What’s on my Bookshelf? Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag for the PS4

Sorry, but this blog post won’t be extremely detailed today.  I’m feeling under the weather today with a bit of a fever and sore throat.

Assassin’s Creed Series

So, I own all of the major in-line Assassin Creed games.  I bought the first Assassin’s Creed game when it came out for the Playstation 3 and marveled at its brilliance.  And then I couldn’t figure out how to play it as I’d never really played an open-world game before.  I had to play InFamous, a superhero open-world game to figure it out.  Once I did so, Assassin’s Creed II was released and I’ve finished every game in the mainline series to date (haven’t gotten AC: Origins yet–the latest one).

A Pirate’s Life

So, many people consider Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag to be a “pirate simulator.”  It gives you a pretty good approximation of being a pirate with sailing, swashbuckling, and boarding ships, all with the backdrop of Assassin’s Creed lore in the Caribbean setting.  While not my favorite AC game, it was still enjoyable.  I didn’t really like the ending, but it was still an enjoyable experience.  I would rate it a B if I had to grade it (not my favorite, but definitely above average).

Too Many Side Activities

Much of the problem lies in the fact of the “Ubification” of the game–too much stuff to do in order to pad the game’s playtime.  I wouldn’t mind finding the “sea chanties” for the crew to sing as the ship sailed along, but having to “chase” them down, only to have them reset if they “got away” is one of many “tasks” that just exists to waste time, so that 1) you play that game–and only that game–for a long period of time, and 2) along with that, as long as you’re playing the game, you’re not trading it in or giving it friends, etc.  Every since AC III, expansion of game-time has been a primary staple of AC games.

Anyway, I don’t want to badmouth the game.  I think that it is a very good game that I’m proud to have on my bookshelf.

Sidney



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Mini-Review: Alien Legion #6

Mind Blown

Although I’ve featured other Alien Legion (AL) issues before, this is the very first AL comic that I ever owned and read.  The others I just happened to have found around town, but this one was so great, that as soon as my eyes spotted anything with the AL logo on it, I immediately went to it and picked it up–and if I had the money, purchased it.  With an Aug. 1988 cover date, I probably would have bought it May/June of 1988 at (the now defunct) Waldenbooks in downtown Chattanooga and it would have been something that I read over the summer of 1988 before school started.  I probably would have been beginning my sophomore year in high-school at that time as well.

Large and in Charge

While the other two AL stories that I’ve review have featured Sarigar, the commander of Nomad Squad, this issue is pretty much a character study on one of Nomad’s toughest characters–Jugger Grimrod.  Jugger is given his own command and while I won’t spoil it–it proves to be pretty memorable.  We get to see Grimrod command soldiers on what appears to be a routine mission, but is anything but and we get to see his reactions–sometimes hilarious–in the face of extreme danger.

Characterization

Jugger Grimrod is very much a character cut from the Logan/Wolverine mythos.  Very much a loner and a hard-talking, fast-living, remorseless killing machine willing to do anything to get the job done.  I’ve always likened Grimrod as a Wolverine in space.  While you don’t learn his back story until later in the comics’ run (my next mini-review will actually focus on a pivotal part of his back story), you don’t really need it.  One thing that the writers actually do for this story is that they give him an advantage and a flaw.  While he is one of the best soldiers out there, he is an enlisted man who hates officers.  In this story, he is promoted to an officer–in essence, he becomes the very thing he hates.  And now he must deal with it.  How he deals with it and the ultimate resolution, I’ll leave you to read, but this small detail causes conflict–both external as he has people whom he’s now responsible for and internal–he has to overcome/deal with being the very thing that he despises (or not overcome/deal with it).

Overall Score: A+

The writing (Carl Potts–Creator/Chuck Dixon–Writer) and the art team (Larry Stroman and Mark Farmer) created a story that really set my imagination on fire as a child.  It was inventive, clever, and fun.  The hero was larger than life and while I couldn’t agree with the character’s ultimate decision at the end of the story, I did understand it.  If you happen across this at a “Flea Market” or “Yard Sale” or “Book Sale” of some kind, and if it is inexpensive, you might consider picking it up for an afternoon of fun reading.

Have a great day!

