Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Child of Light

Ubisoft effectively distills all the best elements of a traditional JRPG into a fun and beautiful 10-15 hour package.

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I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: April 24, 2014

rogue's adventure

Charming, fairy tale-like indie games are all the rage right now – even AAA publisher Ubisoft had to get in on it. Child of Light isn’t an indie game at all. Instead it cleverly distills the best parts of the normally long and bloated JRPG into a tight 10-15 hour experience. It’s lovingly wrapped up in a beautiful hand-drawn art style and expressed through a constant rhyming structure throughout the whimsical dialogue. The story is a bit basic and linear, but overall the condensed RPG experience works remarkably well. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Child of Light”

Introducing our Dungeons & Dragons Characters

Each of my players introduces their unique characters as we begin our new D&D campaign.

d&d

As I mentioned last week in the final recap of our Shadowrun role-playing campaign, we’re moving on to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for our next online role-playing excursion.

I’m really excited to dive back into D&D, and the Fifth Edition ruleset feels nicely refined and intuitive. We spent our session last Sunday building our characters and learning the rules and character sheets for Roll20, and we’re ready to introduce them. Below I’ve included a picture, character sheet, and a brief backstory written by their respective players.

We officially begin our first campaign, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver” this Sunday. Like Shadowrun our sessions will be broadcast live beginning at 9:30pm Central time. Unlike Shadowrun we’ll be broadcasting to my YouTube channel rather than twitch. Be sure to subscribe! Continue reading “Introducing our Dungeons & Dragons Characters”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Cable, Vol. 1-2

In the dystopian future Cable’s on the run and Bishop’s on the hunt in this effective follow-up series to Messiah Complex.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriter: Duane Swiercynski

Artists: Ariel Olivetti, Michael Lacombe,  Ken Lashley (King-Size Cable)

Issues: Cable (2008) #1-10, King-Size Cable #1

 

I watched the first two Terminator films at a fairly young, impressionable age. I fell in love with the concept of a badass warrior-soldier from the future, and Cable was essentially Marvel’s version of that character. He quickly became a very 90stastic creation, with overly convoluted plots and ridiculous situations. He was also extremely powerful, and for while it seemed like Marvel didn’t know what to do with him.

In the mid 2000s we were blessed with Cable & Deadpool, where our future soldier was paired with an equally ridiculous 90s creation, and it worked beautifully. Towards the end of that series, the X-Men went through the epic Messiah Complex event, in which Cable would finally play a major role – taking on the sole burden of protecting the mutant hope for the future, the first mutant baby born since the House of M and Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population.

Cable received his first solo series in years in 2008 as a direct follow-up to the events in Messiah Complex. While it’s heavily broiled in X-Men continuity, Cable mostly stands on its own as the effective story of our hero protecting the child from the dangers of dystopian futures, and from the unrelenting hunt of former X-Men Lucas Bishop. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Cable, Vol. 1-2”

The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw, Vol. 1 Review

The concept of a magic-filled world of complex animal societies that sprung from a dystopian sci-fi world of humans is absolutely fascinating.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

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My experience with anthropomorphic animal-creatures is mostly positive, but also rather childish. I loved Saturday Morning Cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ducktales. Creating humanoid animals and assigning them familiar human traits and livelihoods is a classic story-telling device that speaks especially well to children and young adults.

The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw eschews most of the familiar trappings by throwing its huge variety of creatures into a far-flung future of magic spells, floating cities, and racial divides. The new series from Image Comics also contains a decidedly mature tone with language and violence akin to your favorite swords and sorcery HBO show. While the story-telling feels more suited to a traditional novel format (complete with mini-short stories accompanying each issue), the incredible artwork and intriguing world-building create a visual feast and a fun introduction to this strange new world.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

Classic PC Games Find New Life on Mobile

If you grew up with PC gaming in the ’90s and ’00s, the mobile marketplace has suddenly become one of the most exciting spaces in gaming.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

classic pc games

It was the summer of 2000. The summer of Diablo 2, one of the most anticipated games in my teenage life. It was also the summer my family vacationed in Hawaii. That was a magical experience, but I mostly wanted to play Diablo 2. Being away from my PC meant I had to settle with reading the latest issue of PC Gamer. I poured over the review and the few tiny screenshots to get my fix.

I distinctly remember sitting on the plane, clutching my Game Boy Color, and wishing I could be playing my growing library of awesome PC games like Diablo, Starcraft, Fallout, and Baldur’s Gate.

Fifteen years later, as I load up Heroes of Might and Magic III on my iPad, I realize that dream has finally come true.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

15 Great Indie Games That Shouldn’t Be Dismissed

Here’s a list of 15 indie games that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

Read the full list at Playboy

Deceiving Indie Games Intro

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway. Our brains are wired to make snappy judgement calls, from the people we meet to the media we consume.

With so many great indie games out there it’s easy to quickly judge them based on their cutesy art styles or fairy tale stories. But you’d be missing out on some incredibly deep, rewarding gameplay if you didn’t give these ones a deeper look. Here’s a list of 15 indie games that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.

