Dude’s Chronicles 3-30-2017: The Wizard Edition

Image via knowyourmeme.com

The week of vacation was great. The first week back at work was not. So, it was just like any other week at work.

Entertainment

  • Gods of Egypt – Somehow, for some terrible reason, I finished watching this movie. It was not worth watching as it never really came together and just tried to use the wow factor will all the CGI work it had in it.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens – I like this one. Nice change of pace.

Games

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – Forty hours in, I finished the main story line and all but one of the loyalty missions. So far I’m not sold on it but I don’t hate it like others apparently do. I’m still playing it trying to flush out if there is more to it than I got. Passing fifty hours played and I’m still not sure. My mind is still pondering what went wrong with this game, why I’m still playing it, and how broken it actually is versus what people are saying.

News

  • Destiny 2 – The leak confirmed, teasers, and trailers dropped. Glad to see this game still going but I don’t know my level of interest in it. I guess I’ll wait for the beta and see what it is then. Sounds like the beta will be open to all since pre-ordering get “early” access to the beta.
  • “That wizard came from the moon.” – The most infamous line in Destiny history was returned in Destiny’s Age of Triumph if not only temporarily. I’ll always believe in the Dinklebot.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – In the midst of all the hype and hate, Bioware is taking feedback and stating that it will release its plans for the game on April 4th. Not sure what that means, probably just how they will address technical issues and how they will prioritize them.
  • Star Wars Battlefront II – Set to make a debut at Star Wars Celebration on April 15th but no release date yet. I’d like to see a campaign in this game since the lack of one really dulled the first Battlefront game.

Closing Arguments

For something different, I may jump back into The Division. There is a Division Community weekend happening that will draw some players in. If you want to look into it find DZR Gaming or The Clancy Elites.

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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.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda – Review

Image via masseffect.com

It’s like Halo 4 all over again.

The Andromeda Initiative is the columniation of a vast array of species sent together to explore and populate the universe outside of the Milky Way galaxy. With no Mass Effect relays to take them there, these explorers have built massive arks to carry them across the galaxy while they are in cryo pods waiting to be awakened in their new home. Even with the best of plans things can go wrong. Humanity’s ark, the Hyperion, finds itself in this situation from the very start. Things get slightly better when they find the Nexus, the space hub for the Andromeda Initiative, however there are many problems in the galaxy they have found themselves.

As soon as the game begins it is utter chaos in several fashions. It begins by landing on a world that is some how falling apart and you have to shoot your way through the first aliens you find in order save your shipmates. The how and why of this scenario make it feel like a rush job to get the plot set up and rolling. What comes out of this first mission is that you are now anointed the Pathfinder of the Hyperion. Even this seems forced as to how it comes about and leaves an unnatural burden on the story that should have lead to a deeper part of the main character. Rather it sticks around as a strange centerpiece of the intentions others may have towards the character. There are several key points in this story where huge unexplained leaps are taken just to get it moving leaving the player disjointed and confused multiple times.

There are times in this game that it looks gorgeous, then there are times it is unbelievably terrible. When playing in the third person view the environments look great and show a level of detail you would come to expect in a game of this type. Even the sounds fit together whether it is the sound of your gun going off or ambient noise as you traverse a jungle. What doesn’t work are all the bodies in the environment. The models themselves look fine but the movement is so weird and unnatural it is distracting especially since there is so much of it as every NPC seems to be always on the move. Once you start exploring you get to work with one of the better looking parts of the game, the galaxy map. It is well detailed and some of the planets are beautiful to look at as is the system overall. Balance this against a cumbersome navigation system that forces you to watch a somewhat jarring animation to arrive at each planet or system that you cannot skip. The worst part of the game may very well be the cutscenes that are meant to drive the game. Going face to face with the deadest eyes and mouth movements that would embarrass a ventriloquist, tears the player out the emersion of the narrative because it is so startling. Not only do the cutscenes look bad, sometimes they don’t even work. There were times when the cutscene didn’t trigger at all and the only fix was to go somewhere else then come back. At one point, at what was to be a very sensitive plot point, a squad mate failed to render into the scene but it carried on as if they had and the conversation selections had to be made without any of the audio from the squad mate as it and the subtitles also failed to work.

