Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Cleaning out the backlog.

So, I have built up a sizable video game backlog.  I pretty much made my way through most of it during the pandemic, but it built back up again.  So I figured I'd go through the games I've checked off the list this year with some mini reviews.

 

Tales of Arise.

This game is absolutely beautiful.  They knocked it out of the park on visuals.  The music is pretty bland and generic.  There are some very good characters, and a few that are pretty meh.  The story was decent, but I felt that it really started to drag in the last third of the game or so.  The combat is pretty badly balanced.  It's not difficult, but enemies have such a ridiculous pile of HP that it just takes forever, even on normal difficulty.   And, well, the combat is not exactly what I'd call engaging, so pounding away at weak stuff that should go down pretty easily for way, way longer than you should have to gets old fast.  I ended up setting it to the lowest difficulty level because I was sick of the ridiculous amount of time this game expects you to spend on 700 hit combos just to get through a single battle against the weakest of trash mobs.  And after so many times, the flashy combat animations really start to get old and feel like they're wasting your time.  Previous entries in the Tales series did not have this problem.  They were all pretty well balanced combat-wise.  If you like Tales games, or enjoy decently made action JRPGs, you'll probably enjoy this one.  I'd say it's probably my fourth favorite in the Tales series behind Berseria, Symphonia, and Xillia.  Maybe fifth, I think Vesperia may have also been a bit better, though it's been a long time since I played it.


Shin Megami Tensei V

Okay, Whichever asshole said, "Hey, why don't we make this next game in the series open world" is suffering from a severe deficiency of my boot in his ass.  This game has the exact same problem that the majority of open world games have.  It's a big open world WITH NO FREAKING PLOT.  Which is extremely disappointing as the Shin Megami Tensei series and it's spinoff series Persona have always been deeply story and character driven games.  To come into this, expecting more of the same, only to get this big open world that is basically completely empty with nothing at all to do in it but explore, and maybe have a quick story cutscene to string the bare bones of a plot they shoved into it along was just not cool.  I like that there are other difficulty levels than "why god, why" and "hard as balls" but when there's literally nothing but repetitive exploration in an completely empty world, it's kind of wasted.  I didn't bother finishing it.  I got bored and moved on to something else.


Unfortunately, that something else happened to be:


Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

So, yes.  I understand that there are many, many, many people out there that just absolutely love this game.  I can see WHY people would.  I get it.  But this game really just was not for me.  It throws an enormous cast of characters at you right off with very little in the way of introduction.  Then it just keeps piling more and more complicated systems of gameplay on top of them, and I was like come on, game, give me a few minutes to catch my breath here.  At the end of the day, the game just dumped way too much complicated crap on top of me at the very beginning, and the story and characters were not engaging enough for me to stick it out and learn how to play the game.


Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

This is the one that everyone hates, apparently.   I've only played 2 Call of Duty games, this one and WWII, and only for the campaign, so I don't really have much to compare it to in the series.  I had a lot of fun with the campaign.  I really do not care for online multiplayer BS, so I skipped it entirely.  I thought the campaign was a pretty decent sci-fi story.  It had some interesting mission design, especially the ones that involved zero-G, or staying out of the sunlight on an asteroid close to the sun.  I'm not a huge fan of shooters, but the gameplay wasn't too complicated, and was easy to grasp for a scrub like me.


Octopath Traveler.

Okay, I really liked this one.  It's a cool throwback to older turn-based JRPGs.  It's got 8 characters.  Each of them has their own storyline.  I enjoyed all 8 storylines and played all of them through to completion.  In addition it has an excellent soundtrack, a great battle system that has a surprising amount of depth, and was just a fun, nostalgic little game.


Atelier Ryza

I've attempted to get into the Atelier series a couple times, but the games I've tried have generally just bored me, and I don't like arbitrary time limits.  This game is pretty different from the others I've tried.  It actually has a plot, for one, and there's no time limit BS, plus the combat was a pretty huge upgrade to the other games I've played in the series.  It's a pretty laid back game with a kind of cute story about a teenage girl and her two childhood friends basically having a last little bout of being children before it's time to grow up and be adults.


