Dungeon Siege 3 (2011)

Healing is For Sissies!

I’ve knocked out a pretty good amount of game reviews recently, haven’t I?  Well here’s another one!  I remember being vaguely interested in today’s game when the demo for it released.  I had played it and thought it was decent enough, but not quite good enough to inspire me to purchase it for $60 when it came out.  But the beautiful thing about smaller level, decent games is that they will eventually drop in price.  When I noticed that the game had dropped to the $10 range, I decided that was good enough for me.  That game is Dungeon Seige 3, developed by Obsidian Entertainment, published by Square Enix, and including the voices of Crispin Freeman, Amanda Philipson, Anna Vocino, Dave B. Mitchell, Catherine Taber, and Barry Dennen.

You play as one of the four members of the 10th Legion, and you’re trying to bring the Legion back to the land of Ehb after it was all but destroyed by Jeyne Kassynder (Catherine Taber), who killed almost everyone in the Legion and turned the rest of Ehb against them.  Through your actions, you can decide who lives and dies along your journey, as well as trying to repair the damaged reputation of the Legion.

There are a lot of things they did in this game that deserve some praise, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience that much.  The story was one of the things I liked about the game, though.  Sure, it was a fairly typical sword and sorcery story, but it had enough changes in the story to be interesting, and there was some funny stuff in the writing as well.  The basic story of the game is your quest to defeat Jeyne Kassynder and to bring the Legion back into a respected position.  That stuff is only different from the norm in that the main villain is a girl, but that doesn’t necessarily mean bad.  It makes you feel like you have a lot more control over your destiny by giving you a few choices in the dialogue, but mostly things are going to turn out roughly the same.  Whether you save the Queen first, or you go to help the town of Stonebridge first, it turns out the same way.  It doesn’t matter if you take rewards from the people of Raven’s Rill for helping them out, it doesn’t matter if you give Leona Gunderic Manor or not, it’s all pretty much going to end up in the same place.  I know that because I’ve played the game 4 times now, mainly because there’s an achievement for beating the game with all four characters, but it’s only really shown me that the choices you make aren’t really going to change the game significantly.  I kind of wanted to see what changes would come up in the story, but it only really changed what your character said to people (what they responded with was roughly the same), and where you would meet your companions.  But, even with all that, the story was pretty good, the characters seemed to have complex reasons to do the things they did so that even the bad guys had understandable motivations.

The look of the game is really good and very detailed, but I feel like most of that’s lost because of the camera angle.  It pretty much views your character from the top down and, of the two camera angles, the one that works the best is the furthest out.  At that point, most of the details of the surroundings and the characters are kind of lost.  The ground looked great though.  One of the bigger issues I took with the look was the way you held conversations.  The camera is looking over the shoulder of your character and the people you’re talking to are just standing across from you, barely moving and never emoting at all.  It was a super dull and boring way to spend a good chunk of the game, since you spend a lot of time chatting people up.  There’s a point in the game when the Queen finds out she’s related to Jeyne Kassynder, the biggest villain in all of Ehb, and the Queen can’t even be bothered to lift an eyebrow.  I would say that they were very good at capturing the atmosphere in the look, particularly in the very end of the game.  The entire trek to where you were heading definitely felt like the world was ending.

The gameplay of this game was the part that I took the most issue with.  It just wasn’t fun, and I found it more frustrating than anything else.  There are four characters, and each character has two different stances to choose from, but I found that most situations boiled down to just pressing A until everything but you was dead.  That wasn’t the real problem though.  The real problem for me was that conventional healing was ignored for this game.  You didn’t find health packs or have potions, and getting out of the fight for a little while did not cause your health to start going back up.  Instead, you had a power that you could use that would make your health go up at roughly 1 point of health per second, but with as harshly as your health is cut down, I found that fairly insignificant.  So, on anything other than Easy, you will probably die frequently.  Your companion could revive you, but they’re also semi-retarded.  I know that there are some people that like really difficult games, but I’m not one of them.  I just don’t want to put my controller through my TV.  I also don’t want my games to frustrate me.  Challenge me, perhaps, but I’m usually playing games to relax after a day of work and I really don’t want them to annoy me further.  There are bosses that inflict damage on you just from being next to them!  They don’t have to hit you!  If you’re in a circle around them, you take damage.  That’s a shitty decision for a game that has a character that has nothing but melee attacks!  That I also coincidentally picked for my first play through!  This game also does something that I’ve always hated in games, but why do companion characters have the ability to get in your way?  You ever play a game like this when you go into a corner to pick something up and your companion follows you, therein trapping you in the corner?  WHY?!  Why can’t I just walk through them like they’re not there?  Is it to add to the realism, so that you would feel like you were actually in a battle situation with a moron with personal space problems?  They did do something I really appreciated with the companion characters though.  If you just finished a battle and piles of money were laying down that fell from your defeated enemies all you would have to do is stand in place for a little while and your companion would go and pick up the money for you.  YAY!  I can be lazy in a video game as well!

