weeeeeeeee-oo.

let’s get this out of the way immediately. mass effect: andromeda is a buggy mess rife with plot holes, thin dialogue, boring characters, unfulfilling romances, and bullet spongy enemies, especially when your gear is bad at the beginning. some of the more interesting aspects of the story/lore are either never answered or hidden behind miserable world quests. of which there are millions, and the game doesn’t even try to pretend like they’re fun. they outright call the things “tasks.” you will wait ten minutes for an autosave to reload, you will crash during the loading animation on the nexus, and you will die in level-4 electric hazards you had no way to see coming. you will spend a preposterous amount of “research points” on weapon upgrades only to be stunned at how little difference there is between various levels of a gun. you will have scores of skill points waiting to be applied and no use for them whatsoever. you will marvel at the rigid facial animation and wonder what, exactly, that emotion is. you will place a waypoint on the map and the game will move it several kilometers for no reason. you will click on the map icon 40 times before it agrees you want to fast travel.

and yet…

i definitely enjoyed playing this game. i enjoyed discovering the galaxy and the things, places, and people in it. i really enjoyed tracking down other survivors of the trip to andromeda and helping return them home. (every race has its own Pathfinder but it feels like Ryder is the only one for the whole initiative.) i do have to give me:a a reluctant recommendation, at least on PC; it seems console players ran into way worse glitches, especially graphically. if you want to wait for a sale or for some more patches to repair bugs, that’s definitely wise, but i’m not sure you want to skip it outright.

everything that follows will be just a scattered list of thoughts, because i have no coherent one, it’s all a mess in my head. they will be spoilers of varying degree, including extreme, late-game spoilers, so only read on with caution or having also played. a lot of them will be gripes. share yours and we can commiserate.

i don’t get the circumstances around you becoming pathfinder in the first place. alec places his hat on you on habitat 7 when yours busts. why can’t he take it back, take a breath, and then give it back to you, and repeat, til help arrives? is there some reason that mask only works like a scuba mask once?

the vast majority of weapons in this game are WAAAANK. behold, the pistol that does no damage. the assault rifle, that does no damage. the shotgun, that never hits its targets. and even the sniper rifle, that does, you guessed it, no damage, while shooting exactly like the pistol with a scope on. if you want a strong single-shot sniper rifle, R&D the Isharay, which can actually OHK chosen and raiders with a headshot. and if you want decent damage from an AR, R&D the Valkyrie. speccing into assault rifles early isnt that bad of an idea tbh, given the level 6 AR talent is super super good to bring down tanky mobs. up to +24% damage? yes please.

speaking of talents and speccing. you can only have 3 skills equipped at a time. my loadout was incinerate (for armor), overload (for shield), and invasion (for tanky mobs and bosses). for my purposes, that… covered everything. i had no biotics (except the shield passives). i had no combat skills except the gun passives. well, and combat fitness, which is a must because you have no HP. i want to do another play through where i largely skip out on gunplay and instead use all four Favorite profiles or whatever, seamlessly jumping from one skill to the next, and when they’re on cooldown, swapping profiles. have a boss profile, a big fight profile, a remnant profile. rely on the remnant VI to bring the pain. mine tickled, but i didnt build for it at all, it can get really strong.

in terms of combat, your squadmates are largely either interchangable or not helpful. there’s

  • peebee, who has some control biotics and NO HEALTH
  • cora, who can bop around and disrupt things with her biotics (and cryo ammo, which is SO good)
  • drack, my personal favorite combat partner, who is both tanky as shit and capable of dealing good damage
  • liam, whose main ability seems to be being tanky as shit
  • vetra, whose main ability seems to be being tanky as shit
  • jaal, whose skills make him out to be a cora/tank hybrid, but in reality he just stands in the open and dies because the squad AI is brutal

whenever possible i traveled with cora and drack.

so yeah, the squad AI is really bad. your team almost never take cover. they often run in your way, and you can’t shoot through them. and you can’t even control their skill usage like in past ME titles. it’s just abilities, randomly tossed out on cooldown.

the various worlds look amazing. eos and elaaden are both very well done deserts, havarl a gorgeous jungle planet, voeld an excellently done Hoth, aya a hidden paradise in a hellscape, and kadara… kadara is annoying but it’s at least really pretty. kadara is the only place i died in the nomad, because a squad of roekkar dropped in front of me, i ran them over, none of them died, and they shot me as i drove off. i never stopped at all. was just fucked. it’s just incredibly convenient how all these locations–humanity’s first colony, the resistance base, the science outfit, kadara port, and even new tuchanka–just HAPPEN to be right next to the one place on the whole planet i need to be to fix the climate.  that’s a nitpick and i’m willing to accept it, it’s just a little weird, okay?

speaking of a little weird–how much later than everyone else did ark hyperion show up? the nexus is already mostly built, and has had a rebellion, which saw the krogan leave en masse and set up a full colony, and a human colony has already been attempted and failed, and milky way outlaws have already run into the angara on kadara and even kind of taken over there? this was a problem in no man’s sky. it’s a little sketch to accuse me of discovering all this stuff in the galaxy when people are already there. it’s also a little sketch to accuse me of initiating first contact with the angara when they already share kadara port with milky way castoffs.

