a series that I never really cared for in the first place. Lara is a great character that really shines and the fun action and great story made for a great experience. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My review of Skin Game

So, the latest Dresden Files novel came out Tuesday, and here is what I thought about it.

In a word, amazing.

I was blown away. I know there have been people that have not loved the most recent books, especially since Changes at the entire series got turned upside down with the death of the Red Court and even Harry as well. But Changes was one of my favorite books and I really have enjoyed each book since. People are just picky.

But back to this book. Here is why it was awesome.

Michael Carpenter. He has always been one of my favorite characters in the series. But after he was seriously hurt in Small Favor, he has not been around much at all. So, getting him to take up the sword again and fight Nicodemus? Wow. Yes, it was only going to be temporary as Uriel only gave his grace for a period of time (even though that made the angel pretty much mortal).

Between that the conversation he had with Harry about his arrogance. That was one of the best conversations in a long time in the series. Yes, Harry is awesome, but he can be a bit of an idiot when it comes to how people view him. Harry wondered why no one ever came to the island, and when Michael said that the island is what gave him nightmares, that said a lot about what it must be like for anyone to be there. Molly, Murphy, and Thomas came anyways. Michael is maybe the only person (other than man maybe Murphy) that can talk to him that way. It was a really nice moment.

Murphy. She fought Nicodemus! Yes, he eventually hurt her pretty badly, but it was just damn cool to see her fight him that way. She managed to hold her own for a bit and he is one of the more dangerous characters in the entire series. She has really matured as a character and is more of a partner to him, rather than backup like it used to be. It was also nice to see them finally be on the same page about how much they care for each other. Life is too damn short.

Also loved the conversation between Murphy and Butters as well. A valid point can be made that people become monsters faster because people start seeing them that way. Their dynamic has always been interesting, but especially since Ghost Story. 

Butters. He is a knight of the sword! What? When you think of who he was way back in Dead Beat. Hell, Thomas was worried that since he was such a coward that he would end up getting Harry killed. He has really stepped up (especially in Ghost Story). I like how he really is kind of afraid of Harry. Harry can be a very scary person and everyone wonders if he will turn into something horrible. I dig this.

The Jedi thing was a bit cheesy, but I can live with that. 

The Heist. It was such a different approach to how the stories are usually told. Having to work with Nicodemus and Deidre was really interesting. Throw in the rest of the crew, and you knew there was going to be high drama and more than a few double crosses.

So, I did enjoy that quite a bit. I did NOT see the Goodman Gray thing coming. Doublecross! I did see him being betrayed Ascher, but not that she took up Lasciel’s coin.

I also like how he went back and explained how it happened. These are all so much different from what was before. The conversation with Hades made me laugh a few times as well. Getting past the trials was handled well too. I can see why everyone may not have loved that part, but I did.

Maggie. If that did not touch you, maybe you should stop reading this series. It was very touching to see him interact with his daughter and he needs that to survive what he is going through. Yes, that may put her in danger, but he needs to be reminded of what he is fighting for sometimes. I am really wondering what will happen next here.

Emotion. This book made me cry so damn many times. So much with characters I love, and that is something I LOVE about the series. Things we care for should be out emotion, and this series does this like nothing else ever has (except maybe Harry Potter).

What was missing. Would have liked a bit more of Molly, but with there being so much Michael, I can live with it. I still wonder if he will end up with her at some point as his relationship with Murphy may be epic, but she is human after all. But in the mean time I love Harry and Murphy together. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

My thoughts on Arrow

It is amazing to me that I actually like Arrow.

First of all, I am not a comic book person at all. What comic books I know, most of them are Marvel. So, once you get past Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, my knowledge of the DC universe is somewhat limited.  

Second, I am not a fan of the CW. Most of the nonsense that is on that channel just makes my brain hurt. I understand I am not really the demographic they are going for, but even as much as I love all things geek, I just roll my eyes at some of the crap that is on that channel.

So, from the get go, I did not have many expectations when I started watching this show. Here are my thoughts on the first season.

It started kind of campy. I don’t know what kind of expectations they had at the beginning and it felt like a show that did not have much of a budget.

The writing was very inconsistent, especially in the first 2/3 of the season. I mean, some of the dialogue was about as bad as I have ever seen in a show. There were so many face palm moments in the first half of the show, that at times I considered stopping.

The villains were also kind of weak on a consistent basis. I mean damn, Count Vertigo was horrible. Over acted and he looked like a twilight reject. There others that were bad as well, but CV was one of the worst characters I have ever seen on a show like this. I also struggled with the person that played the Huntress. I think she could have been cool, but each episode she was in was just not that interesting.

The first thing that worked from the beginning was the flashbacks of Oliver’s time on the island. This was an interesting way to tell a story, and they did a really good job of making what happened in the past, relevant to what was going on in the present.  

What made the show start to work for me was the other characters, and what you eventually found out about them. I always liked Oliver’s and Tommy’s relationship. Was not shocked that it became strained as he dated Laurel, and they handled his death very well.

As the show went a long, Diggle and Felicity became more important in supporting Oliver’s taking down people on the list.  Oliver having to learn to depend on other people was something that happened throughout the season. I have always liked Paul Blackthorne (mostly from the Dresden tv show) and him playing a detective (and Laurel’s father) was a nice addition. Gotta love John Barrowman as Merlyn.  