The technical issues could have been somewhat overlooked had the story delivered. Past Mass Effect games have done the same as the series is well known for its jank but providing solid narratives. This, however, is not the case with Andromeda. Most of the characters come off as dull regardless of whatever story they just blurted out for you. It is only later in the game, twenty or so hours, that you start getting things that have depth or weight. When you get to the later story missions, most of them give you a better sense of what is going on but the aforementioned jumps negate the sense of connection. The loyalty mission are likely the most satisfying ones in the game but even they can miss their pay off. After doing said missions, the loyal squad mate normally reveals more about them self and you get a feeling of connecting with them. However, sometimes you don’t and you just get a ‘hey, thanks’ kind of reward. Some comeback later with a little bit more but by that time the connection with them is already severed.

The game packs in a variety of things to do but many of them don’t seem worthwhile doing. There are a lot of busy tasks like side quests and such. There is even a side thing to do where you send strike teams to handle certain events. There doesn’t appear to be much gain for doing so as you just get more resources to keep doing them. Sure you are gaining viability but it is never clearly explained why you need this viability or what to do with it. Crafting is also present in the game although you are capable of going through the game without it. Limited loot drops and crates can be found throughout the environment. Multiplayer makes a return in this game and it is much like what it was in Mass Effect 3. Overall, outside of the main and loyalty missions, most of what is presented in this game just feels like busy work with no real payoff or return other than the fact of doing it.

As a Mass Effect fan, this really hurts to see it turn like this. Parts of my forty hours in the game where excruciating and forced. My will to keep going was only to see something that would provide redemption to the game. At the end, things did drastically improve but that only seems to speak for how bad they were. Although the game doesn’t earn all of the hate that has been heaped upon it by most, it certainly doesn’t do much to earn any love. The pace at which this game reveals itself is likely what makes people give up on it before they get to the better parts. Much of what the games does have to offer is loaded heavily in the later stages of the game. A lack of effort on this game was not what spoiled it, on the contrary it may have tried to be to ambitious. With trying to do so much the depth and soul that was desired got sacrificed in order to be wider and more diverse. While Mass Effect: Andromeda does many things it doesn’t to any of them well.

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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 3-23-2017: What Day Is It?

Image via learner.org

Without work in the center of my day, my entire day/night cycle is off and I can’t keep track of what day it is. O’well.

Entertainment

  • The Legend of Tarzan – was not good.
  • Bullet to the Head – was ok. It’s Stallone being a tough buy. It was probably funnier when it tried to be serious than it was when it was trying to be funny, if that makes sense.
  • Gods of Egypt – was unwatchable. I had it on for an hour and it was horrible.
  • Mr. Right – As much as I like Ana Kendrick and her quirkiness, this was not a good movie.
  • Old School – An old favorite that oddly holds up well.
  • Allegiant – For those that enjoy the B level version of The Hunger Games.
  • Demolition Man – It’s bad but in good ways. Just one of those movies that I think it is fun to watch.
  • Dr. Strange – This was much better than I thought it was going to me. Sometimes it did go into visual overload and could have been dialed back a bit.
  • The Last Witch Hunter – was more entertaining than I figured it would be. I thought I would watch it just to kill time but wound up enjoying it, some.
  • The Huntsman: Winter War – I watched this twice trying to figure out the timeline, turns out the movie is just a hot mess.
  • Central Intelligence – As much as I think Kevin Hart is like a yapping dog, he is starting to grow on me. Pairing him with The Rock was genius. The Rock has mastered the role of the big lovable lunkhead.

Games

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn – Finished the game and loved it. Hoping I can get back to it soon. Still enjoying all the side stuff there is to do.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – Ummm… well… I… I’m staying optimistic but this game has issues, both technical and game wise as in story and structure. Fourteen hours in and still not convinced.

News

  • Destiny 2 – Possible leak that it will release later this year with a beta preceding it. Not sure what my interest is in the game since I have played Destiny since a few weeks after the last expansion.
  • Fixing Joy-Cons with foam? – Apparently there are report that that is the fix. Interesting to see how Nintendo rolls that one out.
  • You’d think that without work for an entire week I would have a better idea of things that are happening but I don’t.

