Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

Passion of the player

I have been in a state where I decided to have a second go at some of the games I have had for some time and to get a few of the achievements added to my profile. Because of the Microsoft issues outstanding, my Xbox One is switched off, even if it has one of the most treasured games in my history of gaming. There is something wrong in the Xbox Universe and the press is happy to ignore it, because they want the Microsoft Surface Pro advertisement revenue (or at least that is what I personally think it is). Yet, not to fret, the game I love is coming to PS4, so soon (I hope), I can rejoice and feel alive again. Last week I started to replay Arkham Knight on my PS4. I had not played it for some time and there were several achievements I never got. I got them now (not all yet) and I still think that Arkham Knight is one of the best, near perfect games made for the longest of times. There is only one mission (the ACP mission), where the maker of that mission should consider lobotimisation. Yet that is the only mission that is just too dumb for words. The game gives us a batman world that the batman lover will embrace. The game is just too awesome in too many ways. In addition, I had installed the DLC’s yet I had forgotten to check them, so as I restarted the game, I had 4 additional Arkham episodes to play. What a feeling of bliss that brought. The game has all kinds of issues to some, yet in all of this, I loved pretty much every moment of this game (except the ACP bungle). The feeling a truly good game brings is often overwhelming, which is why I tend to get really testy when some (read: Ubisoft) drop the ball and deprive their games of a legendary status when it was (as I personally see it) within their grasp. I actually stayed away from Wildlands, so that is not a title to consider for bad or for good. Yet I have seen too often how some parts could have made a difference with just a little more effort. Yet, you need to realise that this is what I personally see as ‘a little more effort’, yet after being into reviewing games since 1987, I have a good handle on how certain things could have been better. So when I state that Arkham Knight is near perfect, I am not trying to sway your eyes. Like any game it tends to go a little over the top at times, but the Batman feeling and even the Joker and Scarecrow (masterly voiced by John Noble) gives us a setting that will be hard to overcome. Yet, is that not part of the game, to surpass others? In this I get back to the silent release of Shadow of Mordor, which I initially ignored because it seemed to be some Lord of the Rings title. I have never been happier to have been proven wrong. I saw one small movie on YouTube and I ran to the city in record time. Shadow of Mordor is one of those ‘must have’ games if stealth is what you like. The game is balanced and gives options for the rowdy slasher and the silent throat cutter alike. The entire nemesis system gives the game a flair that is pretty unique and the fact that it is all in Mordor just adds to it all. The game is quite excellent, so as we move towards a bigger sequel called ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of War’ many players will move into the ‘ranger shivers’ stage as they want that feeling of bliss gaming. Where Ryse and Watchdogs fall short, these games deliver. That is the name of the game and Ubisoft has fallen short (read: not flopped) a few times too often. Ryse is also an important title to mention. You see, I did not go for it, mainly because of the ‘button press action sequences’ in the game. I loathe them. The graphics were good, yet there was a repetitive side to the game that was unsettling. The second wind rounds and a few other items that just take the joy away. Yet Ryse is important in another way. This I learned when I decided to watch the YouTube storyline. I was just curious on how bad the game was and that title was soon lost, because Ryse has one of the best storylines I had seen for some time, equal to Arkham Knight, the story lines we see, Ryse has a storyline that is more and captivating, the entire Damocles story is almost an epic Greek story, one that the God of War trilogy would have been proud to have. It is one element in a game that does not satisfy which makes me wonder, could a more visionary maker have taken Ryse and make it a legendary title for the history of the console? I personally believe that the answer is Yes, which is now also an issue, because with the upcoming and less trusted Scorpio and the PS4 pro are going to be reliant on very good titles. You see, the console that wins will be the one that brings the better games. Even as the balance has games like Diablo 3 on both, perhaps Diablo 4 at some point, it is the unique games that make for the push towards a console. I believe that outside titles like Death Stranding will push systems and we cannot wait for the impact of that experience. We seem to latch onto some games like God of War (4) and hope to see the same feeling that the first three gave us, yet the Scorpio will have tis own game list and some of those fans (like HALO linked games) are just as fanatical towards their passion. In this I have to mention that one of these underrated games, on the Xbox was Styx. Those who got it for free on Live: Gold should get the sequel, like the previous game it offers challenge and is again larger then the prequel. I, for one love stealth games and Styx delivers in a few ways that few do. Still there are more games and more options. It is just where you seek your entertainment. When it was introduced, my first thought was not ‘Awesome!’, it was, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ (that is apart from me not owning the IP that is), I am referring to Pokken Tournament. Think of a Tekken game and now replace them with Pokémon’s! Can you imagine, the population that is all Pokémon Go! and now gets to battle brawl, crush and batter your opponent using Pokémon’s?  