Read the full list at Playboy

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Ghost Rider (2006), Vol. 1-3

Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvelWriter: Jason Aaron

Artists: Roland Boshi, Tan Eng Haut, Tony Moore

Issues: Ghost Rider (2006) #20-35, Annual #2

 

Next Issue: Death Race on Ghost Cannibal Highway OR Cycle Nurses Kill! Kill! Kill!

There’s a moment near the end of Volume 2, when Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) confronts his misguided brother Danny Ketch. Ketch had been absorbing the power of other Spirits of Vengenace around the world, and was prepping for a final battle against the last few holdouts. He challenges Johnny to a race around the world, and Johnny points out the absurdity of going on a silly race in the middle of a giant battle. Then they promptly race, which includes soaring past pyramids and over oceans, complete with Ketch picking up a shark and hurling it at Johnny.

Your reaction to that last sentence is a good indicator of whether or not you would enjoy Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider circa 2008-09. I try not to throw the phrase Ridiculously Awesome around too much but Ghost Rider so effectively embraces its campy horror-grindhouse themes that I can’t help but love it.

My previous experience with the motorcycle-ridin’, skull-flamin’ vigilante was limited to Nicholas Cage. I never had much motivation to actually read a comic, but my best bud and comic aficionado recommended this run as a good jumping on point for an awesome arc – and I couldn’t agree more.

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Our first story picks up after Johnny Blaze had just been given a startling revelation about his past – his powers come not from Hell, but from Heaven. Specifically directly from God as avatars of justice, overseen by the archangel Zadkiel. Zadkiel acts as a mostly off-screen but menacing super villain throughout the arc as he storms heaven’s gates to usurp God.

“Hell Bent and Heaven Bound” (#20-23) eases us into the life and times of Johnny Blaze by having our anti-hero get mixed up in a creepy small town filled with undead ghouls, hillbilly cannibals, and busty cycle nurses. Blaze ends up following a lead on a young man that experienced a near death experience – and actually saw Zadkiel. The plot leads to multiple factions literally running into each other in an explosive finale in the town square. It’s super campy and a hell of a lot of fun, particularly how Blaze simply gets caught up in these crazy events.

The plot slows back down when Blaze puts himself in prison to follow yet another lead on Zadkiel in “God Don’t Live on Cell Block D” (#24-25). It mostly serves to introduce the gigantic villainous Deacon, a monstrous tattooed man with daggers that spews Bible verses as he kills the unbelievers.

Ghost Rider #29

In “The Former Things” (#26-27) we’re introduced to the new important character of Sara, a nun that finds out her long lost grandfather is the Caretaker of the Ghost Riders. The old caretaker is slain by a motley crew of villains (presumably from Ghost Rider’s rogue’s gallery) and Sara gains all his knowledge, eventually going through a nice character arc from meek nun to Sarah Connor-esque badass.

We’re first teased with Danny Ketch – Blaze’s long-lost brother and former Ghost Rider in the first Volume. “The Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance” (#28-32) continues Ketch’s quest to absolve all the Ghost Riders and absorb their powers. He’s funneling the power directly to Zadkiel, which is bad, and Blaze and Sara have to meet up with the few remaining survivors to battle him.

Ghost Rider #31Seeing other people as Ghost Riders is a lot fun, and Aaron really gets inventive as we go international, with brief glimpses of Ghost Riders riding bears, elephants, and even a shark! Such greatness.

In Issue #33 we even get a fun history lesson on past, present, and future Ghost Riders, from World War II vets with hellfire tanks to the Prohibition era Undead G-Man. How about some cybered-up Ghost Riders from the future? Hell Yeah!

The last stand is gloriously action-packed, but Ketch, along with an army of Zadkiel’s angels, ultimately wins. Zadkiel storms the golden city, but we’re only teased about what happens next.

The final Volume (“Trials and Tribulations” #33-35) acts as an epilogue of sorts, each issue starring one of our main cast (Ketch, Sara, Blaze). It’s surprisingly entertaining with good old fashioned horror stories, especially Danny Ketch battling a satanic ghoul-trucker on the highway. The major plot and the battle for heaven concludes in the six-part mini-series Ghost Riders, which I’ll save for later.

I honestly didn’t think I’d love Ghost Rider as much as I did. It also helped that the art steadily improved with each new artist on each volume. Volume 1 had a cheap, simple look that I wasn’t quite into (though it fit the campy theme well enough) but by the end the art looked great without ever getting too glossy or polished. The major exception being Ghost Rider Annual #2, a one-shot about Blaze battling a demonic sheriff in a small town, with super glossy, ill-fitting art.

Jason Aaron effectively combined campy B-movie supernatural horror with memorable characters and an impressive overarching plot that lasted nearly two years. Blaze’s quest to find Zadkiel and meeting up with Sara and other Ghost Riders is just as entertaining as the random creepy side adventures they get into. For someone that wasn’t into Ghost Rider or really into horror or supernatural stuff at all, I absolutely loved it.