I don’t think I’d call this game “good times” for achievements either.  They’re not difficult to get, but they’re way too time consuming.  You have to beat the game with all four characters to get a few achievements (such as the achievements for beating it with each character and the one for beating it with all of them, as well as the ones for leveling each character to 20) and, at about 10 to 15 hours per playthrough, that just seems like too much.  I actually wrote, “Fuck that,” in my notes about having to do that, since I had no intention of doing it … and then I did.  I don’t know why!  I have Borderlands 2 sitting next to me right now!  What am I doing?!  Alright, wrap it up…

Final verdict: Dungeon Siege 3 is pretty good, and I can’t really say I regret paying $10 for the thing, but I also can’t treat it like anything more than what it is.  It’s okay, it’s kind of fun but way more frustrating and irritating than I generally go for, it looks good when it’s not staring at the ground, and the story is pretty solid but not ground-breaking.  If you like Diablo-like gameplay, you might dig this game enough to be worth the low price you can find it for.  If you don’t, then you’ll be just fine skipping the game.  Dungeon Siege 3 gets “Play the game four times?  Go fuck yourself!” out of “…Okay, I will…”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Apartment 143 [Emergo] (2012)

Someone Tell That Ghost That This Apartment is Not Haunted.

When I watched Silent House, it was because I’ve had a hankering recently to watch a horror movie with ghosts.  Silent House was obviously the wrong choice because it did not involve ghosts or a haunting and also wasn’t very good, but when I went into work shortly after I realized what I was craving, I saw a movie on a shelf that piqued my interest.  It seemed to definitely involve ghosts, so that was a good thing, but it could also very easily suck, being a movie that I had never heard of.  But I am no stranger to watching horrible movies, so I decided to see what this movie had to offer.  And that is what led me up to my review of Apartment 143 [Emergo], written by Rodrigo Cortés, directed by Carles Torrens, and starring Kai Lennox, Gia Mantegna, Michael O’Keefe, Fiona Glascott, and Rick Gonzalez.

A team of parapsychologists – Dr. Helzer (Michael O’Keefe), Ellen Keegan (Fiona Glascott), and equipment tech Paul Ortega (Rick Gonzalez) – enter the house of the White family – father Alan White (Kai Lennox), daughter Caitlin White (Gia Mantegna), and son Benny (Damian Roman) – to investigate a haunting that they believe may be the mother/wife of the White family that died recently in a car crash.  And that about covers it…

Well, this was certainly the type of movie I was looking to watch.  It was a haunting situation, and even got to be a little found footage.  Basically, I just want to watch Paranormal Activity 4, but it’s not out yet.  This was intended to hold me over, I guess.  How did it do?  Meh.  It was okay.  You can see that I didn’t really have very much to say about the story of the movie because there really wasn’t that much to it.  It’s the same story that every such movie has: people find out about a ghost, then shit starts to go down.  And then it stops.  I guess that’s probably an oversimplification of the story, but it’s a fairly common feeling movie.  It takes a little time to try to add some extra parapsychology babble into the script, acting like there’s no such thing as ghosts even though this house seems to have the shit haunted out of it, and saying that the bitchy, broody teen girl is the cause of it.  Look here movie: if every bitchy, moody teen caused poltergeist-like manifestations around the house, everyone in the world would think ghosts existed.  And I would’ve fuckin’ loved to be able to tear my house up with my mind because of my teenage angst!  But it didn’t happen.  And that causes me more angst.  And yet my house is just as dirty as it always is, and barely anything is levitating.  There’s even a part in the middle of the movie where a ghost full-on manifests, but a little bit later the parapsychologist is still saying it’s not a ghost.  Why are you even wasting your time being pretty much a ghost hunter when you don’t even believe what you’re hunting exists?  I got to thinking about something in this movie though.  I understand why a ghost would do something insignificant early on in the movie, such as moving a bench for no reason, but why would the ghost do it in the reality of the movie?  From a movie standpoint, if you didn’t do those things early on, the movie wouldn’t really amp up, and the audience would probably be bored with nothing happening until you were ready to tell your story.  But in the movie world, why is this ghost moving a bench 3 feet away from where it was when no one’s in the room to see it?  Just trying to be annoying or something?  Hoping someone will trip over it Dick van Dyke-style?  The biggest problem I had with the story was that there was no surprise to it whatsoever.  I would call this a spoiler alert, but I thought it was a complete given because of the DVD cover for the movie, but the cover image is a picture of the girl in the movie crawling up a wall, clearly possessed.  When it happens in the movie, they seem to reveal it as if I should’ve been surprised by it.

