Friday, March 31, 2017

Destiny 2 - New Legends Will Rise

After several months of speculation, Destiny 2 has finally had an official trailer. Unfortunately, not one scene of which actually included any gameplay footage. Destiny has captivated a devoted gamer fan-base since it first launched on September 9, 2014.

In the teaser trailer titled "Last Call", Cayde-6 (portrayed by none other than Nathan Fillion) recounts the events that transpired leading to the fall of the Vanguard's Hall of Guardians while presumably taking some "creative liberties" on his heroic performance whilst defending himself as well as his comrades Ikora Rey and Commander Zavala.

In the featured trailer, he makes an attempt at rallying the various Guardians spread throughout the ruins of what was once the Tower or the last city on Earth. Comically however, his motivational speech is not nearly as impressive as Commander Zavala's but with the promise of "loot", the Guardians in his midst are rearing to take on the Cabal who had the "Ghaul" to invade and destroy the Vaults containing the Guardians' arsenals (pun intended).

The official description of the reveal trailer reads as follows:

"Humanity’s last safe city has fallen to an overwhelming invasion force led by Ghaul, the imposing commander of the brutal Red Legion. He has stripped the city’s Guardians of their power, and forced the survivors to flee. You will venture to mysterious, unexplored worlds of our solar system to discover an arsenal of weapons and devastating new combat abilities. To defeat the Red Legion and confront Ghaul, you must reunite humanity’s scattered heroes, stand together, and fight back to reclaim our home."

More info is said to come via a future livestream on May 18th, 2017. Players who pre-order will be the first to obtain BETA access to the game, but there will be an Open BETA at a later date.

My Thoughts
My expectations for this game are at an all time low because I'm skeptical (and cynical) that the plot of this sequel will have any real substance.

In addition, knowing that Bungie had DLC expansions, I can at least somewhat predict that the same pattern will occur once again. As such, I suspect that Season Pass will be offered. Let's recap on when the original game released its downloadable content:

1.) The Dark Below released on December 9, 2014
(91 days from the time of the launch of Destiny or approximately 3 months).

2.) House of Wolves released on May 19, 2015
(252 days from the date of the launch of Destiny or 8 months, 10 days).
(161 days from the date of the release of The Dark Below Expansion or 5 months, 10 days)

3.) The Taken King released on September 15, 2015
(371 days from the date of the launch of Destiny or 1 year, 6 days).
(119 days from the date of the release of the House of Wolves Expansion or 3 months, 27 days).

4.) The Rise of Iron released on September 20, 2016 
(742 days from the date of the launch of Destiny or 2 years, 11 days)
(371 days from the  date of the release of The Taken King Expansion or 1 year, 5 days)

So we have a rough idea of how spread apart the expansions were for the first title. Does this mean that Destiny 2 will follow the same trend? Not necessarily, but at least it's a starting point. On average, each expansion comes out somewhere between 3-5 months apart from one another (with exceptions regarding the last one).

No Caption Provided

Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Review of Marvel's Iron Fist on Netflix: Impurities of the Iron

Marvel's Iron Fist, or simply Iron Fist, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Scott Buck, based on the character featured in Marvel Comics. This superhero is the most mystical entry into the list of the Defenders, which consist of Daredevil, Jessica Jones (a.k.a Jewel), and Luke Cage which debuted not long ago.

Finn Jones stars as Danny Rand (a.k.a Iron Fist), a martial arts kung-fu expert with the ability to call upon the legendary power of the "Immortal" Iron Fist. Rand is the son of a rich Caucasian businessman, who is found by a monastery after his private jet crashes into the mountainous region of the Himalayas. He later returns home to only to discover that 15 years after his disappearance, he must now fight an evil syndicate within his own company, a common theme which takes several notes from Batman, Green Arrow, and even Doctor Strange.

Rosario Dawson reprises her role as nurse Claire Temple, (originally from Daredevil) and acts as a voice of reason (once again), this time for Colleen Wing (portrayed by Jessica Henwick) and for Danny Rand as they come to terms with the notion of potentially killing members of the criminal organization, the Hand.

Now as a side note, it is perhaps worth mentioning that Steve Buck has been accused of "whitewashing" the character "Iron Fist" in choosing Finn Jones to portray Danny Rand over, say, another equally capable Asian or Asian-American actor, but these arguments seem rather petty overall, especially when one thinks about the alternative of stereotyping a racial background for the protagonist depicted. This is especially true when one considers that the source material, written in the ’70s, is rampant with Orientalist stereotypes and racist remarks. I also feel that Marvel probably would've gone with a non-Asian actor to depict Danny Rand anyway as they did so in the Ultimate Spider-man Animated Series, but that's not really an issue in my mindframe. They have a reasonably experienced and moderately known actor. That's all one really needs.

