Better Call Saul, Season 2 – Review

Image via amc.com

This show makes me want to be a lawyer for all the wrong reasons.

Following the events of the first season, Jimmy McGill is seemingly becoming a success. Having obtained a dream job at a prestigious law firm, things should be going well but Jimmy’s own sense of discontent may be his worst enemy. Constantly bending if not outright breaking the rules puts him in the dog house of his friends, peers, and bosses. Through it all he has to be true to himself and what he believes, even if it will cost him everything he has built.

The series continues it’s quirky roots. Bob Odenkirk’s delivery of the main character makes him lovable yet insufferable at the same time. Jimmy is constantly conflicted with wanting to do the right thing but going about it in the wrong way. Many times this is ultimately his undoing. Learning to recover or hide his tracks has become a highly tuned skill for him. Those around Jimmy are also conflicted with how much they can trust him. Regardless of what has transpired they almost always come back to him.

The story doesn’t take a backseat to the characters. It rides right beside them and keeps the show flowing. At times the shows bounces between the arcs of multiple characters but there never feels to be a time where they are away from any one for too long. The story lines constantly cross each other to keep all the characters involved and on screen. What helps further to keep things interesting is the unpredictability of the plot. There are times where you will think you know where it is going and what they will do only to have it veer off in a different but not totally oposite direction.

Season three has some great things set up from season two. There are several story arcs that I was disappointed not to see completed but where and how they left them still felt satisfying. Knowing that these lines will be picked up in season three has my curiosity peaked.

Without having seen the parent series, Breaking Bad, I only have a general sense of what happens to Jimmy McGill in the long run. Having watched Better Call Saul kind of makes me not want to watch Breaking Bad until this show concludes.

 

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Passing Thoughts – Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Image via loversinadangerousspacetime.com

Lovers in love and the other run away.

I would describe the premise or the plot of this game if I had any grasp of it. You and other lovers are in space but somehow something like hate has made it into your world. Now your base is destroyed and you must fix your universe. I didn’t pay the greatest amount of attention when the game was going so I probably missed a lot.

What I did get was seeing an interesting and stylistic co-op game. Unfortunately I was playing solo and I think that hampered the experience. Although I will say the AI for the companion was one of the better ones I’ve played with. When I told it to go somewhere it went there, when I told it to shoot something it shot it.

 

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Dude’s Chronicles 4-20-2017: Happy What?

Wait, what day is this???

Entertainment

  • Legends of Tomorrow – Just about the finish season two. Still pondering what I think of it. I’ll let you know when I hit the end of the season what my thoughts are.

Games

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – Tried playing this game again but I backed away again.  The game completely locked when cutting to a cutscene. The frame rate constantly went to garbage, especially during combat which is exactly the worst time for it to happen. Then the game would no longer make saves so I had to manually go and delete saves to make slots available. I really want to play my Insanity run but I am convinced I need the break more. The self-imposed two week ban is in affect.
  • Overwatch – Uprising was  fun all around. I enjoyed playing and hope to see more events like this.
  • The Division – When I just want to shoot stuff I play The Division.

News

  • Star Wars Battlefront II – Announced to release on November 17th this year and it looks to be a good bit meatier than the original. Specifically, there will be a campaign which was a sorely missing piece of the first game. I like the first game but quickly got bored with it because of the lack of story and limited game modes.
  • SNES mini? – Maybe that is why the NES mini was such a limited run but I would suspect that this would be just as limited.
  • Free StarCraft – Along with a patch, the original game is now available for free. There is to be a remaster released sometime in the future so this is probably just an attempt to drum up interest but I would think most anybody interested in the remaster likely knows about it.