The look of the movie was fine.  It really went for the Paranormal Activity style, being occasionally filmed by hand and occasionally filmed by stationary cameras they had set up.  I wasn’t quite sure why the quality of the camera seemed to change all the time, though.  Sometimes it seemed like it was high definition, sometimes it was grainy, sometimes it was about midway with white dots on the camera that were never explained.  It was nothing special though.  And they didn’t really do anything I haven’t seen before in the effects either.  I liked the little strobe light camera they used, that flashed every other second or so as it rotated around the room taking pictures.  Obviously, you know what’s going to happen, but it still got a little jump out of me.  Even though I liked that thing, it still fits into the “Seen it before” category.

I was okay with the performances in the movie for the most part.  Kai Lennox did a pretty good job as the dad.  He really seemed to be barely holding back emotions for the bulk of the movie until the part where he had to release it.  Both were well executed.  Rick Gonzalez kind of got on my nerves, but that makes sense because he seemed to be the attempt at the comic relief in the movie, and I tend to hate that.  Everyone else didn’t make much of an impression except for Gia Mantegna.  First of all, she was a lousy bitch in the movie.  I wanted to smack her in the mouth for the entire movie!  And I don’t think that’s a great choice for that character, since they seem to also want me to feel sorry for her, but I just wanted the ghost to make her jump out a window and be done with the whole thing.  On the other hand, she was also kinda hot, which I feel safe saying because I looked her up and she’s 22.  Also, she’s much hotter outside of this movie.  But I digress…

Apartment 143 [Emergo] turned out to be slightly disappointing, but not as much so because I went in with zero expectations.  And it met them!  The story was what happens when you saw Paranormal Activity about 5 years ago and forgot about it, but then thought it was an original idea when you remembered it later.  The look is fine, but without anything to talk about.  And the performances were mostly good.  The movie is fine if you have a craving for ghost movies as I had, but mostly unnecessary if you don’t.  Even if you do, there are better ones to watch.  I’d say you can safely skip this movie.  Apartment 143 [Emergo] gets “Paranormal Activity, plus 20 morose and irritating points” out of “Watch out for that bench!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

SSX (2012)

Oh Wait … It’s Just Riding a Piece of Wood Down a Hill …

I had a game sitting in my house from Gamefly for a really long time that I just never had the inspiration to actually play.  I had been a big fan of the genre as some simple, stupid fun back at the game series’ debut, but I had fallen out of love with it over the years.  I’m not sure what made me think I would like it as much as I once had, but I had put the game on my Gamefly queue and, after it sat around for a long time, I finally decided to try the new installment of SSX, developed by EA Canada, and published by EA Sports.

You play as Zoe Payne.  She snowboards.  Also there’s a former SSX member named Griff.  He snowboards too.  You have to do it better than him in various courses.

It may seem that I don’t have very much to say about this game.  Well I guess that’s true.  I figured I wouldn’t play the game very much because it would basically just be riding a plank of wood down a hill, but I also didn’t figure that I would play the game for an hour tops and then realize that I was completely bored and needed to stop playing it entirely.  There’s literally nothing to say about the story of this game, so let’s move on.

The game looks good.  Moving on again!

The gameplay really had nothing to offer me.  I really don’t have much recollection of how the game handled in its earlier incarnations so I can’t say if it got better or worse or stayed the same, but either way I lost interest pretty quickly.  It’s pretty simple stuff.  You go down a hill, you jump, you pull the right stick in different directions to grab the board and use the left stick to turn and flip.  They do a pretty good job with the controls, making it so you grab the board with your first movement and do tweaks by rotating the stick from there, but you can see everything you need to in about 5 minutes.  You can also grind on trees and poles in the game, but only if you can manage to actually aim yourself properly enough to get onto one of them.  They also have wingsuits that you can use to hover between surfaces, but I was done with the game long before I figured out how to do that.  I probably made it through about six or seven levels and then I was just spent.  I had no more willpower to make it through the game.  I wouldn’t even say that the game was bad, but the fun of the game could not hold my interest for very long at a time.  The levels didn’t feel like they changed much at all, and even the game types weren’t very different from each other.  You can race, you can go for high score in tricks, or you can put on armor and try to avoid trees.  Either way you slice it, you’re basically just riding a piece of wood down a hill.

It kind of seems to me as if I was taking the easy way out of my review for SSX by not saying much about it, but there really didn’t feel like there was much to say.  There was practically no story, the game looked good, and the gameplay was fine for about a half hour, and then you just realize that it’s the same thing over and over again.  I can’t even really talk about the achievements in the game because I don’t think I even bothered to get one of them.  I could perhaps recommend this game to people that love over the top snowboarding, or if they can find it for around $10, but not really worth a sizeable investment for most people.  SSX gets “It’s Tricky!” out of “I’m bored!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Silent House (2012)

It’s Been a Long Time.

I’m back again!  As some of you know, I was forced to take a brief hiatus from writing reviews because my computer was protesting economic inequality by constantly trying to overheat.  After the Occupy My Desk movement was ended with a new cooling unit, I am finally able to return to entertaining you.  I was drawn to today’s movie by a strange desire that bubbled up from inside me to see a movie about a haunting.  It was an itch that needed to be scratched.  When I saw today’s movie in RedBox, I decided to grab it.  I knew it was a horror movie, but was not really that positive if the movie was about a haunting or a serial killer situation.  We’ll find out together as I review Silent House, based on the Uruguayan movie La Casa Muda which was written by Gustavo Hernández, this movie was written by Laura Lau, who co-directed with Chris Kentis, and stars Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, and Haley Murphy.