Closing Arguments

I’m going to keep playing Mass Effect: Andromeda, hoping it gets better but…

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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.

First Hour – Mass Effect: Andromeda

Image via masseffect.com

The first hour of Mass Effect: Andromeda is just the start of things. A little bit of action and setup of things to come but this is where first impressions are made.

I’ve made it a few hours beyond where this video ends. Still keeping an open mind about where it is going and how it will do 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.

Horizon: Zero Dawn – Review

After finishing this game, there is still that overwhelming feeling that it went well beyond expectations and did so in great fashion.

The story revolves around Aloy, a young women trained as a hunter in order to survive the savage world she lives in. She is a motherless child raised as an outcast by a fellow outcast, Rost. Her desire to understand herself draws her directly into a civilization she knows or cares very little for. As she digs deeper into her own past she finds that there is a greater mystery in her world than herself.

From the first moments of the game, you are drawn into the world. It is an understatement to say the game looks fantastic. My experience with an original PS4 leaves me to wonder how the game could look any better on the PS4 Pro. The one visual issue I have with the game is the lip syncing of the cutscenes. The audio always seems to be off from the visuals but never quite in the same way as the last cutscene. It is a bit unsettling to have this issue since the story is such a major factor in the game. Even with this issue never resolving it did not stop me from being immersed into the world. Not only is it the looks of the game but the sounds. Firing an arrow, meleeing an enemy, and ripping metal from a machine all have sounds that carry weight. The music of the game almost feels like it is a narrator. Coming on in a tone to set the mood and somewhat foretelling what comes ahead. There were times that I had a memory of a feeling of watching Bladerunner.

Starting small then going big is how everything unfolds in this game. Everything from starting as a young child then becoming a young women to venturing out into the jungle only to find what you thought was the end to only be the beginning of a new valley to explore. There is even a graduated scale unto which the machines are introduced with small Watchers coming first leading way to massive Deathbringers later. Aloy herself grows not just physically but emotionally. How Aloy changes with her experiences and becomes more aware of her world are some of the best moments within the game.

The problems in this game are not much different than that of other games. The loading times feel like an eternity. The only happen when you first load the game or fast travel but it is a quite a nuisance. Luckily, there are no loading screens when you enter different areas. Quickly your inventory becomes a crammed mess of stuff that you don’t know when or if you’ll ever need. Knowing the uses for items could have been clearer since you keep running out of space even after upgrading your storage as much as possible. As in other quest driven games, you start out with just a few but then once you talk to a few people you now have a whole mess of them. They are divided into categories but at times the number of them you have can seem daunting. What gnawed me the most was the fast travel system. You may be in the middle of a quest only to find the next phase is somewhere across the map. The problems are that you can only fast travel to campfires you’ve already been to and you have to use a consumable even then. Did I mention you also need to craft or otherwise acquire said consumable?

What the game rewards you with is by far well worth any of its problems. Things like upgrading your skills or learning a new weapon never came off as a chore. Sure you had to earn those things but when you got them it felt good. It was definitely a satisfying feeling the first time you take down a new enemy. When you first see it and have that thought “how the f… am I going to kill that?” then a few minutes later you are looting the carcass, it feels pretty good. Exploration is astounding in this game. Many of times I found myself well off the recommended path but there was no penalty for doing so.  Well, I did get a message that I need to return to the playable area a few times. Even with that the game seemed to let you go about things as you pleased, not forcing you to do exactly what they intended.

How many other games this one reminds me of was somewhat surprising. When I first decided to buy the game I thought it was going to Mass Effect like with a semi-linear, semi-open world and it is. It is also something more. Character and story elements seemed to be borrowed from the likes of Uncharted, as well as the need for wall climbing. There are also the small things of cauldrons being like tombs or campfires for save points al a Tomb Raider. Killing and pillaging felt more satisfying but still similar to Far Cry. On a personal level, I had some feelings of Halo comeback when I was doing silly jumps trying to get over and around mountains. It brought back those days of exploring the Halo maps just trying to find something interesting or that no one else had. Of course you have to have a sense of being Batman when you are scanning with your focus. I even got a little misty and upset about Horizon reminding me of Destiny in ways, the way it looks or how you can interact with the environment. However, the game that it really reminds me the most of is Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. When I could go anywhere, do anything I felt like I was in that sandbox again. There where many, many encounters I walked away from thinking that I did not go about it as they intended but all the systems are there to let me play the game my way. That was when the game felt at its best and that feeling happened often.