It gets even better if you consider what could be achieved with a setting like that. Apart from the previous Pokémon Colosseum (GameCube), the idea to have an RPG where you have to actually fight in the game. Not just tactical, but in a more arcade setting? The fact that your grass type Pokémon has additional benefits on a grassy knoll is just awesome. That game could keep you busy for months on any next generation console. All this in ways we have never played or even considered playing Pokémon before. As we see the arrival of remaked games this year (System Shock and Elite Dangerous PS4), gamers are recognising certain older games that brought more joy than some ‘open world’ games today claim they bring. I still keep my Wii, because I would love to replay Metroid Prime (1 and 2) again some day. When you feel that deep about a game, you know that the game is well above certain levels. Consider those who loved the Ultima series of Richard Garriott, consider playing that game on a Skyrim engine. To explore Sosaria, a true open world with missions to find, but overall the game is to just live and grow the character you created, exploring based on a ‘central mission’ but one that grows and brings more and more travels and challenges over time. It is in that light I initially made a design that I named Elder Scrolls 6: Restoration. the light of artistic creation (in my case a story and storylines) is one we need to embrace. We all have our own way of growing our artistic side. If you consider this to be not true, then look up ‘GTA5 Story DLC’, the demand for this mentioned product is off the scales and that makes perfect sense for those who love GTA5. The need for more and new challenges is within us all and addressing that is what gives some games the extra desire. Diablo 3 and Shadow of Mordor have their own engine giving us new and different opponents. It is that variety of bosses and treasures that makes us go back to the game that offers it. I was playing Diablo 3 (still) a few weeks ago, only to get a legendary item I had never had before, giving that character (my Witchdoctor) a mojo and dagger that makes short work of opponents, even on Torment 4, which is a decent challenge in the best of days and a nightmare on others. I now finished a portal in 4 minutes on that level, a speed I have never even been close to even before. Those are the moments a gamer lives for, Blizzard and Bethesda have figured that out for some time and they have so far not stopped delivering to the gamers need. In that CD Project Red is another player who with Witcher 3 reached the acclaimed ‘legend’ status of game creators, in that, do you think that there is one gamer, who loves that genre of gaming who does not check for ‘Cyberpunk 2077′ on a nearly daily basis? In all this, the reviewer (as I was in the past) I have been careful not to dismiss genre’s I did not like. For example, I do not give a toss about GTA5, it is just not my game, yet I can clearly see the excellence and quality of that game. So even as I am unlikely to give it a 100% score, it doesn’t take a genius to see that it is clearly a 90%+ game. That insight is one I kept with me when I was reviewing games in my days. very few games made it to the 100% bar, in my time less than a dozen games got that score. One game that did get that score was Ultima 7, my favourite System Shock got 95% and System Shock 2 got 92% if I remember correctly. There is however a shift, as games got graphically better, and as PC systems were more and more depending on more expensive cards the way to correctly review a game changed. I accept that and I was no longer reviewing PC games before that happened, I think the last PC review was Thief 3, which required me to upgrade my Diamonds Lab card in 2003 just to play the game. It was an upgrade well worth it, yet the element of graphic cards had already grown in those days. Nowadays the issue is a serious one. when we now see that the main negative point of such a card would be that ’99 percent of gamers can’t afford it’, in this case the GeForce GTX Titan X card, we need to reconsider certain system for games. now, I am going for the very top, so there are definitely alternatives. It is the aftermath that now becomes more and more important. The idea that I have to give a lifeline of a mere 2 years to a card that would at present cost me an arm and a leg is an issue younger gamers need to realise early in the game. the idea that a gamer needs to reserve around $800 a year to keep his graphics card up to date is a little much. Oh and this is the top of the range, there are good cards that require $500 a year, so there is manoeuvring space. Yet, when you are passionate about a certain game. The idea that you cannot play it at 100% of possible, how does that go over? It is for that reason that I stopped chasing PC hardware. I believe that the console delivers good gaming. I accept that PC’s will always bring better results. Yet in consideration of a $600 console versus a $2500 medium gaming PC, versus a $6000 for an upper range gaming PC, what can you, or what are you willing to dish out? That has always been the issue, and I cannot answer for others, yet when we consider the bad luck PC gamers had with Arkham Knight, my view will remain with the consoles. Although, in fairness the GTA5 edition, is supposed to be worth all 60 $100 bills for a top level gaming PC. It is where your passion lies and who delivers the experience to the fullest.