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is helping her father (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) fix up a dilapidated old house in the countryside.  Her uncle, Peter, gets into an argument with her father, John, which causes him to take a break and head into town for a while.  Shortly after that, a girl named Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) visits the house, claiming to be a childhood friend of Sarah’s, but Sarah has no recollection of her.  Sarah starts to hear noises as she’s cleaning out one of the rooms and sees that someone has entered the house.  While hiding from the man, she finds that her father has been hit over the head with a lamp and is unconscious.  Sarah must try to find a way out of the house as the mystery of the unknown trespasser is revealed.

There were a lot of things to find interesting in this movie, but overall it didn’t really resonate with me in any particular way.  Part of me not enjoying this movie that much was my own fault for wanting a certain type of movie but not bothering to actually find out what the movie was actually about.  You can say that there was a haunting of sorts in this movie, but that’s not really what it was about.  It plays itself more like a serial killer horror movie until the big reveal at the end, but we’ll get that that part later.  I would say that the story of this movie is actually a pretty interesting idea, and is not really to blame for me not liking it that much.  It’s not your typical horror movie and actually is more of a psychological horror movie.  There aren’t really even that many deaths in the movie, so it certainly wouldn’t be considered a slasher movie.  I’m pretty sure only one person actually dies.  Most of what I found interesting requires a ::SPOILER ALERT:: It turns out in the movie that Sarah is actually manifesting the people in the house in order to subconsciously get revenge on her father and uncle for sexually abusing her when she was a child, but she’s repressed those memories so deeply that they manifest without her knowing it.  This is something I’d never really seen in a movie before, and I always like to give a little bit of props for innovation.  Of course, this movie is based on another movie that seems to be pretty much the same movie in another language, and even that movie is said to be based on a true story, so I don’t know how many points to give it for innovation.  ::END SPOILERS::  There were a couple of nit-picks to be pointed out in the story.  The first would be that it takes its sweet damned time getting started.  It felt like the first half of the movie was Sarah and her dad doing spring cleaning on an old house, with Sarah occasionally getting distracted by noises.  Later, Sarah gets into a situation where the lights go out and she decides that the flash on a Polaroid camera is an acceptable light source.  This flashing light thing is something I’ve seen in a couple of movies recently (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Apollo 18, I believe) and you always know how it’s going to turn out.  She’ll flash a few times, and then something will pop out and scare us on the last one.  But the flash thing doesn’t really make sense.  You’d probably be better off letting your eyes adjust to the dark rather than constantly resetting your adjusting eyes by flashing the room.

The thing that really got on my nerves was simultaneously one of the biggest reasons to talk about this movie and one of the things that got in its way the most: that it appeared to be filmed as one continuous shot.  It wasn’t, but it was filmed on a DSLR in roughly 12 minute takes and edited together to appear as if it was one continuous shot.  I hadn’t ever seen anything like that before, and I thought it was a cool idea.  I also respected it for how difficult that it probably was.  But then I started getting irritated by it.  I fucking get it!  You can drop it now!  They apparently did it both because it was what they did in the original movie and because it was supposed to make the movie more involving, as if you would feel like you were really in the scene.  I think it failed to pull off that last part.  Some people hate on found footage movies, but I feel like that’s a more involving method of filming.  You can at least understand why that person is there and what they’re doing, whether you decide to put yourself in their shoes or not.  But in this movie (were I to get to thinking I was in the shoes of the cameraman), it just felt as if I was in the room with Sarah while this stuff was going down, but I was getting annoyed that no one was paying attention to me.  Why is no one listening to me?!  I’ve literally been standing here walking around with you this entire time!  So dedicated were they to their filming style that it actually got in their own way on more than one occasion.  I understood some things being obscured because they didn’t want you to be able to see the bad guy and accidentally reveal anything, but they missed some impactful moments because they were so chained to their interesting filming techniques.  And there was one occasion where Sarah went outside because she thought she heard a noise and the camera decided to watch her through the tiny space between the door and the frame, where the hinges are, essentially taking all 46 inches of my TV and allowing me to only see a one inch bar on my screen.  Don’t be shy, cameraman.  You can go around and look through the open door to see her.  Or is that what you did last time and she got so mad that she and everyone else decided to ignore you for the rest of the movie?