The writing eventually started to get better and they did a great job of hitting the emotional moments toward the end.

Having Oliver choose between having to shoot Shado or Sara was both brutal and amazing.

Season 2. Kind of picked up where the first one ended. The writing throughout the second seasons was SO much better and you could tell they had a bit more money that they previously did. There were still hiccups from time to time (Ugh, the Huntress and yes, more of the Count), but overall there was an improvement in most places on the show.

One thing they did not do as well in season 2 was the flashbacks. They were still there, but there was not as many of them and they were not always as interesting. Overall, still enjoyable, but it was something they did better in season 1.

Deathstroke. Wow, that guy can hold a grudge, right? Oliver was put in an impossible situation in having to choose between two people he cares about. One lives, one die. There is no way to do that. So, Deathstroke’s promise to take away everything Oliver cared about before killing him was done very well.  Especially when he did the same thing to Oliver and made him choose between his mother and sister. That was heartbreaking.

The characters also improved for the most part. Felicity became more prominent and less one sided, as her character was allowed to grow. I do wish Diggle could do more than just back up the Arrow, but he has always been a strong character as well. Sara was also a nice addition to the show as she could kick ass as well, and gave another opportunity to have well choreographed fights from someone that fights differently than the Arrow did. The choreography really improved in the second season.

The ones that were hit and miss were Laurel and Thea. Laurel was dealing with Tommy’s death and she blame just about everyone. She began to drink, take pills, and was an overall mess. I have always liked her character in the show, but it was hard too as she was written very oddly at times. Much better toward the end. Thea is another that I did not always love. Never really cared about her and Roy all that much and her transformation from party girl to owning a club seemed kind of forced. I always liked her scenes with Oliver. So much angst as she finds out that pretty much everyone is keeping things from her. Finding out that her father was Merlyn, should have been more interesting than it was. But as she left with him at the end of show may add something to that.

So, overall I really enjoyed the show as it gained momentum and the writing became much better in the second season. I am really excited about what the future holds for Oliver and his allies. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Why I love the Dresden Files

So, for those of you that may or may not know me, I am a HUGE Jim Butcher Fan. Especially the Dresden Files (although I also love the Codex Alera as well). 

But occasionally, I get asked why I am a fan of them. I was asked this just a few days ago.

Well, it is never an easy thing to explain why you love something so much. About 3/4 of my life, my favorite books were the Lord of the Rings. They shaped me in a way that few other things in my life ever have. I still love them, but as I get older, they are just getting harder to read (I have a thought on this, but that is for another day). I still read them, and still love them. But I was introduced to the Dresden Files by a couple of friends of mine, and I have never looked back. 

So, why?

It starts with Harry. I am a smartass, and I can relate to him. His mouth gets him in trouble, and he has to fight his way out of situations because of this. Still, my love of fantasy comes from characters doing the right thing...regardless of the cost. Now, a lot of us wish they could be that way when the darkness comes...and throw snappy one liners at them! Ha!

But that isn't just it. The books tell a story. Of good people fighting the fight. It isn't just Harry. There is also Murphy, and Butters, and Elaine. Molly, and Michael, and Thomas. I could go on and on naming each character I love. :) You see, I am a character driven reader. Yes, writing style, plot, and setting are important. But I read to connect with characters. I did from the beginning. Now the first couple of books are not great, but things picked up at the third book, Grave Peril.  Then again at book seven, Dead Beat. From that point that series is amazing. Hell, once Harry rode a zombie t-rex into battle, it was pretty much over for me. 

But I sit here reading White Night, and a scene explains why I love this so much. You see, Harry is getting together with Ramirez, and they are about to go take on the White Court. In comes his apprentice Molly, who wants to help, but has repeatedly not listened to Harry. He has never been worried about her power, but her not understanding the consequences. 

Here is the text.

“But… all I said was that I was scared." 

After what you got to experience? That's smart, kid," I said. "I'm scared, too. Every time something like this happens, it scares me. But being strong doesn't get you through. Being smart does. I've beaten people and things who were stronger than I was, because they didn't use their heads, or because I used what I had better than they did. It isn't about muscle, kiddo, magical or otherwise. It's about your attitude. About your mind." 

She nodded slowly and said, "About doing things for the right reasons." 

You don't throw down like this just because you're strong enough to do it," I said. "You do it because you don't have much choice. You do it because it's unacceptable to walk away, and still live with yourself later." 

She stared at me for a second, and then her eyes widened. "Otherwise, you're using power for the sake of using power." 

I nodded. "And power tends to corrupt. It isn't hard to love using it, Molly. You've got to go in with the right attitude or…" 

Or the power starts using you," she said. She'd heard the argument before, but this was the first time she said the words slowly, thoughtfully, as if she'd actually understood them, instead of just parroting them back to me. Then she looked up. "That's why you do it. Why you help people. You're using the power for someone other than yourself.” 

This sums it up for me. That scene makes me tear up every damn time I read it. Her realizing she wanted to help, even if it was in the smallest way because she could not sit at home and do nothing. God, I love that shit! :) Every damn time. 

Yes, there are other reasons why I love the books. But the main reason? They touch me in a way that most novels do not. I love that and live for it.