Doki Doki Literature Club

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!?!?!?  Starts out as a bland high school harem visual novel and turns into an insane psychological horror story.  I was pretty bored with it at first, but holy crap, I'm glad i stuck it out to the end.


Scarlet Nexus

This game has a cool visual style, and good combat.  The story seems interesting to me on the surface, but I just kept losing interest in it for some reason.  It just didn't hold me.  And the prospect of having to play the game twice, once with each character, to get the whole story annoyed me, so I gave up on it about 10 hours into my first character's playthrough.


Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker

I was really hyped for this one, because Shadowbringers, the previous expansion, was the best that Final Fantasy has been in DECADES, and had the absolute best villain in any Final Fantasy game ever.  Period.  I was a little disappointed.  It had some serious pacing issues throughout the story, it felt really long for the sake of being long.  Though it had a few very hard emotional gut punches, it felt like a cobbled together mess.  Shadowbringers was a very tight character driven story.  Endwalker could have used a few more drafts to get everything focused, and remove some of the needless fluff.  It really suffered from the comparison.  Had this one come out directly after Stormblood, which I absolutely hated, I probably would have loved it, but coming right after Shadowbringers, it felt kind of mediocre.  Plus they removed literally every shred of complexity from my favorite class, Summoner.


Halo Infinite

Whichever asshole said, "Hey, why don't we make this next game in the series open world" is suffering from a severe deficiency of my boot in his ass.  Yes.  I know I said the exact same thing about Shin Megami Tensei V.  It applies to this one too.  You know why previous Halo games have just cutscened us to the next mission instead of making you walk cross country to it?  BECAUSE IT'S FREAKING BORING AND NO ONE WANTS TO DO IT!!!!!  The story was garbage.  The open world idea was absolute garbage.  And, it seems, that you are REQUIRED to read several novels that take place between Halo 5 and Infinite to know what's happening.   5 stars to that hookshot though.  0 stars to the rest of the game.  But that hookshot was cool and fun to play around with.  I got bored with the game and gave up before finishing.  Who the hell actually enjoys a completely empty open world with nothing to do in it, and zero plot in a series that, until now, has been very story driven, and has not been open world until now?  STOP DOING THIS, game developers!  No one freaking wants it!


Titanfall 2

I actually really liked the campaign of this game.  It was on sale for $3.99, and I thought to myself, I feel like shooting things for a few hours.  I got exactly that, and I can't argue with the price.  The combat was surprisingly deep, there were a lot of cool mechanics, and I really enjoyed the story.  Never bothered with multiplayer, because I don't care.


The Outer Worlds

The best way I can describe this game would be if Mass Effect was a comedy.  I thought it was a lot of fun.  It didn't have a whole lot in the way of memorable characters, but it was pretty entertaining for what it was.


Outriders

The best way I can describe this game would be if Mass Effect was boring with terrible characters.  It's fun to play, but the story and characters are utter garbage.  I can't even remember if I finished it or not, that's how impactful the story is.


So yeah, there's a lot of games there I gave up on because they just weren't all that engaging to me.  The ones that I did finish I generally liked, though some of them did have some issues.  I think I'm going to give Triangle Strategy a try next.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

*sigh* All right. I guess it's time to talk about The Wheel of Time...

Okay.  It's been a few months.  I'm pretty confident that this post isn't going to turn into a wall of obscenities now that I've had some time to distance myself from the unholy abomination that Amazon dared to place the name "Wheel of Time" on.

I hated it.  I hated every single minute of it.  Right from the very first line of dialog I hated it.  Even then, from the very first line, I could tell that it was going to be egregiously unfaithful to the source material.