There were multiple actors in this movie, but really only one performance.  Elizabeth Olsen was pretty much on camera the entire movie, doing all the heavy lifting, and everyone else just popped in for a little bit and let her get back to running around the house.  But she did do a really good job.  At first, I was so bored with the movie that I just kept trying to figure out who she looked like.  Sometimes she looked like an older version of Chloe Moretz.  Other times she looked like a younger version of Calista Flockhart.  And other times she just looked a lot like her sisters (Mary Kate and Ashley) without the eating disorder.  The movie didn’t get that much more interesting when she started running around the house and hiding under tables, but I did start to realize that the cameraman everyone was giving the silent treatment to was really mostly interested in pointing the camera down her shirt.  I wasn’t mad at him for it.  But when Sarah starts getting scared, Olsen really starts to show off her acting chops.  She did a really good job.  Sure, lots of actresses have had to run around and hide in horror movies, but she was particularly good at it.  The terror she displayed was very believable, and I especially liked the little silent scream she did when she was hiding under the table with the intruder in the same room looking for her.  She did a few things that got on my nerves though, but they were more writing issues than her fault.  When she was looking around the house with Peter (who had a gun), I don’t know why she allowed herself to get separated from him.  Don’t you want to be with the guy that’s armed if shit goes down?  And you know the second he goes off camera he’s going to get knocked out and the gun will get taken away.  Also, how are you going to just sit under a table and watch as some crazy guy drags an innocent little girl off to suffer God knows what atrocities?

Overall, I thought Silent House was a cool idea that was poorly executed.  Granted, this movie was a remake, but I thought the general idea of the movie was a really good one, but it would’ve worked much better if they made it like a normal movie.  Their gimmick of making the movie look like it was a continuous shot was interesting at first, then it just seemed to get in the way, and then it just got irritating.  And, sadly, I felt they got in the way so much that even the interesting idea of the story and the fantastic performance from Elizabeth Olsen couldn’t really redeem this movie.  I would say you’re better off just reading the story of the movie on Wikipedia and believing me when I tell you that Olsen did a great job.  That’s about all you really need out of the movie anyway.  Silent House gets “Who are you?  What do you want?” out of “God, I should have never added you…”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (2012)

The Epic, Legendary Weapon of Plus 10 Mediocrity

I was really interested in playing today’s game for the span of 20 minutes, and then I constantly forgot about its existence.  It looked interesting, and every time I was reminded of the game I felt like I wanted to play it, and then it went right back into forgotten status.  Either the game didn’t excite me that much or I now have Alzheimer’s.  Eventually, the length of time that I would forget about the game got longer and longer until it was eventually nowhere to be found in my brain.  Then a sale that made the game $10 reminded me of it, so I picked it up.  I cannot imagine any game that is so bad I would not like it for only $10!  Except maybe Duke Nukem Forever.  I bought that too, but that review will have to wait for me to confirm my suspicions.  For now, let’s see how it went with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, written by R.A. Salvatore, with art direction by Todd McFarlane, developed by 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, published by Electronic Arts, and with the voices of John Cygan, Abby Craden, Jim Cummings, Siobhan Flynn, Adrienne Barbeau, Kirsten Potter, and Eliza Schneider.

As in most RPG games like this, you play as “Someone.”  But he’s dead.  Game over.  OR IS IT?!?!?  No, of course it’s not.  Why would you even ask a stupid question like that?  With the help of the experimental Well of Souls, and the gnome experimenting on it, you are brought back to life sans any memories you had.  No time to worry about that now though; the evil Tuatha Deohn are attacking!  So you pull a rusty sword out of some dead guy and get to work fighting your way out of the tunnels before they collapse on the Well.  Then you meet a Fateweaver named Agarth (John Cygan) who tells you that your revival has left you without a fate, and thus able to write your own.  Now people can start calling you the Fateless One!  Hooray!  You also meet a sexy elf lady named Alyn Shir (Abby Craden) who seems to know you, but is pretty tight-lipped about it.  Also, the Tuatha are being led by Gadflow (Jim Cummings), who wants to kill everyone for the favor of his god Tirnoch (Siobhan Flynn).