Closing Arguments

Just had a birthday and my family did the thing they knew I would hate the most by throwing a surprise party. Not being a fan of parties to being with, being the center of one was the last thing I wanted to be. After my rage subsided I embraced the situation and enjoyed it. Now… I can plan my revenge.

dudewantshisrug-profile
Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Overwatch: Uprising

Image via playoverwatch.com

 

Nearly a year after Overwatch’s original release the game still has a loyal following and diverse player base. Blizzard hasn’t let the game just sit around though, it continues to give it’s players something to come back to.  Not content just to do patches and fixes, they have continued to drip new content into the game. There have been several characters added and special events have been held. The latest special event, named Uprising, is a yet another goodie.

The event is set in a time preceding that of the main game itself and tells the tale of Tracer’s first Overwatch mission. The game mode has a fixed cast of warriors to send with Tracer, those being Torbjorn, Reinhardt, and Mercy. The task at hand is to handle a robot uprising in King’s Row. To do this the team must infiltrate the area, secure several key areas, escort a payload, and then defeat enemies on your way to extraction.

After the intro movie, which players can vote to skip, Uprising plays out much like a Destiny strike in that there are stages and steps you must complete. You must go to an area, capture a point while defeating enemies and then move on. Then at one point you must escort a payload just like in the game’s regular game mode.  There are several different enemies that you must defeat. Of course there are robots that will attack you directly but there are also some that will attack your payload. Be careful of these later ones as they will destroy your payload causing your mission to immediately fail.

Uprising is not a PVP event like most of the game’s matches. This is a PVE only mode and it makes the most of it. With the previously mentioned enemies, combat can get hectic even on Normal which is its easiest setting. Most of the enemies aren’t hard to kill, with the exception of one that has a shield that requires some extra time and attention, but most of the time you are exposed causing you to fight enemies in all directions. Near the end of the match there are some harder enemies but careful strategy will get you through, be aggressive but not too. My experience has shown that those playing as Reinhardt tend to get a little too deep into combat and get into some dangerous situations. Sometimes it would be better if the Reinhardt’s held back and protected rather than attacked. Also, players seem to concentrate too much on killing enemies and neglect the need to stay close enough to capture the objectives. Many times I was the only person in the zone to capture objectives. During most of my matches I played as Mercy, which I do so for my main gameplay as well, finding that there is somewhat of a chaotic art of healing and buffing across the other players at key times as they get in and out of range. Resurrecting teammates can be the difference between success and failure at times with the chances of multiple teammates being down at any time.

There are things about this event that show me how subtly brilliant Blizzard can be. First of is the trickling of story content into the game. Not only does the intro set up a key point to one of the most beloved characters, you get more if you listen to the dialogue between the characters through out. Its these little nuances that make the game seem even more brilliant. As far as game design, there is also another mode that opens up the hero catalog to all heroes. Doing so shows how well Blizzard can balance a games because allowing a mix of any of the heroes was the only times I failed missions. When I played in the main mode with the set characters I never failed to my recollection. To me this shows that Blizzard takes great attention to note and account for role balance in this game.

Uprising has been fun. I played enough to get all nine loot boxes. What I got from those loot boxes wasn’t great but I’m okay with that. Not being one to seek after certain skins or such, it didn’t really matter what I was getting. It was more important for me to feel connected to the game after not playing for weeks and have fun. Accomplishing both was fantastic and makes me look forward to playing more in the future whether there are special events or not.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Dude’s Chronicles 4-13-2017: Hunter S. Thompson In The House?

Image via quoteswave.com

When you think things are finally calming down you get proven wrong again, and again, and again….and again…. then again.

Entertainment

  • Archer: Season 7 – Still hilarious. Really appreciating the levity.
  • Tears of the Sun – Still a great Bruce Willis movie. There are detractors that would argue otherwise but I enjoy this movie and think it goes in a direction that is rare within the actor’s catalog. More drama and emotion and less stuff blowing up, although it still had enough stuff exploding.
  • The Manchurian Candidate – I’ve only seen the entirety of the Denzel Washington version. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the original but not enough to compare the two. I like the newer version but think it has a few flaws in continuity and flow. Good enough to recommend watching given it being on Netflix, if you have it.
  • Tropic Thunder – I really hated this movie upon its release, I mean really hated it. It wasn’t until two friends convinced me to watch it with them that I realized the correct frame of mind to view this movie with. I watched it three times in a row and still laughed. Arguably Ben Stiller’s best movie, arguable with Dodgeball and Something About Mary.
  • Rage – I don’t know why but I like bad Nicolas Cage movies. The worse they are the better they are. I don’t understand.
  • Trailer Park Boys: Season 11 – Yep, more of the boys. I already want to watch it again.