 I understand that things do have to change in an adaptation.  You can't just make a one to one conversion from book to film.  It just doesn't work like that.  But take Game of Thrones for example.  The first four or five seasons of that are pretty faithful to the books.  They change lots of things, add in a few things here and there, merge some characters together, skip scenes and entire events from the books.  But, at the end of the day, I can sit down and watch it, and I can say, this is A Song of Ice and Fire.  It's still the same story, about the same characters, adapted to a visual medium.  I can't do that with The Wheel of Time.  It is utterly unrecognizable as being the same thing as the source material.  The characters are all changed, some of them with completely and wildly different backstories.  The events have changed, and bear little resemblance to anything that happened in the books.  The story itself give a bit of lip service to the books, but is so wildly different and warped out of shape that they might as well have just dispensed with even bothering to call it Wheel of Time, and made their own, original series in the vein of Game of Thrones, which is obviously what they were going for here.  The problem is that A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Wheel of Time are two very fundamentally different stories, and changing one to fit into the mold of the other just doesn't work.  It needs to be its own thing, rather than being forced to be something its not.

Before I get into what they did to the plot, world, and characters, I'm going to talk a bit about just the show in general as a show and not as a supposed adaptation of The Wheel of Time.  

The show looks very cheap.  The CGI is serviceable, but cheap looking.  The cinematography is awful.  Whoever worked on it does not know what he is doing at all.  Pretty much every single scene in the show is blocked badly.  Okay, here's a thing that every first year film student learns about blocking a scene.  THE ACTION IS ALWAYS DEAD CENTER IN THE SCREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!  You have two people talking, they're in the center of the screen, unless you're doing something artistic like trying to show how emotionally far apart they are from each other (No, this series does not have that kind of depth to it, that would require someone who knows the first thing about filmmaking)  You don't have them kind of off to one side while random background noise fills up most of the screen.  You don't have them on opposite sides of the screen when there is no deeper reason for it within the narrative.  When people are fighting, they are centered in the screen.  When they're riding a horse, that horse is in the center of the screen.  When they're running for their lives, they do it through the center of the screen.  Whoever blocked the shots in this series is absolutely incompetent, and even an amateur like me, who changed majors from film to a real degree after the first year of college, could do better.

The costume design is terrible.  I've seen better costumes at the local Scottish and Renaissance festivals.  And holy crap do the Great Serpent Rings look bad.  In the books they're just a simple gold band.  In the series they're these massive, gaudy monstrosities that are just fugly. 

The music is very bland and forgettable.  Individual characters do not have their own themes.  There doesn't really seem to be any overarching theme to the series.  It all just sounds like canned generic fantasy music.

The editing is absolutely atrocious.  You have loads of just weird and unnecessary cuts that lead to confusion as to where characters are in relation to each other, and in relation to their surroundings pretty much all throughout the series.

The writing is completely horrible.  Even if this wasn't supposed to be The Wheel of Time, the writing is awful.  There are things that are just lat out not explained.  There are mountainous piles of contradictions.  Characters never really seem to settle down into their own personalities.  I can't tell of any of them are acting out of character, because none of them really seem to be characters at all.  The dialog is painful to listen to.  It's just all around bad.

Now, the one thing I see people praising about this show is the cast.  I assume that the only reason they are praising the cast is because they don't want to be called racist.  I, on the other hand, do not and will not ever care what your opinion of me is, and therefore am not constrained from telling the truth about these actors.  They are, each and every one of them, terrible actors.  Every.  Single.  One.  Of. Them.  They couldn't act their way out of a paper bag.  They are all completely wooden, and the only two that ever even bother to emote are written so badly that they come off as abrasive assholes more than anything else.  Every line of dialog in the entire series is delivered in complete monotone.  People are praising these actors?  The whole lot of them should never have been cast in the first place, and they certainly don't deserve to return for another season.  Every one of them needs to go back to acting school.  Like, whose bright idea was it to cast a man who absolutely cannot sing at all as Thom Merrilin?  You know, THE BARD!!!  WHO SPENDS MUCH OF THE SERIES SINGING!!!!  It sends a very, very unfortunate message.  That these actors were not hired because of their acting talent, but because the showrunner wanted to check off diversity boxes on his virtue signaling flag.  Which is a terrible thing.  When I'm thinking, holy shit these actors are awful, they must have been hired for inclusivity purposes only, that's bad.  That's very, very bad.  I have no problem with all of the characters being race swapped.  That's not the problem here.  It's that the actors are terrible actors, and it very strongly says to me that these people were not hired because they were the best actors that auditioned, but because of the color of their skin.  I've seen Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney in other things, and they can actually act, but they have terrible material to work with here, and god-awful direction.  Which brings me to my next point.

