Tales From the Borderlands – Review

Image via telltale.com

Everything that is Borderlands but without the looting and shooting.

In the post-Handsome Jack era, everybody at Hyperion is trying to get their piece of the action and climb the corporate ladder. Rhys is no exception, he and his friends finally think they have made their big break. As per the usual back-stabbing of Hyperion, Rhys finds himself on the short end with his boss being killed and Rhys’s nemesis taking his place. Rather than taking the demotion to janitor, Rhys and friends decide to stab back at their back stabber by highjacking a deal he is making. This is the start of a path that will take the team to Pandora where they will meet people and situations that they never dared to imagine. Luckily they meet up with Fiona and her sister Sasha whom become allies, unwillingly at first, in their quest for revenge and fortune.

Having not liked The Walking Dead games from TellTale, I was hesitant, to say the least, to even play this game. However, the price was right(free from my PS Plus subscription) and a friend(Mr. CheapBossAttack himself) gave it a high recommendation.  My fears were unfounded and I quickly came to enjoy this game.

This game gets right many of the things it needed, not only in the sense of being a Borderlands game but just being an enjoyable game in general. A lot of people still don’t consider this game a “Borderlands” game because it is not in the action-shooter genre that the series is known for. I will give it that distinction because not being an action-shooter is the only thing it lacks for being included the Borderlands universe. It does a great job to tell a story that fits perfectly to the universe along with bringing back familiar characters while mixing in new ones. To further prove that this game belongs, consider the humor and art. The witty/smart-ass banter is in true tone with Borderlands when giving the choice of telling someone off or telling them how it is. The most obvious attribute of the game is the graphical style and it is done in true Borderlands style with a subtle but distinct flavor of TellTale.

Watch where you put that hand!!!

Of course I won’t say the game is perfect. There are a few continuity errors, some more minor than others. The worst ones came near the end of the game when I was given choices of characters that I clearly shouldn’t have, whereas I didn’t have characters available and had no idea why. There were little things like parts of dialogues scenes not matching because of the choices you had made. Through out the game characters would slightly jump from one place to another because the scene was rendered differently based on different choices. It may be a minor complaint and one some would never see, when using sub-titles there was an annoying little thing they do when they type out above a choice wheel then completely disappear when you make your choice only to start typing completely over. This sometimes lead to the scene being out of sync with the sub-titles themselves.

The game is fun to play for numerous reasons. Fans of Borderlands will love the humor, characters and story, even without the gunplay and loot. Those that don’t want action and want more story will easily be appeased by this title. It is also not too long and not too short. Total play time is about ten hours and it makes that most of that.One part of the game that I will praise is their use of music. The blending of sight and sound in this game reaches back to that of the original game and exceeds that of the sequels. The last episode is likely the weakest of the five entries but it does do well to tie everything together and give closure to the game.

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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.

NieR: Automata – Review

It had its moments, some better than others.

In the distant future, humanity doesn’t live on Earth. It was lost long ago when aliens attacked and humanity fled to the moon. For centuries humanity has been trying to reclaim their home by sending androids to fight the machines that rule the Earth. In this never ending struggle 2B is paired with 9S. Their task is the same as all other androids, to defeat the machines so the Earth is safe for humanity once again. This task sounds simple but it has never come to pass.  2B and 9S will do everything they can to be successful but they are going to find some surprises along the way.

This game is both awe inspiring and awful in so many ways. The things that it does well are brilliant and fantastic, whereas what it does poorly is absolutely dreadful.  This game is very different from games I normally play and that was taken into great consideration before writing this review. It was a welcome step out of my gaming comfort zone. The consensus on the internet is that three play throughs of the game gives you the most complete version and that is where I likely will leave off. In those three play throughs, I’ve seen so many nuances that it is hard to know if I even caught all of them. Here are some of them that I did: family, obsession, unrequited love, sexuality, self realization, depression, self loathing, creationism, being a recluse, establishing a monarchy, religion, isolationism, culturalism, humanity, self image, pacifism, cannibalism, suicide, self sacrifice, and loyalty.