THATS NOT HOW A BLACK HOLE LOOKS FROM DISTANCE. the supermassive black hole at the center of each galaxy is extremely bright because it’s surrounded by stars. if you’re close enough to actually see the dark event horizon, you’re too fucking close to a black hole. is there no system between the black hole and any other system in andromeda? is there no interstellar dust? why can we just see that far? why does it look so close? why does the gravitational lensing distort things in front of the black hole? i have so many questions.

so i had some conflicting thoughts about this as a mass effect game. i wondered if it would be a lot more fun to me if it didn’t have that legacy behind it. after all, FTL travel in that universe is done via mass relay, not via the Alcubierre drive the tempest is rockin. where did that come from anyway? there’s also the question suvi asks near the end of the main storyline: is this as good as chasing prothean artifacts? i chose the “it’s better” option honestly. prothean artifacts were boring. it’s really old shit. it’s the work of archaeologists, and liara can study them all she likes in my stead. the remnant is alive, and powerful, and advanced enough their tech looks like magic. i want to know more about the remnant, and about the jardaan, who, apparently, are the alien race behind the remnant, despite never being properly introduced as such. they just appear in the dialogue of the first meridian mission and everyone just seems to know who they are. this is how that should have gone:

SAM: (whatever sam says about this place being left by the jardaan)
Squadmate: “The what?”
SAM: “Not what, who. I believe the Jardaan are an alien race.”
Ryder: “They… built all this?”
etc

so would this be a game i had more positive thoughts on if it were a mass effect ripoff and not part of the series? especially since the paragon/renegade system is gone in favor of a choice system that makes no clear difference to the game… it honestly might.

Loyalty Mission Power Rankings

  1. Cora – the Ark Leusinia mission is my favorite part of the game. it’s fun, it’s mass effecty, it’s spacey, and it has a real decision that really impacts the game.
  2. Vetra – the whole mission is a giant fuckup, but it was a fun fuckup, and the only time vetra’s relationship with her sister (which is constantly present) ever pays off. it was kind of dumb though. do you REALLY mean to tell me these hostages never thought to plug in the generator??
  3. Jaal – this one took absolutely no time at all, but rises in the rankings because of another decision that impacts the game. i wish it impacted it more. i wish akksul’s change of heart meant the roekkar stopped bothering me, at least on that planet.
  4. Drack – odd choice for a loyalty mission. i guess so was cora’s though. both could be story missions. the krogan won’t make it without these seeds. the initiative seriously need the asari. so maybe that doesnt count against it so much as just how damn easy the thing was. drack talks the whole time about this and is 100% right. boringly easy mission.
  5. Peebee – i gain your loyalty by helping you fight your ex girlfriend’s thugs for a remnant object that we didn’t even get? through what’s basically a few rounds of horde defense? get out of here. i’m also biased against this one because i tried to shoot her ex but the prompt went away too fast and it didn’t register.
  6. Liam – liam is a pretty crap character but he’s someone who thinks things out, has contingency plans, that’s all required for crisis response you know? so the very premise of his loyalty mission is mindmeltingly stupid. “we’re gonna sit in this container and get raided.” yeah fuck you liam. i may have your loyalty, but you just lost mine.

Loose ends, Plot holes, probably DLC

  1. the Quarian ark will almost definitely be a DLC. it arriving in the post-scene, and asking us to keep our distance, definitely hints at that.
  2. we never do find out who the “benefactor” was. it’s crap that we only learn this through the nonsensical “memory trigger” fetch quests, but the benefactor and jian’s murder are the most interesting plot points in the game. i wondered for a while if the benefactor was the illusive man, but since this is such a multi-species project, i kind of doubted that in the end. either way, we’ll answer both those in DLC i’m sure, unless the answers are buried in irrelevant Tasks.
  3. our biggest enemies are the scourge and the kett. where did either of them come from? what do the kett want with the cluster? neither are answered, though kett information is alluded to in the side-mission with the STG agent. brace for “striking the kett” DLC.
  4. and we are more reliant than anything else on the Jardaan. who are they, where are they now, what did they want the angara to accomplish here, and why did they leave? will there be DLC to answer this? is it meant to be sequel fodder?