There are still a few games coming in 2017 and many are counting the days for the release date, yet as we see a shift in consoles, the gamers who have moved to console will have to see how they will address their gaming needs. For me with Microsoft, the issue will remain that relying on a 1TB drive, whilst you have already been shown that this is not sufficient, there will be a blowback, especially as Sony has opted to give gamers the freedom to replace the Drive for a larger edition. Crunching on a mere $60 to give the gamer half the storage is just dumb, no matter how you slice it. It is even more silly when you consider their claim “With 6 Teraflops, 326GB/s of Memory Bandwidth and advanced, custom silicon, the Scorpio Engine is the most powerful console gaming processor ever created“, and now consider that the system would be able to crunch the entire drive in 3 seconds, what are they playing at? Now, in honesty, Sony offers the same drive size, but allows players to place a larger drive. More interesting, I can just move my PS4 drive in a new PS4 pro and start playing almost immediately (OS requires update I reckon), 100% more storage, an option Microsoft does not allow for. Now, again in honesty, Microsoft did offer the Xbox 1s with a 2TB drive and that is well worth it, so why not get 2TB or even 3TB of the bat? the difference between 2TB and 3TB is less than $50 ($80 from 1 to 3 TB), who would not go that distance to resolve storage issues for the better part of the lifetime of that console? I have done that with the two previous consoles and never regretted it, there was never a storage issue. That is comfort we pay for!

We gamers we have always paid for our passion to be one in comfort, I just do not get it when game makers are ignorant of that part, there is years of data and evidence supporting my view. So to all a good day of gaming, and for those chasing achievements on the games they love, may you get that truly rare achievement today, and if you get ‘The Dark Soul’ achievement in Dark Souls 3, then we all bow to you, oh game master!

 

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Greed and the movies

As I contemplated the year 2013, several thoughts came to mind. I have spoken about it in several blogs, however, in most cases it was mostly about the banks when I looked at greed. Is that however a limitation?

From my point of view greed has drenched itself into so many parts of our lives that we must wonder if there is any way to avoid getting tainted by it in some form. The thought that hit me was how we are now seeing greed into the cycles of cinematography. This is the one field where greed was least likely to take hold, or so I thought!

Let me illuminate it with two examples.

The first one is the Hunger Games trilogy. Now, in all honesty I had not read the books, so when the Hunger games trailer hit me, I was seeing it with the air of ‘Yea, whatever!‘ I admit a stance I would regret. When the movie was on TV, I ended up being blown away. This as a movie buff should be regarded as somewhat of a loss. Most movie buffs will agree with me that a good movie has to be seen on the big screen. So, seeing it on TV, without ever seeing it on the big screen felt a little diminished. So, when Catching Fire came out, I had to see it on the big screen. I regarded that act as an error of sizeable proportions. The movie was a disappointment to me!