Was this series directed by a film school dropout?  Because with all of the wooden acting, even from people I know CAN actually act, there's really no excuse other than a director that has absolutely no idea what he's doing.

Okay, I think I've worked through all of that, now on to the plot and characters.

There is a whole lot of character assassination going on here.  Generally good people are now thieves, drunks, and cheating on their spouses.  Character backstories have changed to the point that they should not have certain abilities that they do in the books, but yet, still have those abilities, even though the backstory that gave it to them has been replaced with a completely different one.  Do I really need to point out how terribly handled fridging Perrin's non-existent wife was?  Because that was pretty freaking terrible.  Dude accidentally murders his wife (who does not exist in the books) and immediately, IMMEDIATELY just leaves town because some stern woman says he should.  Doesn't say a word about it.  Doesn't mourn.  Just leaves town with a random stranger.  Then he can't even be bothered to even remember that she existed for most of the rest of the series.

Nyneave.  Oh, Nyneave.  What have they done to you.  She's my favorite character in the books.  She's angry, rude, and abrasive, and kind of a hypocrite, but the books actually take the time to show us WHY she is that way.  What she's had to deal with in her life that made her that way, and why she thinks she has to be that way to get any respect out of people.  In the TV series she's just bitchy for the sake of being bitchy.  No reason. She's just a bitch.  Pretty much every character has been changed in some way, and all of them for the worse.  Rand, the main character of the books.  The hero of the story, has about 12 lines in the entire season.  They cut out CRUCIAL character building moments from his storyline that are VITAL to his motivation as a character.  He's basically a background character in his own story.

The show is very bad at explaining why men shouldn't use the Power.  That there are, in fact, TWO powers, one for men and one for women, and the male side of it was tainted by the Dark One so it makes the men who use it go insane and rot to death if they happen to live long enough for that to happen.  In fact, the show is just very bad at explaining.  Period.  Full stop.  The people who made this series just do not have any idea how the One Power is even supposed to work, and they keep spewing out a TON of contradictory BS about it that just doesn't make any sense.  The writing here is just plain terrible.

If I were to go through and point out every story change and why it doesn't make sense this post would be about as long as the book this season was "based" on, so I won't.  But there's one more thing I'd like to say.  One of the big themes of The Wheel of Time is that men and women are different.  They have different goals, ideas, and ways of seeing the world.  They are different, but equal in different ways.  They work together, playing to their separate strengths, to overcome things that neither could do alone.  This TV series doesn't seem to really care much for that.  None of the men are allowed to do anything heroic.  There isn't a single positive portrayal of a male character in the entire series.  They're all pushed aside to make room for the women being awesome.  I think the most ridiculous example of this would be Rand's mother.  There she is, actually giving birth to Rand, and all of a sudden she's flipping around like freaking Xena Warrior Princess splattering enemy soldiers by the dozen. The problem with this is that instead of allowing the women to be strong in realistic ways in relation to the men around them, the men are basically ground down into the ground so the women can just be awesome without earning it.  This diminishes not only the male characters, but the female characters as well.  It completely throws out the theme, of different, but the same, working with and against one another to drive the events of the story, each playing to their respective strengths.

Anyway, I watched the first three episodes and was thoroughly pissed off at them.  I didn't even bother watching any more of them until the whole season had come out.  I just didn't have any interest in watching more of it.  But I figured I should watch to the end just in case things got better.  They did not.  They made a lot of weird and unnecessary changes that are going to cause some pretty huge problems later on in the series if it doesn't get cancelled (which it probably will).  I started to think to myself, "if I think of this as just a generic fantasy series, and not The Wheel of Time, it's not great, but watchable, I guess" until it got to that last episode.  That last episode is so egregiously spiteful, hateful, and lorebreaking that it makes the entire series leading up to it worse just by association.  Tell me you've never read The Wheel of Time without telling me you've never read The Wheel of Time.  They made the exact worst decision they could possibly make with where to take the characters and story at every single point.  I was angry with the beginning.  I was mostly just bored and disinterested through the middle, watching only out of a feeling of obligation, but that ending.  That last episode.  That last episode made me FURIOUS.  It was like they took everything good about The Wheel of Time and systematically took a runny shit over every single one of them.