Finn Jones performance isn't terrible (although the fight scenes seemed to leave much to be desired despite being incredibly gruesome at times... The actions choreographed seem sluggish and stiff, not nearly as fluid as one might expect), However, a more conducive script is probably what could've really been improved upon. The narrative is severely lacking of any innovation or emotional impact.

This unfortunate problem is further enhanced due to the fact that all three villains (Madame Gao, Bokuto, and Harold Meachum) were constantly tackled head-on with little to no tact, and only the last of whom had any real closure or afterthought. (This is partly why I enjoy Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple because she seemed to be the more level-headed and pragmatic of the three protagonists, trying to persuade Danny Rand NOT to rush into dangerous situations with half-baked plans).

Arguably, there is a consistent issue of contradictions in character developments. For example, Joy Meachum (Jessica Stroup) is Danny’s childhood friend, and her position at Rand Enterprises makes her one of the series’ more intriguing characters as a woman of respectable standing (especially as she's rediscovering her moral conscious). Yet, her executive decisions never make any logical sense for her character. One minute she’s cautiously optimistic at the prospect of the return of Danny Rand, then the next, she's tainting his tea in order to promptly stuff him into a mental institution. In addition, she's constantly at odds with trusting her brother and father (both of which make a rather toxic family to be honest), and then the audience ultimately witnesses her consulting the Hand to have Danny Rand killed. At this point, I'm rather confused as to whether Joy is supposed to be a savage ice queen who embodies hatred, or an emotionally broken individual.

Danny Rand's character development contradicts what his training encompassed in that he vehemently reminds those closest to him of his years of training which aided the forging of his mental and emotional fortitude yet, despite this, he is STILL prone to fits of rage and violence. The internal struggle is briefly mentioned with Danny's friend Davos in the car towards the end of the season, but it doesn't feel nearly as compelling even with Davos trying to find his own "center" during every interaction he has, especially with those people reminding him that he was not the chosen one to fulfill the role of the Iron Fist. Granted, one has to believe that "training never truly ends" but, it would've been better had someone actually stated something like that in dialogue. There are plenty of words of wisdom that this series could've benefitted from, manly quotes from Confucius, the Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. These could fit with the Mandarin Chinese spoken throughout the series. Shoot, we could even have the Thunderer return as a mental mentor or another equally important character remind Danny of focus.
  1. "The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
  2. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
  3. "Wherever you go, go with all your heart."
  4. “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” 
  5. “Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.” - (When Danny is angry at Colleen for the betrayal)
  6. “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” 

I felt a complete lack of tension or surprise when *SPOILER WARNING* Harold Meachum turned out to be villainous and it was utterly predictable that the timid, (but ultimately forgettable) assistant Kyle, wouldn't make it to the second season. To me, it seemed similar in many ways to DC's The Arrow.

Not really changing up the formula and as a result, suffers from predictable tropes leaving the audience feeling empty.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Hey everyone! This is your pixel pal Dave here with an update in gaming! I have recently completed the main storyline of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Wii U in less than a week of launch (I started on 03/03/2017 at approximately 12:33 PM). I have to say, overall, it wasn't a bad game. My only complaint is that the difficulty of certain fights needed a bit more balancing. Other than that, it's a fairly decent experience. Dungeons seem a tad smaller compared to say, the Wind Waker, but the puzzles typically found in them are now in shrines and there are more of them scattered about the realm of Hyrule. For every four spirit orbs obtained from these shrines, Link can trade them for a heart container or a stamina container.

*******Spoiler Warning!!!*******

This is where I will discuss ALL aspects of the game. If you're still playing it and don't enjoy spoilers, please discontinue reading.

As the story goes, Link is awoken by a mysterious voice (later discovered to be Zelda herself) urging him to awake and be a beacon of hope for the kingdom of Hyrule. After an encounter with an elderly man (not surprisingly, the King of Hyrule himself.) he points you in the direction of the first four shrines, which (after completing the challenges accompanied by them) permit your tablet Sheikah Slate to perform certain functions necessary for Link to begin his journey. King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule reveals that he is actually a spirit long since past from this world, but could not pass on the the next realm until he had fulfilled his role. He proceed to give Link his paraglider (a nod to Skyward Sword, the previous game) and from then on, he is to travel to Kakariko Village to meet with Impa, a member of Zelda's former guard. Impa then tells him of the history of Ganon (10,000 years old) and how Link came to be placed in the Shrine of Resurrection. He is then told to free the Divine Beasts under Ganon's influence in order to rescue Zelda in Hyrule Castle. After that, he is sent to Hateo's Tech Lab to regain some of the "basic functions" of the Sheikah Slate. ("I'm going to save Hyrule, but first, let me take a selfie") Joking aside, the photo album hidden in the Sheikah Slate is Zelda's personal scrapbook of sorts and they're locations that Link can traverse the wilderness for in order to regain his lost memories (an unfortunate side-effect of using the Shrine of Resurrection). After that limited direction, players are free to roam about and do as they see fit in order to better prepare themselves for the final encounter with Calamity Ganon.