The breadth of this game was its biggest surprise. No spoilers but I will say that the game went far passed where I thought it would leave off. What they put into this game I had expectations to be spread across two to three games. I commend Guerrilla Games for committing this much content and story into one game. They could have strung it out but they didn’t. That is not to say that the game did not leave things open to a few sequels.

Having put just short of forty hours into the game on my initial play through, I can say with great confidence that it was well worth it. If there were ever a doubt that the makers of Killzone could do better, those doubts are over. In fact, I may say that Horizon: Zero Dawn is my most satisfying game experience in the last few years.

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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.

The Legend of Tarzan – Review

Image via imdb.com

Not sure if it says more about me or the movie that I feel asleep while watching it.

Tarzan has left the jungle and is living in London with Jane. However, he is convinced to return to jungle he grew up in to help investigate what is going on there. Reports of corruption and slavery are crossing the land. Tarzan reluctantly takes Jane with him along with his new acquaintance George Washington Williams. What they find is that they must not only fight the jungle and its danger but their pasts as well.

The movie is ambitious to a fault. Like so many films before it, it quickly becomes a stage of grandeur and less of substance. The lush jungle and all of its creatures are used ad nauseum to fill time in the movie with drawn out sequences that bring little to the story. Out of almost two hours comes a convoluted story that gets less attention and clarity than its backdrop is given. Through out the movie it is a struggle to stay interested enough to figure out all the characters intentions and motivations much less care about them.

Star power did not lend any help to this film. Not to say that any performances were not to par. Samuel L. Jackson plays a fine character but it felt somewhat cookie-cutter as he yells a lot and tromps around like a badass. One performance that puzzled me to no end was that of Christoph Waltz. He plays his role well, I suppose, but its awkwardness never settled with me.

Having mentioned that I fell asleep while watching, I’ll also tell you I didn’t go back and watch what I slept through. It didn’t seem important enough for me to do so since the movie had no draw to begin with. After sinking two hours into it and not getting much enjoyment, it really did not entice me to invest more time into it than I already had.

If you’re looking to see Margot Robbie, just go watch Suicide Squad – you know that’s what you really want.

 

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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.

Westworld, Season 1 – Review

Image via hbocanada.com

Brilliant, yet broken. Guess that describes many things.

In a seemingly far flung future the rich have a playground that surpasses any other theme park. Westworld offers, to those than can afford it, a place to live out endless fantasies in a wild-west environment. These guest get to live among the hosts of the park and interact with them in numerous ways. Fighting, frolicking, living and dieing.

As an HBO production, you get what you pay for.  With actors ranging from well-known to familiar to “who is that”, the cast is varied but grand. Actors like Sir Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris deliver to and beyond expectations. Familiar faces like James Marsden and Jimmi Simpson pull off solid performances once you get past thinking “hey it’s Liz Lemon’s boyfriend and the McPoyle brother”, respectively.  However, it is the lesser known actors that are the meat of the story most of the time. People like Evan Rachel Wood and Thandle Newton not only show their grit but push the storyboard along.

Through ten episodes, the show weaves an interesting tapestry that in the end somewhat folds in upon itself. Much of the idea of Westworld is left in ambiguity.  To keeps its own secrets the show doesn’t give any direct lines. While this leaves it open to anything happening it oddly makes it predictable. Within the first few episodes one can point in the direction the show is going and find it there very quickly. For something trying to be so complicated, it is a disappointment to see it be so simple.

If you were expecting Games of Thrones you won’t find it. You’ll be better off just to watch Game of Thrones instead. But if you want to see Dollhouse meets Deadwood take some time to stroll through Westworld. You’ll need to forgive some of the inconsistencies in order to enjoy the walk but it can be a fun little trip if you take the time.

If you let it get a little weird you get this

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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.