This game was not without its problems, but overall it worked for me very well.  I would say one thing that did not really work for me was the story, but it’s not really Salvatore’s fault.  This guy got talked up so much for how good he was at writing fantasy stuff before I played this game that I thought the story would blow me away.  It did not.  I won’t be reading any book he wrote (or any book anyone wrote, for that matter) but I expected a lot more for how much talk I heard before playing the game.  Instead, it just seemed like any other sword and sorcery game plot, slightly modified, and with all the names changed.  By the way, can we agree upon a set of fantasy types and just stick with it?  How about “demons” instead of “Tuatha”, or “elf” instead of “Dokkalfar” and “Ljosalfar”, or “dudes” instead of “Almain?”  It’ll save us a lot of confusion in the future.  I suppose it was a new enough idea for me that the main character died before the game which split him from fate when he was revived, but it wasn’t mind-blowing.  Also, for a game about a guy who has broken from fate and now can choose his own destiny, the game is pretty linear.  None of my choices ever really felt like they had much impact.  Of course, there’s also a chance that I missed big chunks of the story because I spent most of the game skipping dialogue and not even bothering to read it.  Yeah, that means you can take what I say about the story with a grain of salt, but every character in this game had about three pages of dialogue and you’d want to have gone through all of it in case it opened up a new quest, but this game would’ve taken me all year if I really invested myself into talking to everyone.  I also took issue with the big reveal of the protagonist’s backstory, but not with the story itself.  I can’t really take issue with that story because I don’t know what it was.  That’s due to the fact that Alyn Shir tells it to you with no subtitles as you’re walking around fighting Tuatha, so I could barely make out anything she was saying.  And this story, by the way, was something they had been building up to for the entire fucking game!  I had to go to the game’s Wikia page to find out what they had been saying.  There was also a big storyline about helping a General find a special, powerful, mystical spear that she later throws at a boss and it’s never spoken of again.  Couldn’t I have maybe gone down there and picked it up after I beat the boss?  And speaking of legendary weapons, it really got on my nerves that at least twice during the game I would complete a mission and be awarded with the greatest weapon, forged by Jesus in the fires of Mount Doom, quenched in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, and kissed by Jessica Alba to imbue it with magical sexiness … only to find out that the weapon was far inferior to the regular weapon I found on a random dead body while roaming the wilderness.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the look of the game.  It looks really good, and I have no complaints … Just kidding.  I always have some complaints.  Thought the game does, in fact, look good, enjoying that is hindered by the fact that the camera is usually pointing down, not allowing you a good look at the lush landscapes and fantastic skylines.  There were also a couple of goofy moments that you could find when talking with other characters.  They would either make strange gestures that were out of place from what they were talking about, or your character would be burying his chin in his chest while trying to talk to a dwarf.

The gameplay here was solid overall.  I remember hearing it being talked up by one of the people that worked on it about how it was so much more action-oriented than a typical RPG game would be.  It is more action-oriented than a typical RPG, but it’s not nearly as revolutionary as they made it out to be.  It handles a lot like Fable, and even more like a hack-and-slash game.  X is one weapon, Y is the other.  Just keep hitting the one of those you feel like using until the enemy falls down.  As you level, you can add a little more finesse to what you’re doing – like holding the button to charge, or attacking right after blocking – but I never really needed a lot more than that.  There is an achievement for killing enemies with your abilities, and I was very happy to get that achievement because it meant I no longer had to force myself to use the abilities since spamming X worked so much better.  You can take a stealth approach, but most cases I found that to be a waste of time because of other choices they made.  To make things more interesting, they set up some rooms to have ambushes when you entered.  But if you were trying to focus on stealth and you enter a room where the enemies instantly know where you are no matter what you do, it kind of proves that you should’ve just stuck to swords instead.  Ranged weapons come in handy from time to time, but you’ll probably devolve eventually into beating the shit out of your X button.

I’d like to take this moment to talk to games like this.  Game, when you have a set process of randomly deciding whether or not a corpse you just made will have items on them or not, can we not get that decision making process moving a little quicker?  Not much is more annoying than starting to head on your way down the tunnel only to look back and see that one of the corpses you left is now glowing and may potentially have a good item on them, forcing you to walk all the way back.  Random armor drops also got on my nerves in this game because of their armor sets.  They have some armor in the game that, when combined with the other pieces of the set, will give you added powers.  The problem is how rare it is to actually come across an entire set of the armor and still have them be useful just because the armor drops are randomized.  I think I completed two sets of armor in my playthrough, and one of them was given to me outright.  I also hated that the game made you babysit characters on a couple of missions.  If a non-playable character can cause me to fail a mission by dying because they suck and cannot hold their own against the one enemy that slipped past my attention while I was fighting the other 6, then for Christ’s sake give me the ability to tell them to stay somewhere.  It happened to me once in the game, and even reloading my game and trying again, I was not able to keep this bitch alive.  Just let me tell her to hold her ground at the entrance of the level so I can do my thing.  The level cap of the game was a bit of a disappointment to me too.  The level cap being 40 seems fairly low, especially since I got there with about another quarter of the game left, which didn’t really inspire me to go exploring much after that.  It’s also just a strange number to pick as a level cap.  Doesn’t 50 make more sense?  I think I’d now like to make a game with 27 as the level cap.  That would really fuck with people.  By far, the biggest disappointment of this game was the ending, but I can do this without spoilers so don’t worry.  That last boss was the easiest fight ever.  It was so easy that I was worried about the REAL boss battle that would probably be coming afterwards, but it turned out that was it.  I had a harder time being outnumbered by 6 midgets earlier in the game.

The achievements in this game are actually a lot better than I would’ve expected.  I assumed that an RPG would require me to do things that I would find so annoying that I wouldn’t even bother.  But you can probably get 1,000 Gamerscore in one playthrough if you know what to focus on.  I did it in 2 playthroughs, but only because my first playthrough I am just playing and not worrying about achievements, so I never really killed anything with abilities and I didn’t really care about harvesting reagents to use in the alchemy I didn’t care about.  And the hard difficulty isn’t really that bad anyway.