my final thought is on the final mission. in some ways, i loved the final mission. it felt urgent, the comms chatter was great, your twin’s inclusion was really interesting, and the endless waves of remnant (and a nerfed architect) trying to stop you from unplugging the archon were all awesome. i hit the last console, and it showed the archon being unplugged, and i was like, fuck yeah, here we go, final baddie, lets fuck up this archon, and mass effect said NO! HE’S JUST DEAD. YOU WIN GG

this was building up to be a really, really, really, really good last mission. you cut it off before the final boss, you assholes.

in many ways finding meridian was a lot like the game as a whole. somehow a whole lot of fun… in spite of itself.

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tomb raider was pretty good and definitely worth its steam sale price. i’m going to be liberal with spoilers here because it’s nearly 4 years old. if you haven’t picked it up and don’t want to be spoiled, yes you should pick it up next time it’s on sale, which is always.


the tomb raider reboot took me 9 hours across a single session of gameplay to beat, which leaves it on the shortish side. it’s very pretty. i found its story interesting and engaging on several levels. there are just entirely too many quick-time events. 1 is too many but this was filled with them. the characters seemed pretty good and well fleshed out. (you’ll notice i said “seemed” because we spend almost no time fleshing out those relationships.) the environmental puzzles are decent if generally not difficult, and there’s multiple ways to approach the combat this game is full of, which i always appreciate.

i wasn’t really expecting that actually, so much 3PS combat in tomb raider. maybe that’s on me. but there’s a ton of it. there are a million bullet-spongy guys ready to attack you at basically all times. the bow and arrow is a pretty nice way to deal with that, especially since you can light guys on fire eventually, but its fire rate is low, and headshots less reliable, than the pistol, which is broken. use the pistol until you’re out of ammo if your aim is even remotely decent because the enemies can take like three full body blasts with the shotgun but only one headshot (two if they wear a helmet). enemies take too many bullets to bring down but not if you go full mccree.

this got a little bit tiresome toward the end, especially when outright gunplay was inescapable. but there’s a lot of times in the game where you were able to play a more stealthy style, and that was where the combat shined for me. my favorite part of the game was around the hunting lodge, right after the helicopter crashes and roth dies. lara stays behind a while, and her friends go on back down to the beach, then when she tries to catch up it’s night and the forest is full of baddies. i had a blast sneaking around and arrowing (because it’s quiet) fools in the face, and sneaking up on other fools to choke them out. the game would have benefited from more gameplay like that and less outright shootouts, or at the very least if the cover system was more of a cover system and less “try to stand behind this rock.” i mashed spacebar trying to snap to cover like i was playing mass effect 3 a ton of times. i jumped up and down like a moron and died lol.

the parts where you run around the map doing crazy parkour stuff are almost always fun. the maps are designed to be, if a little linear in that respect, at least very fluid. it’s no mirror’s edge where there’s multiple ways to do everything, that’s for sure. but as long as you aren’t jumping between rock wall climbs it’s very fun. when you have to do that it’s painfully touchy. maybe that’s a keyboard problem, where it’s hard to hold D and press E at the same time without doing manual gymnastics. other wise that stuff feels good.

so let’s talk about control, or lack thereof, and the way this game kind of beefs it in that area. there are times when i want the game to give me control. i’d like to avoid a fight, or do it stealthy, or find an alternate route, or go more than a few minutes between cinematics. the first few hours of the game have way too many of those and it feels like you’re playing a movie. a really enjoyable movie, but not a super interactive game, you know? the whole experience in general feels cinematic which is to its benefit, but sometimes you want more control. you go accomplish one thing then it’s another cutscene. but other times you want less control. i don’t need to “repeatedly mash” a button to open a door or a chest. just let me press or hold. i don’t need three QTEs to get out of being attacked by a wolf i couldn’t shoot fast enough. let me die and reload and try to actually hit it this time.

and for the love of god, do NOT make QTE boss fights. that’s just lazy and a big reason i wasn’t a fan of arkham knight. obviously tomb raider is less “about” the fighting than batman, so that’s not gamebreaking here, but it’s so annoying and part of what makes the end of the game feel a little chunky.