Sidney



What’s On My Bookshelf: Star Wars: The Complete Saga

starwars_the complete saga_zavvio

Star Wars: The Complete Collection (box, slipcase, and discs).  Image Source: Zavvi

This collection is available from Amazon.com, however, it appears to have been rereleased later with the packaging being different than the one I bought.

The Prequels

Star Wars: The Complete Saga is one of those purchases that Lucasfilm marketing and George Lucas counted on fans like myself buying.  Until Lucas sold the SW brand to DisneySW was pretty much my favorite series of all time due to the characters, mythology, and world-building.  Regardless of how you like (or dislike) Disney’s handling of the sequels, SW: TCS represented all 6 of the movies on Bluray up until that point.  The fidelity of the movies (picture quality and sound) are stunning.  While the prequels are of questionable quality based on their story and characterization, they are a masterful technical achievement with the space battle sequence of the 3rd movie integrated computer graphics.

The “Original” Story

It should be noted at the outset that if you are “purist,” you still aren’t getting the “original” release of the original SW movies with this collection–rather the “Special Editions” of those movies that Lucas recut in the late 1990s with the additional CGI material added in.  Just so you’re aware.  I prefer the original cut of the movies, but it isn’t a make or break deal for me.  I’ve gushed over this trilogy before in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash it here, but I think that the audio and the picture fidelity is really good.  Not 4K unfortunately, but still an awesome 1080p master of the movies.

No Sequels (or Digital Editions)

So, that’s right–this came out before Lucas sold the rights to the brand to Disney, so The Force Awakens isn’t included (nor Rogue One, and now, The Last Jedi), so it really is the “Not so Complete Edition,” but at the time it was “complete.”  One thing that really bums me out about this edition is the lack of Digital Editions.  This almost was a deal-breaker for me, and I almost didn’t purchase this edition.  The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Editions did come with Digital Editions (and the Extended Editions to boot–but I don’t think Amazon is selling that “edition” anymore as it wasn’t there when I looked for this post).  Lucasfilm wanted to “double-dip” and get paid twice for the same content.  As much as I would like the convenience of digital as these are my favorites, I refuse to pay again for these movies and I do not own them in digital format, especially when their competition figured it out.   Still, to have the “complete” (at the time) set, I ultimately decided it was worth it.

Well, that’s it for today, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at another boxed set that is on my Bookshelf.

Sidney



 

 

Mini-Review: Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2)

A New Beginning

Alien Legion #1 (Vol. 2) marks a new beginning for the team.  I’m not sure, but I think I purchased this issue from a spinner in Waldenbooks well before they went of business (when they were still a thriving store).  The cover date is Oct. 1987 and since comics usually went on sale about a month or two prior to their cover date (the date was “fiction” to show how “new”/”fresh” it was), I probably got it in Aug/Sept of 1987, so please forgive me if my memory is a little off.

The basic gist of the comic is that the commander of the Alien Legion squadron, Sarigar, “lost” is squad on what appeared to be a suicide mission and he was the only one to make it out alive . . . or so it seems.  This issue marks the beginning of a new storyline with a new formulation of new team members (I think it also marks a new art team, but don’t quote me on that).

Sarigar For the Win

The focus is squarely on Sarigar in this issue.  There are very few other characters–and they are mostly secondary characters by which the commander gets to show off his characterization as being someone who loves the Legion, but who loved his squad more, and is willing to risk his life to get them back.

Duty and Honor

This issue very much focuses on the idea of “duty” to one’s fallen friends, especially when they might not be as . . . fallen as first supposed.  It also has the idea of “honor” in that Sarigar is too much of a “true” Legionnaire to allow the uniform that he wears be sullied with disgrace by engaging in a bar fight with three bar room bullies.  However, when he takes off the uniform, we get to see just what a complete warrior Sarigar really is–the fight scene is only 2-3 pages long, but Sarigar wipes the floor with them easily.

The only thing I wished was that there was more interaction/story about finding the team than there is currently.  Still, its a really good read and holds up pretty well even after all these years.

Overall Grade: B+

Sidney



Project “Space Trucker”

Project Space Trucker

So this will be a short blog entry today.  I just wanted to let you know that I’ve started the “Rough Draft” of a new project: Project Space Trucker.  Yes, I know the title is inelegant, but it is what the story is about.  Well, not literally about Semi-Trucks in space, but about the future and how a “Trucker” in the future might be realized in terms of world/setting, characterization, plot, etc.