Games

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – I started an Insanity play-through and I don’t know why. After getting back to EOS, I started a side mission and quit half-way through it. It’s not that I don’t want to finish my play-through because I’ll do that but I think I need a break.
  • Overwatch – Uprising is pretty cool. It’s is a simple but great add on that you can play or not, depending on what you want to do. I love to see Blizzard revealing more and more of the game’s backstory and universe especially in an engaging way.

News

  • Overwatch: Uprising – see above.
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – 10 hours vs. $40? I dunno. We’ll see. As much as I loved Uncharted 4 I never went back to it after one play-through.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground – over one million copies sold of an early access game.. at $30 a pop? What am I missing? I see that if you like survival game it may be interesting but I am not therefore it is not. Even with that I hope it does well and gets a real release and doesn’t become one of these games that is a perpetual alpha.

Closing Arguments

Happy Easter.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

A Tale of Two Games

Playing Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect: Andromeda has presented me with case of starkly different experiences and level of enjoyment. These are the latest two games that I have played through the main story lines of and they feel worlds apart. Exactly what transpired to make either of these games what they are will never be known to those outside of the respected developers, in fact it may never be known with precision to them either.  What I and many others are left to do is ponder what we see and experienced with both games then try to piece out why they were so divergent to us.

The Set Up

Horizon: Zero Dawn came out to much splendor and wonder when it was released. This new IP from the people that made Killzone was almost completely unknown but it looked to be so far different from the studio’s past works that many were questioning if they could pull it off.  We knew so little of it for so long and even at its release many were unsure what lay inside of the game. Of course the Sony marketing machine was pushing it hard as a console exclusive so that it could give even more reason to buy into the PlayStation platform for those that have not already. For those that have, it was another entry on the console that got a suspicious look since Sony has offered successful exclusives like Bloodborne but also tragic flops like The Order: 1886. Luckily Horizon is showing to be more like the former and not the latter.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced after after fans had reluctantly said goodbye after the conclusion of the title’s original trilogy. The way in which that series ended left many to wonder where Bioware could go with a new entry in the franchise but they slowly revealed how they planned to do so and it sparked fans’ imagination all over again with what they may be doing or where they may be going. There were little doubts that Bioware could deliver a solid title to an existing franchise since it had a hardy fan base and the studio has proven its quality with other franchises as well. This game didn’t need marketing because it already had a loyal fan base just waiting to play more in the game universe they loved. In a sad and unfortunate situation, the game is not what many were expecting but some are still hoping not all is lost.

Technical

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Working in a brand new engine seemed like an added layer of risk that was unnecessary but proved to be worth it. The game looks fantastic in every way, whether you are running through a jungle or across a desert the game rarely falters at rendering the world in all its splendor. The art that was created for this game is displayed in stunning fashion through out the game.  The one knock that works against the game is the lipsync issues in almost every single cutscene.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Working in a different engine may have been a risk that did not pay off. Whether or not the transition from Unreal to Frostbite was the culprit will never be apparent. What we can see is the effects when cutscenes fail to load, NPC’s lock their bodies into a t-formation, game progress stops because the next stage won’t activate, and the list unfortunately goes on. The art work is fine in the game and some of the vista looks gorgeous. In fact, the galaxy map and all of the planets are quite impressive indeed. The technical issues of this game could have been overlooked a bit if there were not so many of them and did not occur with the frequency in which they do.