On the surface, the game starts out being about a robot samurai lady and her partner. How this game does the story and the characters is where it really stands out. The main characters quickly go from shallow robots to deep, nearly human people. Some of the inner growth of the characters seems oddly paced, as if it is happening to quickly or unnaturally, but the pay off it gives is well done on almost all counts. How quickly the two androids become attached to each other seems awkward but the relationship becomes a pivotal point of the game. How the game is built is even part of its unique nature. When you save the game you are actually uploading your conscience and when you change abilities you are actually changing chips in your character.

Stylistically the game is all over the place but in the best of ways. Jumping from third-person slasher to 2-D runner keeps the game moving and somehow invigorating. Some of the parts I enjoyed most were the 2-D shooter sequences. From a story aspect, it goes from saving humanity to falling in love and everything else possible as I’ve mentioned earlier. I don’t know how else to say it but this is a very Japanese game. It makes me feel like I spent almost forty hours playing an anime but loved every minute of it. Admittedly, the third play through was my least favorite of them. The story was intriguing but constantly jumping in between characters broke down the continuity of the game.

Then there are some bad things. Graphically it is somewhat less than what can be expected on the PS4. Granted that some of the environment and characters are made they way the are from a stylistic choice but seeing grass and other parts of the environment render makes the game less enjoyable. As far as the upgrade systems, well…, not knowing where to get materials and then having to grind for them isn’t much fun to say the least. Maybe there are systems built in to aid in this but I did not find them. The worst part of the game, for me anyway, was the combat. I couldn’t get a handle on the range of weapons nor could I get the timing of the evades right. Early in the game I switched the difficulty down to easy, this removed a lot of my frustrations and allowed me to just enjoy the story.

What exactly it is about this game I liked is hard to put my finger on. I know I liked the characters and the story but I’m not sure why I like the overall game as much as I did. Given that I did not like the combat takes the game down a bit for me. Although it is still high in the running of the best games of 2017 so far. One step behind Horizon Zero Dawn but miles ahead of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

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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.

Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60 – Review

Image via newonnetflix.info

This guy still makes me laugh.

Dana Carvey hasn’t done much stage work over the years and that is sad. This Netflix special is a fantastic display of the comic’s talent. Time has not dulled Carvey’s sense of humor or his ability to deliver it. If anything it has given him more insight and material. The comic already had an impressive reservoir  to work with and this special only shows that it has deepened.

There are few styles or topics Carvey will not employ in order entertain. Anything from telling a joke about the Apple store, singing a mock Italian song about space travel, or an impersonation of Barack Obama explaining the Middle East. Much of the humor is politically oriented but equal in that he makes fun of both Democrats and Republicans. For me, the special’s best parts were when he talked about his own life.  It may be that the stories are exaggerated but it is hilarious to hear about his travel experiences and past gigs he has done. The part when he discusses his Millennial children is perhaps my favorite. Hearing his experiences with them were funny on their own but they made me think of people I know and that made me laugh even harder.

Watching Dana Carvey’s special was both nostalgic and fresh.  Other than a reference to making the original Wayne’s World movie and reviving The Church Lady for a corporate gig he doesn’t speak about his past material. The vast majority of the special is based around his life after his heyday and Saturday Night Live work. Given that he is now sixty, it could be that having raised his children is what has kept him in tune and on the pulse of what is going on.

Being old enough to have seen Carvey as a regular on Saturday Night Live gives me an appreciation for seeing him again. His absence probably wasn’t very noticeable given that things change and people have access to comedy, and other entertainment, outside of television and movies, for which Carvey is most known for. Doing a Netflix special may have been the best move for him at this point since it is a newer delivery method and one that is readily accessible to both new and old audiences.

On a personal note, Dana Carvey is a long time favorite of mine. I even enjoyed some of those movies that he did that weren’t so good but I tried to enjoy his performance more than the overall movie. He was an early idol to me and I always wanted to be able to do impersonations like him. I don’t know if he plans on doing any more of these specials but I sure hope so.

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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.

Dave Chappelle: Collection 1 – Review

Image via instantwatcher.com

Still hilarious after all these years.