Defeated on 03/10/2017 at 6:53 PM

The last boss fight wasn't particularly difficult (I had thought it would be excruciating, especially after the torture I went through with Thunderblight Ganon) but, it was a tad underwhelming. I had hoped for a serious challenge and was met with minor inconvenience. If you manage to obtain the favor of all four of the Divine Beasts, their operators manage to blast Calamity Ganon from the start of the fight, down to half of his total hit point value. This alone would be an amazing boon, but in addition to that, if the player has yet to use any of the champion's abilities, he or she is able to do substantial damage to the final boss even without the Master Sword, so long as they continue to move away from oncoming laser blasts. The afterbattle was even easier as you are mounting your steed shooting light arrows at Ganon's monstrous beast form (with his attacks not specifically aimed at you but rather the landscape). Weapon durability was an interesting design choice and at times caused me a little bit of frustration, only in that my inventory was either constantly full, or barren when I needed it to be the opposite in either instance. Some weapons have become my favorite and so coveted that I didn't want to use them as often as needed...of course there were some that could be repaired for a fee and the acquisition of certain materials, but once say, the Ceremonial Trident was damaged, I'd move onto another weapon altogether. (It's costly to repair it).

Some of the places in Breath of the Wild are subtle nods to past adventures like the Springs of Power and Wisdom from Skyward Sword. This really intrigues me as a longstanding veteran of the series as I am now somewhat actively looking for more of these "Easter eggs". I'm not accustomed to many free-roaming games and ironically, growing up playing video games (and board games too I suppose) I've gained a subconscious "goal-oriented" mentality. So I tend to focus heavily on plot points and achievements. I tend to lack the capacity for the enjoyment of subtleness or the nuances that come with a vast, open world of discovery. I guess I just get rather bored without progress or some form of productivity...(ironic again as my parents both view gaming as childish and not a productive use of one's time...which I vehemently disagree on a number of levels, one of which being puzzle solving, but I digress...). Nonetheless, my opinion of such games should not influence another's expectations of this title. I'm just the kind of guy that can't figure out what to do in Fallout 4 after the major storyline is finished as it bears little weight on the finale...

Replayability/Replay Value: Questionable/Varies
Overall Score: 8.75/10.0 - Worth a Purchase
Grade Score: A-

Worth noting (perhaps...they don't really bother me all too much) were a few frame-rate drops (namely when I was working with explosives or running around Kakariko Village). That may frustrate players who are accustomed to a "standard" of 60 frames per second. In addition, some other reviewers have complained of inopportune instances of the "Blood Moon Rising" cutscenes interfering with puzzles in the outer world (not the shrines) and boss fights. In some instances, refreshing the boss fights to the very beginning...but I haven't experienced any such issues. Probably because I was doing a substantial amount of climbing during those times...I also avoided areas that I knew were going to be quite hostile. The motion controls for the Myahm Agana Shrine, weren't a challenge to me at all with my level of coordination, so I fail to see what all of the fuss is about (although the Nintendo Switch has been known at launch to have some synchronization issues, especially with the left Joy-con) with regards to that. At any point players could press the B button during the motion control portion, lay the controller on a flat surface, then re-attempt to maneuver the ball to the goal...the number of complaints to me seems a bit bizarre to be perfectly honest. The trick is to fling the ball upward on the last stretch so it can make the gap...

I think my biggest disappointment was that Ganon in this iteration had NO human form. No dialogue, no monologue about power or corruption. That, to me, was a huge letdown. A story's protagonist is only as impactful as the villain's ambitions...I enjoyed when Ganondorf had a grand speech in Wind Waker about his homeland and how envious he was of the land of made him relatable, and I actually took pity upon him. It's reminiscent of Batman's rogue, Mr. Freeze in a way, a villain you can't help but feel empathy for. In this game, he is a "faceless" entity of destruction. It can't be reasoned with, it can't be understood. It just EXISTS. I'm still puzzled as to how he claimed the "guardians" that the Sheikah from 10,000 years ago crafted. That to me, was alarming. A neutral force that aided the Hero of Time more than a millennia ago...yet suddenly, it's under Ganon's control? That particular detail seemed really suspicious to me and I've wanted more information ever since.

I've decided to purchase the DLC Season Pass for the additional $19.99 (+Tax) but my concern is that it renders 100% completion moot now because if Nintendo updates the game with the new mode, presumably, all progress would be reset to begin the game anew on the harder difficulty (which is mind-boggling, especially when there are 900 Korok Seeds...).

I hope you've all enjoyed my review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I hope to continue to keep you all posted on upcoming games!