This project has no relation to the 1996 movie Space Truckers.  I’ve never seen that movie & didn’t even know it existed until I googled the words Space & Truck for the above image.  After seeing the trailer (see below), I’ve no real desire to see the movie as it is apparently B movie in every sense of the word (bikini-clad female co-pilot and ship that apparently has a semi-truck “trailer” attached to the back of the ship).  If I ever run across it on streaming (& I have a couple of hours to kill), I might watch it now that I know it exists, but its not something I’m going to go searching for as you can see for yourself from the Trailer posted on YouTube.

Inspiration

No, this project was inspired quite a bit by my commute to school.  I often pass by Semi-Trucks on the road and I started noticing the names of the shipping companies on the trailers or the names of the transport and logistic companies on the sides of the trucks and that started me to thinking about how these companies might exist in a space/science fiction environment.

Also, along the route to school, there is a truck “pull-off stop area.”  It isn’t a rest area per se, but a small set of lanes where trucks can pull off the highway safely and sleep/rest before making their way to a mandatory truck checking area that is a few miles up the road.  This way truckers can sleep/rest and not get fined or penalized for not having taken mandatory rest breaks as required by American law.  On one trip, I saw a couple of truckers conversing with each other outside their trucks and also began to wonder how that interaction might play out in a sci-fi universe.

What’s Next?

So, I really like the way this project is headed so far.  I have a fairly clear idea of the character.  I’m working on the Rough Draft this week and over the weekend, I hope to work on character sketches for the two main characters.  Right now, I’m plugging away on the “Working Draft” of Project Poet (Poet).  I’m not sure what’s on deck after Poet as I still need to go back and do another draft for Project Skye as well, but I’ll update you next week.

Well, looks like I’m out of time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney



 

Mini-Review: Saban’s Power Rangers (2017)

Over the weekend, I was in the mood for some lighter fare, so I streamed Saban’s The Power Rangers (2017)–which is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.  It had a four star rating and didn’t look terrible so I thought I’d give it a try.  While not a great movie, it still wasn’t the absolute abomination that the last Turtles movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows turned out to be last year when I watched it.

A Typical “Teen” Movie

One of its faults (& strengths, I suppose if you’re a part of that demographic) is that it is like any other “teen” movie you’ve seen a thousand times before.  A group of misfit teens must overcome their differences and band together to become much more than they could be on their own.  While the characters aren’t really new and interesting, the actors portraying them do a fairly good job of showing the characters’ emotions.  The script, however, leaves a lot of things to be desired: chiefly, more time spent on fleshing out the characters, less on silly jokes that are more than a little cringe-worthy.

A Typical “Team” Movie

Also, like any other “team” movie, you’ll find that they don’t fully “gel” as a team until the end of the movie because they’ve got “issues.”  What those issues are, I won’t spoil, but while they are “major” to the characters, I got to say, it didn’t really feel like they were major to the audience.  Similarly, much of the destruction by and against our heroes is largely ignored until the plot calls for it.  Remember the scene in the trailers where Rita attacks one of the Rangers alone in her bedroom?  Well, that was part of a longer five minute scene which the bedroom and surrounding walls were pretty much trashed, yet no parent or sibling ever came to check to see what the heck was going on, let alone cops being called at the sight of a crazy witch-lady assaulting one of your kids in your own home.

Krispy Kreme Much?

Lastly, product placement.  Look, I like Krispy Kreme donuts as much as the next person (we have one in Chattanooga that I frequent at least twice a year), but the “product/brand” placement was over the top in this movie.  So much so, that it took me out of the movie when we found out that’s where the movie’s macguffin is hidden.  It is like the only major product that we see in the movie and it really calls attention to itself in an obnoxiously obvious way.  No donuts for you!