Dave Chappelle had been absent from the comedy stage for years but he is back in triumphant fashion delivering humor as only he can. Beware that Mr. Chappelle makes generous use of a certain racially divisive word but if you have ever heard or seen him before you are well aware this fact. For those that are not familiar with his previous work then you best be prepared.

The first episode, entitled The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live the Hollywood Palladium, takes Chappelle to L.A. for his first stage performance there in ten years. He takes the time to regale the audience with tales and jokes on every topic from O.J. Simpson to his own run-ins with the law. The second episode, entitled Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle Live at Austin City Limits, takes Chappelle to Texas. No topic is safe as he talks about his family, drug use, and having snowballs thrown at him.

Dave Chappelle is a unique man in the world of comedy. Many people get turned off by how much he talks about racism but I don’t. It much reminds me of the way Mel Brooks portrayed itin Blazing Saddles. Some consider that the most offensive movie of all time, however how racism is played out in that film shows how faulty and unnecessary it really is. This is how I view Chappelle’s use of racism. He as a successful black man, a public figure,  surely has been subjected to his share of racism. Rather than let it bring him down he stands in front of us all and puts it on display in fantastic fashion. Never is it done in the prose that he should be felt bad for the things that have happened to him. Rather, it is more in the stance that we need to recognize it and do something about it.

Chappelle is one of few voices willing to be bold about his stance. Perhaps he is too bold at times for some to stand. I kind of cringe when he uses certain language but I don’t think he is using to offend anybody. On the contrary, I think he may be using certain words in order to exhaust them. If there ever were a more socially conscience and aware comic, I must have missed that person. Chappelle seems not only to want to entertain but enlighten. His absence from public life could have questionably been caused by his own feelings of trying to make things better in his own way but being ostracized for it. Seeing him back in action and still in form is a welcome site.

Please Dave Chappelle, keep doing what you are doing.

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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.

Extraction – Review

Image via imdb.com

Remember when Bruce Willis made good movies???

A CIA agent nearing the end of his career is sent on one last secret mission. He has had a fall from grace and this is his last chance to redeem himself. In contrast, his son has been working hard to rise through the ranks of the CIA to become a field agent like his father but he keeps getting passed over for the position. The father/son duo have had a strained relationship after the wife/mother was murdered years ago. Now the pair have a chance to come together again when the father’s mission apparently takes a wrong turn and the son takes it upon himself to save him.

Normally I would try to say something nice about a movie and go through all the positives. Here is the only positive – see that graphic I used at the top of this post? That has a great throwback vibe to it and screams of an old Steve McQueen movie. There.

What this movie ultimately turns out to be is a total disaster.  Bruce Willis all but mails in his performance and given how little his is actually in the movie, he must have only been on set for about a week. The rest of the cast doesn’t do much better but maybe its not completely their fault. There is supposed to be a romance element in this movie but the pair involved in it pull it off in the most uncomfortable and unbelievable fashion as if they are step-brother and step-sister. As far as the dialogue overall goes, not only is it delivered poorly, it was written poorly. Maybe the delivery was bad because the actors were reading it during their takes thinking to themselves “is this right?”. If you are looking for plot just keep looking. The setup and rollout of the story is not only unbelievable but somewhat ridiculous. There is a machine capable of taking over major communications systems that can be operated by a common street thug. Kind of like the world’s most versatile smartphone.

This movie is a big step in the Nicholas Cage direction of films for Bruce Willis. I don’t think this movie ever had a theatrical release and it may not have even been direct to DVD. This one could have gone straight to forgotten and then Netflix got the streaming rights on the cheap. Granted that at this point in his career, Bruce Willis can make his choice of films. The question is why he would agree to do this film. There is no great direction in this film or deep meaning. The only passing thought is that he was trying to do a friend a solid by being in their movie.

The hour and a half I spent on this movie feels like a waste. As much as I love Mr. Willis and all he has done in his career, I cannot endorse this movie in any way. At least with the lower tier Nicholas Cage movies I can get some entertainment, this movie just left me sad about where Bruce Willis is at with himself. In hind-sight, I should have started watching Breaking Bad before watching this movie and then I would have never even seen it. (P.S. – Breaking Bad is damn good even though I’m only four episodes into 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.

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.

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.