so the 9-hour length is on the shortish side, and i’d say the most obvious way to boost length would be not to add story. there’s plenty of that and there’s already a lengthening formula in place that gets abused by the end. (we’re almost there! oh no the floor falls out.) what needs added is either missions or side-quests or something that deepens the relationships between characters. they clearly exist. we see some flashes of this in the camcorder cinematics, which lara has a peek at during the quickly-abandoned survival game part, and in the journal pages you can (very) randomly find. it’s obvious this game’s writers created a ton of info about its characters and their relationships. it’s too bad most of that gets left out of the game. i don’t need a full fledged loyalty mission for everyone or anything like that, but i would love to get more time with sam, or alex, or whoever grim was, before the game tries to use them to impact me. i really liked sam from the minute we met her so i was motivated to go save her already, but that’s a personal thing. build some rapport between the player and those characters, man.

in fact i’m pretty sure apart from randomly stumbling on tombs and finding shit on the ground, there were no side-quests at all. there’s quite a bit of room for growth there.

so yeah. it’s a pretty game with beautiful foliage, outstanding hair effects, and quite a lot of draw distance actually. the only negative i have graphically is in the geothermal tunnels there’s what i think is supposed to be a Descent-style pool of blood and its just hilarious red water. (of course i ran everything on max because old game.) the story is a pretty good examination of human desperation and the descent into madness, and the way you experience it is mostly cool. the game play is great as long as it stays out of its own way with the forced gunplay and QTEs. sadly it gets in its own way a lot. pretty short, and wastes some obviously deep characters with shallow presentation. it’s pretty good and i liked it and it’s on sale all the time. no real excuse to not pick it up next steam sale if you haven’t before. do it. it’ll be 5 bucks or less. how’s rise, btw?

alternate title for this one could be It Came From Steam Winter Sale.

i came across this title a long time ago while clicking, bored, through the steam discovery queue. it seemed really interesting, but i wasn’t prepared to spend time or money with it then, so i wishlisted it. here’s the summary from its steam store page. i’ll talk about the game’s story, which is extremely cool and also spoils the whole experience, at the very end. read it if you aren’t going to play this game.

A single player exploration driven adventure with survival elements, set on a mysterious and seemingly uninhabited alien planet. Survive through exploration, and unlock the mysteries of Gliese-6143-C. From the creators of “Unmechanical” and successor to “The Ball”.

Earth has been destroyed and mankind lingers on in a small fleet of ships near Pluto. As humanity’s last hope, you are sent to scout a distant planet as a potential location for a colony. After years of space travel disaster strikes however, and your ship is destroyed when approaching the planet…

With your team members dead and your equipment gone you have no way of communicating or receiving help from anyone… you are completely and utterly alone…

Desperately you look for a way of phoning home, but as you explore the seemingly desolate planet, you uncover the dark secrets buried within the depths. In this otherworldly odyssey you uncover mystery upon mystery as you try to survive the harsh climate.

the solus project is also designed for VR. my computer is definitely VR capable (shoutout to the new pascal-architecture GTX1070 humming away next to me) but i don’t have a headset, so i played in 2D. i’ve seen VR as a gimmick all along, but you know? i’d be interested in experiencing this game from the inside. it’s pretty cool.

it isn’t an open world, but there is definitely a fair amount of real estate to explore here. you crash-land on an archipelago with a helpful voice warning you to find a heat source and not to stay wet. there’s some classic exposition/world building laying around a page at a time, and then night falls and brings a tornado with it, forcing you into a cave. well, it forced me into a cave. i’ll get into the tornadoes in a minute. the opening sequences orient you to the minimal survival elements, teach you how to craft (a torch) and get you moving toward a sound. what sound? that’s a great question because the game didn’t actually make a sound. pretty dumb.

so why do i say this is pretty cool? let’s check out the good shit to bad shit ratio.

GS/BS: good

gliese-6143c is an ugly place, but this is a pretty game. the color palette involves a hell of a lot of grays. there’s several stunning moments though. i don’t often “whoa” out loud at visuals… unless i’m looking for a new home in minecraft and find a pine forest on extreme hills bordering the ocean with snow nearby and overhangs… but this game got me a few times.

the terrain is often rough and unforgiving, but almost never do you find yourself stuck if you leave the main paths. part of that is thanks to the head-scratching inclusion of a teleportation device. you shoot a disc and then you can teleport to that disc. it shoots… i dont know, 50 feet? tops? it has two purposes in the game: some puzzles and getting unstuck from the jaggy geology if you tried to jumping-puzzle your way around and fell.