I had read that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning could be described as a “dumbed down Skyrim” or “a slightly deeper Fable.”  Well I just wrote some 1,900 words that can best be summed up with those 6.  But it was a fun ride, wasn’t it?  There’s a whole lot of missions and a whole lot of people to talk to, but I eventually got bored with that and then it devolved into hitting the X button a lot.  It’s good, but not really noteworthy.  Worth a play, but also skippable.  If you can find it for $10 – as I did – you can get a lot of time killed with this game, and it’s pretty enjoyable overall.  But if you never get around to it, life goes on.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gets “Baby’s first Skyrim” out of “And beat the shit out of that X button!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Harold and Maude (1971)

It’s Best Not to be Too Moral.

My roommate, Richurd, recently returned from his vacation, and that could only mean one thing: I’m going to start reviewing movies much older than me again!  He decided to ease me into the process by picking a movie from as early as 1971 (the most recent movie Richurd has ever liked).  Previously, the only thing I knew about today’s movie was its title, and I assumed from that title that it was probably a love story.  But when I saw the cover, I knew that my assumption had to be incorrect.  That looks like an 18-year-old and an 80-year-old.  So what’s this thing about then?  Find out today in my review of Harold and Maude, written by Colin Higgins, directed by Hal Ashby, and starring Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles, Charles Tyner, Eric Christmas, G. Wood, Cyril Cusack, Judy Engles, Shari Summers, Ellen Geer, and Tom Skerritt.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a troubled young man.  He occupies himself by being really depressing and faking elaborate suicides to get the attention of his mother (Vivian Pickles), who has gotten used to it and ignores them for the most part.  After one particularly disturbing and blood-soaked fakery, she takes him to a psychiatrist (G. Wood), and also sets about setting him up on blind dates so that he can marry and fuck off.  In the meantime, as Harold is attending a random persons funeral (as one does), he meets a 79-year-old woman who exemplifies the life to the death and sadness that is Harold; a woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon).  And thus the gross love begins.

There were parts of this movie I found interesting, but I can’t say that I liked it overall.  It was a little too weird for my taste, and a little too short on the comedy.  I think the weirdness is pretty evident; this is really a movie about an 80-year-old woman eventually banging a 20-year-old dude.  Icky!  That is not cool, movie!  But that happens near the end of the movie, so it wasn’t what hindered my enjoyment of the rest of the movie.  That was probably its failed attempt at comedy.  It had a moment or two – such as the army guy and his no-arm salute – but these moments were few and far between.  It was mostly just morbid, dark comedy, and that’s never really worked for me.  And love stories have only rarely worked for me, and never worked with age differences over 20 years.  I don’t usually catch hidden meanings in movies, but this one felt pretty obvious.  Or maybe my genius is amplifying.  Who knows?  Either way, I caught onto the fact that Harold was supposed to represent death because he was mopey all the time and obsessed with death, and Maude was life, and always trying to live it to its fullest.  But this was pretty obvious and then I just got bored.  Granted, my … interest? … renewed when Harold banged Maude, but it was not a happy interest.  Also worth pointing out is the music.  The soundtrack is definitely good, but also SUPER 70’s.

I had no issues with the performances in this movie.  They all performed well enough, even if what they were performing was sometimes boring and at least one time icky.  Bud Cort was a sad, morbid little kid, but that’s what he was going for.  Also, he banged that old lady in the movie, and I couldn’t do that, so big props to him for that.  And terrible punishments as well.  Don’t do that, man.  Speaking of which, Ruth Gordon was also good as Maude.  I only really had a few thoughts about the three prospective wives for Harold, played by Judy Engles, Shari Summers, and Ellen Geer.  I was disappointed by them because the only one that wanted to play along with Harold’s suicide gimmick (Geer) was not the hottest one.  Why couldn’t it have been Shari Summers?  He might have thought twice about charity banging that geriatric if she had played along!

I can’t say that I was won over by Harold and Maude, but I didn’t hate it.  I only hated that he sexed up that old lady.  That was just gross.  But the story was fairly compelling in its kookiness, although the attempts at comedy mostly fell short and it got boring pretty quickly.  I would say, though the movie is interesting and watchable, you can probably skip it.  It’s past the time when normal people would still find it all that innovative and funny in my opinion.  Harold and Maude gets “I would not say ‘benefit’” out of “Eeeeewwwwwwwwwww!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

How Many of Us Are There?