Mechanics

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Combat is smooth and crisp only getting better as you obtain more abilities and weapons. Switching weapons and tactics to attack various enemies is nearly seamless. You will be doing a fair amount of crafting if you plan to keep you bag full of traps and potions. Also, be prepared to do a lot of collecting to be able to craft all the things you need especially early on. This gets a bit cumbersome in and of itself only to be exacerbated by constantly hitting the limit of items you are able to carry. Once you start gathering quest by talking to people and working through the game, it will be necessary to decide which ones you want to pursue and it can be unclear what quest you should pursue and when.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

In a somewhat odd twist for a Mass Effect game, the combat is one of the best parts. Any encounter can be approached in any style or combination of guns and abilities. Your squadmates are aggressive almost to a fault and the enemies don’t just sit in cover but will try to flank you keeping the gameplay lively. There is also crafting and looting in this game but it seems less important as the game can be completed with doing a minimal amount of each. Inventory restrictions are a concern as well but a patch has somewhat alleviated this . At a certain point you start getting inundated with side missions to the point it is overwhelming. The only way I found to avoid this was to stop talking to NPC’s for a while so you can clear out your mission list a bit.

Narrative

Horizon: Zero Dawn

You start with a handheld intro the game’s world but are quickly set loose upon it. Characters feel dry and void at first but as the story progresses each reveals layer of personality and motivation. The development of the main character is one of my favorite aspects of the game and it was very well done how the writers grew her from an angry child to a thoughtful young woman. The context of the world and the story behind it is laid out piece by piece in such a satisfying fashion and pace that it is easy to lose track of how long your session has been going. Even though I finished the main story I longed to go back and complete some if not all of the side quest. The cauldrons were fantastic and offered rewards for completing them so they felt worthwhile.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

You’re literally pulled out into a world in chaos that just keeps spinning. As you are meeting people along the way they try to offer expositions of their background and why they are there with you but with few exceptions these back stories are dull and lifeless leaving the characters you are going to be dealing with for many hours nearly devoid of interest. Whether you play the male or female character, little circumstance is apparent from the choices you make and the weird, quirky character you start out as is pretty much what you end up as in the end. The mysterious vaults that you are tasked to revive feature diverse but have muddling mechanics that only lead to be further frustrating when you do complete them and don’t feel much sense of reward. You’ve progressed in the story and made a world more livable but the moment falls flat.

Conclusions

Neither game is perfect by any means. Comparing the two though I must give a strong nod to Horizon: Zero Dawn in all categories listed above. It is my feeling that Mass Effect: Andromeda still could turn out but has many issues to overcome in order to do so. The technical issues are are going to be the easiest to correct but I can’t even begin to imagine how they can correct the narrative issues. It is not that the story is bad but a bit jumpy, dry and takes to long to deliver something to connect with. There is potential with Andromeda to move forward and continue the series if they can fix their issues. Whereas Horizon leaves me in a quandary.  They put far more story into this game than I expected and sewed up the story fairly well but left an opening to continue. What they left open, however, makes me wonder if a second game would feel as good.

At this point, I am still playing Mass Effect: Andromeda but wondering why. As I keep playing I keep hitting the beats, seeing what they were trying to do but just not feeling it. The need to somehow bring meaning or redemption to this game is either my enduring love to the original trilogy or just plain stubbornness on my part to not know when to give up. When I can break myself of this, I will return to Horizon: Zero Dawn. There are a few quest I have that I want to see the conclusion of and I know that I have not completed all of the cauldrons yet.

In the end I feel that Horizon: Zero Dawn benefited from what could have been it Achille’s Heal – nobody knowing what it would be and delivering a beautiful, breathtaking story and world. Whereas Mass Effect: Andromeda may have suffered from what people came to expect from the previous games versus what could have been done with this one.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Video – Nier: Automata Demo

Nier: Automata has been out for a bit but I haven’t played any of it… until now.

The demo is a short slice of the game and it good considering how small it is. I’m not certain that it was interesting enough for me to invest in the full game immediately but maybe when I see a price drop I’ll hop on it.

dudewantshisrug-profile

Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.