i really don’t like a lot of survival elements in games. speaking of minecraft, the inclusion of hunger in beta 1.8 was the beginning of the end of me playing that game regularly .it’s just irritating. i don’t vidya to worry about feeding myself. but it’s not bad here, really. you can regain health by sleeping or consuming medkits, but you need to sleep someplace safe or you’ll get interrupted by the elements. (or killed. more later.) i didn’t play on the hard difficulty specifically because the difficulty only changes how much you get out of resources, but generally, i didnt starve or die of thirst. (i did freeze to death once, but that was my own fault.) there’s camps frequently with bowls of soup and troughs of clean water, and the caves are filled with trickles of water to fill up bottles with. the surface is scattered with debris from your ships, including food and medkits. there’s even plants you can eat, or set on fire, depending on your needs, and one of them dries you instantly when you eat it so you don’t die of hypothermia. the survival elements never seem to get in the way, just make you think about what you’re doing. i only found sleep annoying. and btw, when you get the cold device, keep it forever. you’ll thank me.

the experience, story wise, is a very good one. i will talk openly with spoilers at the end about it, but generally, this is a very chill, survival-ish walking game, until you see the dolls that cannot be unseen a couple hours in and everything takes a hella dark turn. the environment is littered with backstory and lore. some of the stuff from your fallen comrades bored me, but i soaked up everything i could find on the planet itself. by endgame i was done being distracted. i wanted answers just as badly as the protagonist did.

the puzzles are reasonable, once you understand what’s going on, and the traps are generally something visible that don’t kill you immediately if you don’t know its a trap yet. there was only one puzzle i had to google a solution for, and that was just because i’d somehow made it about 70% of the way through the game without noticing one of the puzzle mechanics. the solus project doesn’t really hold your hand at all, apart from the ubiquitous Forward Vector pointing the general direction of the way, so you’re left to discover mechanics on your own, and generally you do. there was only one puzzle i couldn’t beat, googled, spent a while until i finally settled on skipping through a long youtube walkthrough, and then said “oh good fuck you can just push it? wow i’m an idiot.” an earlier puzzle that should have required this mechanic, i was able to solve anyway by sprinting, jumping, and throwing a teleport disc as i fell far enough to go to half-health, then teleporting to where i was meant to go. lol.

finally the length feels about right to me. i played the way i usually play: very thoroughly at the beginning, and sprinting to the end of the main plotline by the end, and that took me about 11 hours. not too short, not too long, and obviously longer if you go find all the secrets and discover everything.

GS/BS: bad

this is minor, but with my rig, everything set to ultra, and excellent performance, there was noticeable pop-in all the time.

i don’t think the developers of this game understand a tornado. the game starts and night falls and it rains and a tornado comes. i ran like hell for a cave and waited for the noise to pass. that… wasn’t necessary. much later you’re in an environment that’s all cliffs and bridges, and it storms there frequently. you cannot hide from the tornadoes there. and… it doesn’t really matter. i stayed in the most protected corners possible as they went by, but they were often like right down my back as i ran from them, with no adverse affects to me except getting wet. i should have been dead by tornado lots of times. tornadoes in the solus project do not pass the oklahoma test.

the teleport device felt extremely underwhelming and underutilized. it’s a nice idea, but it’s often forgotten, and when you do use it, you often jump like, ten feet or less.

okay, let’s talk instagibs. instagibs are not fun. the worst was when i was climbing in perfectly fine weather during the day and was one-shot in the back by a meteor. are you serious? what the hell is that? there’s meteor showers infrequently but not rarely, and when you see them coming you can scramble for cover, but i got hosed by one from behind with no chance for warning. fortunately it was like 30 seconds past a save, and i reloaded and climbed right back up without incident. those showers are random and unscripted apparently, lol. some caves are also toxic, with your PDA’s warning being the only warning you get, and you die SO FAST. you can survive in 90-degree Celsius environments orders of magnitude longer than a toxic cave. oh, and i hid in a hole from a lightning storm once and got hit anyway while in a person-sized shaft about 7 feet down. mostly the game doesn’t bullshit you. but sometimes it does. so it goes.

but that’s pretty much it for the bad shit half of the ratio, causing the good shit to overwhelm it and win the day. i liked the game and recommend it. was quite a cool experience. stop reading now if you think you might play it.

spoilers

let me back out if you’re a “this sounds interesting but i’m not into that genre” person and tell some story.