Who is this show even for?  It's not for book fans.  It's too disrespectful to the source material.  It's not for rando fantasy peeps looking for the next big thing after Game of Thrones.  It doesn't explain itself well enough to draw them in.  The only thing I can think of is that they took The Wheel of Time, and they twisted it to fit into a mold it was never meant to be fit into in order to satisfy a certain subsection of the Twitter population, who, by the way, probably never even bothered to watch the show.  I feel insulted by the show's creators.  I certainly won't be back for season 2, which is reportedly filming right now.  And I'm definitely not showing up for Amazon's Lord of the Rings series, after seeing for egregiously they've defiled the Wheel of Time.

I'm not really seeing many people talking about this series.  It's like the second season one ended, nobody cared anymore.  There's a few outraged fans making videos for youtube, but there's not a whole lot of those.  There's even fewer reviews speaking positively for the show.  There was a bit of hype before it came out, but it's like people saw what it was, and just stopped caring.  I think Amazon is going to be learning a very hard lesson when Season two drops and literally no one cares or even bothers to watch it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

What you probably don't realize about the Brandon Sanderson kickstarter.

 So, as of this writing, the Brandon Sanderson kickstarter is currently at 29 million with over 2 weeks left to go.  He's been breaking all kinds of records, and he's been utterly shocked at the huge showing of support from his fans for these little projects he did on the side to help blow off the stress of the pandemic.  The left side of twitter is rather up in arms about a white man being successful from atop the platform he's spent decades growing.  Normal people don't really care all that much, and we Sanderson fans are just happy we're getting four new books next year on top of the one that was already scheduled.  I, personally bought into the $60 option for e-books/audiobooks.  $60 for 4 audiobooks from an author I like is a pretty good price, especially when you consider that the e-books are included in that.

Anyway, you may be thinking to yourself, wow, he just made 29 million dollars.


Except he didn't.  Not really.

 

What you're probably not thinking about is how much of that money is going toward costs.  First of all, printing tens of thousands of books is not cheap.  Especially with pandemic paper shortages.  This is why that pay option is so much higher, because it just costs a hell of a lot of money to print a set of 4 books.

Next, the swag bags.  All the T-shirts, plushies, jewelry, bookmarks, and whatever else they toss into those has to be manufactured and shipped to him.  He doesn't just have that all lying around.  Manufacturing costs are pretty high right now because of material and labor shortages, also caused by the pandemic.

He will also have to lease a warehouse to keep it in, which, again, is not cheap, especially in the current world.

On top of that, he's going to have to hire an army of full time employees to assemble these swag bags, box them up for shipping, and actually ship them.  Same with the hardcovers.  Something you may not realize if you've never run a business before is that running a business is not cheap.  Not only do you have to pay your employees, you are also required to pay liability insurance in case any injuries arise, and that is also not cheap, especially when you consider how many employees it is going to take to undertake such a huge task as what is ahead of them.  You're also required to pay into social security for each employee you have.  That's right, it's not just the workers who pay a social security tax, businesses do too. 

Packaging materials also cost money, especially in the quantities that will be needed.  So does actual shipping, even if you're shipping by bulk rates and media mail.

And then, of course, the government will always take its share of the profits when all is said and done.

 

In the end, Sanderson is not going to pocket 29 million dollars.  He's probably going to take home 2-3 million tops after all of his expenses and taxes.  Which, for an author, is a very good paycheck, especially on top of all his other royalties and any advances he's getting for future books from his traditional publishers, which for an author of his popularity, will not be insubstantial.  But, I mean, the guy worked his ass off to build the following and platform that he has over decades, and he also worked his ass off to squeeze four unplanned books into his schedule.  He deserves to be rewarded for all of the hard work that he has put in to get where he is now.  All the twitter crazies whining about it can go to hell.