Do not get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with it, but the stars (like Donald Sutherland) seemed to be playing below their expected stardom quality. None of it was their fault. The script was lacking in my view. The movie was not bad, but it was all about ‘the set-up’.

What set-up? You might ask.

Well, as I see it, Catching fire is the introduction towards Mockingjay. After Hunger Games, Catching fire is cleaning the palette and in that final movie it will truly come to blows. This is what I expect. Is that true? I do not know, but what does worry me is that Mockingjay is presently going to be a two part title, which means that the Hunger Game franchise is getting stretched for the better part of a year so that the money people (producers and such) can cash in as much as they can. Again, I state that I never read the books, which might be cause for a valid disagreement by you the reader.

That view does not apply to the Hobbit. You see I have been a Tolkien fan since before I was able to parachute out of a plane (driving cars is so trivial and I was too young for that too). I even have an original 7 book hardcover edition of the Lord of the Rings. So, when that was presented to me in three movies it made perfect sense to me. Unlike some of the die-hard fans, I am pretty happy with the result. The only thing I did miss there was the taking of the Shire in the last movie. For me that made perfect sense. It was the moment that Merry and Pippin realised what those around them had gone through, when they saw the devastation to their own home. But apart from that, I have truly enjoyed that movie. The issue I have is with the Hobbit! Like the Hunger Games, I avoided the first movie in the cinema (which I slightly regret) and I still have not seen the second one. You see, when you stretch a 300-page book (I also have a 261 page edition with a smaller font), into 3 movies, each stretching well over 2 hours, it is time to ask a few questions. If it was in two parts, like Mockingjay seems to be it would have made a little more sense to me, but no, there will be a third movie! Is this greed gone wild?

Now, if the story warrants it and the movies are released within 18-12 weeks, then it might not be a big thing, but having to wait a year between parts is stretching my tolerance for the ‘branding’ too thin for comfort. If the movie is really good, would it matter? Well, there is the kicker of course. Yet, the question becomes whether we should have to wait for a year to get to see a complete story. I am not talking about a story that is part of a whole in several movies like the Millennium story (the girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No, this is specific towards the Hobbit and Mockingjay. Consider that the movie ‘Dances with wolves’ would have been presented in two parts (the 4 hour edition), would it still have been such a success? This is directly linked to the 2 movies I mentioned. Why are we accepting this annual approach to a movie that should be open into almost one timeslot? An example of that is the movie Novecento (1900), which was released in the mid 70’s. The interesting part is that this movie was also in 2 parts as the movie was 5 1/2 hours, but what you might not know is that they opened BOTH parts in the same week. So either you saw two movies in one go (which is not realistic in many minds) or you watched them in two parts either a day or a week apart. That would be fine with me, so why this greed driven stretch?

Well, there is a valid partial defence. The movie we see released nowadays have so many special effects that it take a while to get it all ready for the audience, but in the end, delaying part 1 by a month or two, so that we can enjoy a complete result within a month or two feels preferable to me than being forced to wait a year.

I will actually make a prediction. I reckon that this approach will be the main reason why illegal downloads of movies is likely to increase dramatically over the next year. It seems to me that this current milking approach will cost the movie makers and not just because times had been hard on some.

The revenue numbers are currently not in support of my view. At present 2013 is another lucrative year for the movies, but I am talking about 2014. Will it remain this way? Movie will always be downloaded by some and the illegal movie selling will continue. The question becomes how people will react to the multi-part movies? The only partial evidence I would offer is in the numbers as seen with Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga). In this set we see New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn part 2 all around $300 million, whilst Breaking Dawn part 1 is slightly more than 6% lower. Is this enough to be regarded as evidence? The multi-part movies are still too new to be allowed any level of certainty (or reliability). I reckon that 2014 will give us a little more certainty in that regard.

In all honesty, if you had to wait a year to see the complete story, would you go to the cinema to see part one?

 

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