you crash on the planet, you’re alone, you start thinking about two things: finding survivors and communicating with your fleet. you find no survivors, but the first person you encounter (dead) was trying to build a comms tower to send a message home. the game becomes about finding more parts to build the tower and power it. weirdly enough, after finding signs of past civilization on this planet, you run into basically the remains of a town on a hill, and there’s a giant cable in it. at least half the game is spent following that cable looking for a power source, and in the process, you encounter some kind of living death smoke, dolls that follow you when you don’t look at them (#dontblink), and tales of the Sky Ones, who seem to have brought a more primitive civilization with them. and they look extremely human, just with longer skulls. longer even than cro-magnons but otherwise, just, humans. you know this because their skeletons are everywhere. sometimes hanging from the ceiling. so it goes. i didn’t expect the game to get creepy as SHIT but it does.

we eventually learn that the Sky Ones are a very old, far-flung but still Type 1, kinda reptilian race. they themselves researched someone called the Ancients and found a device they left behind, which contained some kind of infinite energy source, or seemingly so. it put off a waveform which they later decoded, strangely, into a recessive DNA strand. the Sky Ones then began searching the galaxy for life forms that this matched to study and experiment on. the theory is, the primitive people you run into on this planet are early humans that the Sky Ones moved from earth to this place in order to run experiments on them. the humans saw them as gods until they learned some dark secret of theirs, which seems to be that the energy source involved harvesting them. they revolted, stole one of the energy orbs, and eventually were wiped out. so it goes. the Sky Ones are still around on this planet and as you move about, activating their machinery, they start to check you out in person. well, through orbs and cameras and stuff like that. finally they begin transmitting messages to you through your PDA and even arrange debris to spell out COME TO US.

if you’re able to survive environments of extreme cold and then extreme heat, you are rewarded with the last tower piece you need – an energy source. after you find a star map that lets you identify a safer planet to colonize than this one, everything comes to a head. one of their orbs is in front of you and they go TAKE IT and you do, and a smoke monster pops out to chase you, you run, follow the vectors back to the comms tower, call home, and wow! the lady you talk to cannot BELIEVE you’re alive because the humans up there are fucked, and you saved the species. they’re relieved to hear this planet supports life, and… that’s when the Sky Ones start to approach you from all directions. before you can finish explaining it’s very dangerous here and give her the coordinates for the safer planet, they cut off the transmission, put you on a flying saucer, and that’s it, gg. the species they had been testing on before is coming back to their planet again without them having to expend any energy or time themselves to move them here*. all this has happened before. all this will happen again.

i found that ending a little bit disappointing. obviously you’re just a lucky happenstance for the Sky Ones. they shot down your ship because they shoot down everything. (logs you can find prove this.) it must have taken millions of years for their race to transfer humans from earth to gliese-6143c before, but now they will bring themselves here in just 15. all they have to do is help you send a message home and suddenly how convenient everything you’ve found has been, the camps between the ancient traps, the orbs and cairns leading the way, all makes sense. they take advantage of an opportunity. ultimately, you fail. humanity will die if you don’t call them. humanity will die here as experiments if you do. so it goes. if you’d just transmitted your data before having a conversation with the motherfleet, it would be fine and you’d sacrifice yourself saving humanity. :/

that’s ultimately not enough to put me off recommending the game of course. it’s pretty clever and a great experience. i dug it a lot. just imperfect in its ending, that’s all.

*earth was destroyed when this planetary system moved directly through the solar system, so it’s super super close to the human fleet.

2016 has been one brutal semi-truck wreck after another. and the universe is the semi. some of us have had some ok personal things happen (we’re homebuyers now for example) but it’s hard to argue the world at large hasn’t been put through the ringer. but that doesn’t mean it’s been all bad. so for funs i decided to compile a list of some things i liked about 2016.

overwatch

i don’t play enough different games to have a game of the year. i go hard in the paint with one release at a time, sometimes two. this summer, the #onlywatch curse was lifted, we were allowed open beta, and idk how many hours of this thing i’ve played now, since it’s on battle.net, not steam. it’s a very competitive team game that even when i’m losing, i generally am having fun with. that’s not ever been true before for me. losing in rocket league is pretty demoralizing after a while, losing in battlefield is super irritating, and losing in dota 2 generally gets you flamed by 15 year olds who don’t understand the cast ranges on your hero’s spell. (shoutout to that invoker player wednesday night.) overwatch is pretty, deeper than it looks, and fun. it feels great to play. the development team is, on the grand scheme, very upfront about changes made and even sometimes not made. also it’s cover character is in a same sex relationship in the outside-the-game canon. representation in a way that isn’t the character’s defining feature is amazing.

so ❤ u overwatch, ❤ u tigole, can’t wait to play doomfist on oasis. man i hope he’s what we think he will be and terry crews voices him.