Overall Grade: C (+/- depending on whether you like or dislike these types of movies)

It is a competently made movie that you’ve likely seen a dozen or more times in other genres or places.  It isn’t stellar but it isn’t completely horrible either.  You might like it (or hate it) more than I did depending on your taste for these types of movies (which is why I added the +/-), but for me it is solidly average.  At least, it wasn’t as bad as TMNT: OotS (for me, at least) and I was able to have a fairly good time with Power Rangers once I shut off the analytical part of my brain and enjoyed it for the teen super hero/nostalgia movie that it was trying so hard to be for fans of the original show.

Sidney



The State of Destiny (Destiny 1 and Destiny 2)

Today, I want to quickly talk about the video game series Destiny and its current slate of games (Destiny and Destiny 2).  After a strong start, Destiny 2 is currently in free-fall with its players.  Many hardcore players are leaving for other games.  The original Destiny supposedly had a slow start, but found its footing after the release of the Taken King.  Those of you who read the blog from the beginning know that for the longest time, I had a Destiny countdown clock widget on the side of the blog.  I was an avid Destiny player.  However, Bungie, the creators have made a few mistakes that have caused me to fall away–but they aren’t the same mistakes that the current “narrative” would have you believe so I’ll cover what I think are a couple of the biggest ones.

“Shared World Shooter” vs “MMO”

Bungie was quick to point out that Destiny wasn’t an MMO (which has certain connotations in the game community), but was rather a “Shared World Shooter” (implying that it was a shooter first and that it was a shared world between you and other players).  You could intersect with other players or go “lone wolf.”  Well, that appealed to me–however, in actuality, the game functioned like an MMO.  You needed a “crew” to do the best missions, The Raids.  The content they added changed the game and the paradigm, and they kept tinkering with the game mechanics, rather than creating new (better) content to flesh out the world.  They “sold” the game in marketing one way, but the presented the game in practice another.

“Vanilla” Destiny was actually better than “Taken King” Destiny

So this is one where the majority of Destiny players and I part ways: “Vanilla” Destiny, before all the myriad of changes, was actually pretty good.  Bungie got too involved in listening to criticisms and changed the game based on people who had left rather than those who stayed.  Their goal all the way through The Taken King seemed to be to “recapture” those who had left the game rather than on those who had stayed.  Those who stayed just wanted more story.  Had Bungie prioritized that over changing weapon balancing, fixing “cheeses” to bosses (ways of defeating boss characters in ways unintended by the developers), etc., I don’t think Destiny series would be in the position that it is.  They made a different mistake with Destiny 2, but the result was the same.  They focused on story in Destiny 2, but forgot that the players wanted compelling content for the endgame (additions that I didn’t care for, but seemed to resonate with other members of the hardcore Destiny community–such as Trials of Osiris).  Destiny 2 should have included all the major components of Destiny and added new components to satisfy gamers until the next major expansion, but this didn’t happen–they went back to changing systems and mechanics that worked perfectly fine in Destiny, such as having two primary weapons, etc.

Here’s an example of Destiny 2 gameplay (PvP) from a high-level, highly skilled player, “Ms. 5000 Watts”:

The Social Network is not always Right.

The point that I’m trying to make is that by listening to the vocal fans who don’t even play the game and trying to create a game for them, Bungie lost focus and helped to dilute the game for those who were still playing.  I no longer play Destiny because of the multitudinous game currencies, not getting enough story and answers about the The Traveler and The Darkness.  I’m sorry, but I’m not all that interested in the “Lore” of the Guardians–The Curse of Osiris DLC, I’m looking at you–I want to find out what the Traveler and why its Light is gone and how I can “heal” it and I want to find out what the Darkness is, why it hates the Traveler and what I can do to stop it.  I want to be able to do that on my own or with a team of 3-6 players (no less–sorry to inform you BungieDestiny is only fun by yourself or with a full”fire-team” because that’s how you designed it.  Those 2 player events are annoying!  To be honest, anything under a full 6 players is not really ideal, but I understand how hard it could be to get 6 players together to do all the content, but Bungie really should be designing with 1, 3, and 6 player/players in mind).

Basically, if anyone at Bungie reads this post, please stop listening to the forums and start listening to the people who actually play the game and to your own designers.  The people who have left the game and who are “slagging you off” in the comments are never going to be satisfied with what you create–no matter how good it is.  Your best bet is to follow the original creative vision you had to tell an epic story about The Traveler and The Darkness and let the fans who are really invested follow you along for the ride!

Sidney