Today’s movie had arrived in theaters without me even knowing it, which is really strange because it’s the fourth movie in a series that I’ve loved so far.  I’m not entirely sure why I wasn’t paying attention.  It could have been because they changed the main actor, but I doubt it because I like the new actor just as much as I like the old one.  It could have also been because the movie didn’t look that good, but it’s probably not that because nothing that I had seen made me doubt it could live up to the other movies.  It also could have been that the movie looked like they were just trying to grab some more cash from the movie series.  I don’t really have a counter point to that one.  But, when I realized that the movie had been released, I set my sights on checking it out as soon as I could.  And that brings us up to speed and I can review the Bourne Legacy, based on a novel by Eric Van Lustbader, based on characters created by Robert Ludlum, written by Dan Gilroy, co-written and directed by Tony Gilroy, and starring Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn, Zeljko Ivanek, and Louis Ozawa Changchien.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is traversing an obstacle course through Alaska as a test of the effectiveness of Operation Outcome, a secret government operation to use chemicals to help the human body reach its physical and mental peak.  He eventually reaches a cabin to meet his contact, another Operation Outcome agent called Number Three (Oscar Isaac).  The fact that Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone were exposed by Jason Bourne in the previous movie leads to CIA operative Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to wise up for a few minutes and realize that these tests are not working out for the government, so he decides to scrap this version of the project and kill Aaron and everyone in the facility that provides the chemicals for them, including Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), but she survives.  Aaron does as well, so he’s going to have to go and punch some faces to teach the government a lesson.  But the government will probably strike back with their other projects that they are completely confident will never turn against them like the other two.

This movie disappointed me with how thoroughly okay they were.  It wasn’t a bad movie, but the other three movies set a high bar for this movie and it never managed to reach that level.  I found myself starting to get annoyed that our government is apparently smart enough to develop these programs to make these super soldiers, but not smart enough to realize that it’s not working in their favor.  This is the fourth movie that should teach them that this is going to blow up in their face, but they’re all going to get the idea in their head that the others failed, but this time will be different.  I like to believe that the government would move on if the Manhattan Project blew up in their faces four times, killing everyone involved and making them look bad publically each time, but maybe that’s just me.  It felt in the early parts of the movie as if I should have gotten a discount because they seemed to delight in using scenes from the previous movies.  I understand tying the movies together, but at a certain point I just start thinking I would’ve been better off staying at home and watching the DVD’s that I already own.  But they slowed down with that soon enough in the movie that I wasn’t that annoyed.  I was a little annoyed by the ending, but mainly just because it was kind of quick and pretty lackluster, like they just ran out of steam and just slapped “The End” on it.

One of my favorite parts of the previous Bourne movies is the fact that their solid story was backed up by some badass action.  They decided that this movie needed to be too much subpar story and we could leave the action by the wayside for the bulk of the movie.  The first decent fight of the movie was an hour and a half in!  The bulk of the first part of the movie is people talking and reaching the conclusion that they should wipe out the project mixed in with scenes of Aaron Cross walking through snow.  You know what I don’t come to my Bourne movies to watch?  20 minutes of a psychologist session with Rachel Weisz talking about how she feels about Zeljko Ivanek shooting her coworkers.  Just after that is when they realize that the Bourne movies are supposed to be action flicks.  It was a good bit of fighting though and I was dying for it to happen by this point, even though it left me thoroughly confused about how a guy died from getting a table kicked into his head.  Unconscious, sure.  But dead?  That should take something more like a drill bit being fired out of a fire extinguisher.  There are one or two more good fights in the movie, but the action was spread out way too far for my taste and left me disappointed in the movie overall.  There was a spectacular motorcycle crash near the end of the movie that came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me, but it also annoyed me because I felt like it robbed us from a good fist fight that needed to happen.  The part where Aaron grinds the motorcycle down the handrail that you can see in the trailers was pretty sweet though.

I even took issues with the performances, even though they got a lot of great people that I really like to be in the movie.  I guess it’d be more accurate to say that I took issue with the characters because the performances themselves were solid.  Jeremy Renner is a great actor, and when I saw that he was taking the reins from Matt Damon I decided it was an acceptable substitution, but I didn’t really like this character or how it was portrayed.  Jason Bourne was a cool and collected badass; Aaron Cross is a pill addict who talks too much.  But Renner did a good job with the action, and he also played his less interesting character well.  Rachel Weisz did have to bust out the acting chops a little more often, like in the scene where we’re watching her debriefing with the psychologist, but I was too busy being angry that I was having to watch that scene to pay attention to how well she pulled it off.  She mainly had to be scared and run around as her performance, and she did it well.  I was a little confused about why her character lived in a haunted house, but it apparently wasn’t important.  And the ghosts never showed up.  Also the house was just old and looked haunted.  Edward Norton was in the movie, but surprised me by never really doing anything to make me pay attention to him.  That’s not usually his MO.

If the Bourne Legacy had a different title, I probably would have liked it more.  I would have definitely thought that it was a Bourne rip off, but it wouldn’t have had to live up to its predecessors and fall short.  The story was fairly typical for the Bourne series, full of stuff that shows us how untrustworthy and stupid our government is, but the action could not elevate this movie as it was able to in the previous movies because there just wasn’t enough of it.  The movie winds up being okay, but probably not good enough to inspire seeing it in theaters.  Good enough for a rental when it comes out though.  The Bourne Legacy gets “I wanna stop thinking” out of “I’ll get my bag.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter.  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.