my high school music is back

new albums from thrice and an anthony-green fronted saosin? are you kidding? in 2007 i would have been backflippin in history class when i found out. now it’s a shame what has happened to dustin’s voice since the artist in the ambulance days, but it’s still cool music, and i really really enjoyed saosin’s offering a lot. it feels like the saosin album we always deserved. also beyonce has absolutely killed 2016 even if i would never have admitted to liking her back in the day.

also there’s been some actual real hiphop

within like a month, a tribe called quest and run the jewels both drop new albums and both are brilliant. we can’t be far from jon connor finally dropping #vehiclecity on us, but he’s got about 22 hours if he wants to make it for 2016. people with more mainstream tastes got offerings from kanye, kendrick, childish gambino, and j cole. most rap is in a horrible place right now but if you know where to look for the goods? good year.

a lot of people thought bernie sanders was a good idea

2008 convinced me i was a political loon because the candidate for president i aligned best with was an absolute fringer. this year a really noisy large number of us thought democratic socialism was a pretty good idea. thumbs way the hell up, man. stay noisy. maybe don’t harass regular people, of course, but stay noisy.

plus there’s a lot more.

it’s been a really good year for gaming (except the NMS thing >_>) and pro-gaming in general. 2017 should only keep it going as we all drool over mass effect. at this point i’m out of stuff off the top of my head though and just want to jump back into overwatch.

this feels too long to fit into a tweetstorm, so here we go.

everyone needs to stop being so fucking offended russia tried to influence the 2016 election. they need to stop being so shocked when the US government responds by cutting off some diplomatic relations, and they also need to stop being so shocked that putin was advised to respond exactly in kind. its not even that surprising that he would say “nyet, let’s wait until new president to make the decisions.”

so if you, hypothetically, had a country with global influence, and there was this other country with an election that would impact your agenda directly, would you rather the winner be a) random or b) a better chance of your favorite candidate winning? because that’s this country’s foreign policy. the US actively rouses up regime change in states like libya and syria. if they didn’t, if they weren’t using all possible options available to them to meet their ends, we’d be up in arms about it. we’d be flaming weak leadership every day. our CIA has done this shit forever. ask tech, who’ll tell you “i’m from where the only place democracy’s acceptable is if america’s candidate is electable.” we go even farther in smaller countries. we even foment revolts and civil wars. we actively arm al-qaeda affiliated rebels because they oppose the leaders we do. but how the fuck dare vladdy-P steal some emails and give them to wikileaks, right?

does it suck that russia may have had influence on our election? hell yeah it does. it bites when the shoe’s on the other foot. be mad at your own folks for not stopping it. be mad at the DNC for falling for goddamn spearphishing because a dude said “legitimate” instead of “illegitimate.” be mad at morons who think because their nazi boards use “cheese pizza” as code, emailed lunch plans are secret messages about child sex slavery. shit.

so you’ve been pwned. you think you know who did it. that sucks and is embarrassing.  there must naturally be consequences. not too severe, because you do the same stuff yourself, just don’t get caught. the response is to deliver a non-threatening slap because obviously it is. send diplomats home. we aren’t going to do anything real over it because there’s no evidence (afaik) that they actually like broke into voting servers or anything that direct. OMG I AM SHOCKED ITS THE COLD WAR. and putin’s advisers tell him “give barry o’bummer the i know you are but what am i treatment.” OH NO WHO CAN BELIEVE IT. FOREIGN DIPLOMACY IS NEVER LIKE THAT. yes it is. and it’s always been putin’s propaganda that obama is a weak leader. russia is a very right-wing place that would see obama as a giant wuss because he’s a neoliberal, just like republicans do. so he’s waiting for trump, who has been publically pro-putin and would tell you that himself. (i think. you never know what he’s gonna cop to.)

basically i would like the shrieking left to calm their chestboobs about all this. the DNC and the US intelligence community got caught with their pants down. they respond because they have to, and lightly because it isn’t a big deal. you know what’s an actual big deal? that the state department waited 8 years to come out against israeli settlement. john kerry’s speech the other day, while it is the direction i wish we could go, was the foreign policy equivalent of all-chatting “gg, teammate is ass” and immediately leaving the game. if that’s been this administration’s policy all along why has the US supported israel through E VER Y THING until the UN vote this week? and if it changed, what changed, when, why? naw. we gotta scream about how skeptics of the government story on russia are kremlin agents. i hate everything.

well not everything. i hate everything about world events right now.

this will be filled with major plot spoilers. if you’re here trying to decide whether to go see the movie, go see the stupid movie. it’s good. you’ll love it.

*hillary shimmy* hoo! okay.

rogue one is in the upper tier of star wars films. 7 was better, but it’s better than 6. i am open to placing it equal to or even above 7 upon more viewingses.that makes the tier order 1. New Hope/Empire per your own personal preference, 2. Force Awakens, 3. Rogue One, 4. Jedi, 5. monday morning meetings, 6. revenge of the sith, 7. getting a root canal, 8. groan wars/phantom grimace.

i struggled with the first act or so a little bit, which might have been the movie and might have been that i wasn’t properly caffeinated yet. we’ll see when i see it again. which, i’m totally seeing it again at least once.

the best part is, rogue one is here to help fix star wars in general. every time i’ve watched the original movie, i’ve been bugged a little bit more by a nagging plot hole: how can such a gargantuan and well-engineered thing as the death star have a dumb little flaw like that? i’d always assumed the rebels could only have gotten the death star plans from a defector, but how there’s such a gaping flaw just boggled the mind.

enter this movie. an unwilling engineer to the project built the death star to be vulnerable to attack on its exhaust port and then was himself the defector who told the rebellion where the flaw was (through giving them the plans and hinting at it in his hologram). pow. plot hole closed. rogue one is a top-flight star wars movie simply on the basis of making the OG star wars even better.

so anyway, i think part of what made this movie a little tough for me to get into was the bewildering array of names and locations it throws at you in about ten minutes of screen. (imdb for spelling) enter Galen and Jyn Erso, Cassian, Saw Gerrera, K2, Jedha and three other planets, you’re just tossed in here. i’m down to just be tossed in to a universe, don’t get me wrong, but it was a little confusing and the barrage of locations made me barely remember any of them.

the movie really comes into its own for me when jyn, on jedha, encounters the hologram of her dad. i dont understand what made saw gerrera decide “nah you go i’ll just chill here and die” but other than that it’s tough to have much complaints about the rest of the story. hell, the good guys don’t even live to tell the tale. that was outright arresting. there’s no ex machina to swoop in and save jyn and cassian on the beach? they just… they win, but are left in an impossible situation, and just… the movie lets them die?

do you guys understand how bold that is? hollywood heroes always live to the end credits. no matter how positive you are they’re toast. killing off characters not only prevents $equel$, it’s emotionally risky. you’re either going to make the viewer sad, or you’re not, and the latter means they didn’t connect to your characters. it means you failed. when the stormtroopers shred k2 i figured that was the token Good Guy Death since he was after all a robot, even if he was robot alan tudyk. then the movie immediately shows me they died for something, when stunning young carrie fisher lookalike ingvild deila (with some post-effects help of course) gets the plans, says something nice about hope, and we know what’s going to happen from there. to kill the main characters like that, the movie has to first a) make you understand them, b) make you like them, c) make you attach to them, and then d) take them from you, but show it wasn’t in vain. it’s a bold move, a confident move, and it worked brilliantly.

the only thing i would change is probably the rest of the ending. i’d find a way for the battle at the end to blend seamlessly into the beginning of episode 4. i really thought that’s what was happening when vader said to assemble a boarding party, and when it wasn’t, felt let down (and then remembered that the planet they were around was totally not tatooine). maybe leia’s ship immediately blasts to anywhere in hyperspace, any rim system to try to avoid detection, but somehow the star destroyer follows them, leia tells r2d2 she needs to record a message, and roll credits. idk it needs work but i am also not getting paid trillions of dollars to write movies either.

oh and let’s not forget that c3po found a way to worm his stupid ass into the movie for exactly 10 seconds, which he spent WHINING, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD FOR NOTHING ELSE. i’d delete that too.

sitting here trying to think of what else to say, it strikes me how powerful rogue one really was. it feels like SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED when really there’s just a prologue and 3 distinct acts.

P. galen gets taken
1. jyn comes to the rebellion
2. galen gets killed
3. the assault on the archives

that’s it. that’s the movie. it’s so simple. just a couple of really big events move jyn erso from Fuck Everyone And Your Cause, to dying for it. it only really takes one big event for cassian to go from I’m Just Following Orders to disobeying outright for his conscience. these are effective and make sense, not giant leaps like jyn discovering cassian’s dad was also called galen or something. (i will seriously never forgive bvs.) character arcs move more in two hours than they do in many movies that stretch on for ages. and that’s why rogue one is the prequel we all deserved, man. imagine character work like this around anakin and obi-wan, instead of… trade routes… and monologues about sand. i can’t wait to see this thing again and pick up on all the little things i didn’t catch the first time around. and i hope we get more little side-stories like this in the intervening time  between real star wars movies, and maybe even after as long as they stay good. the universe has a TON of untapped stories to tell. if KOTOR taught us anything it’s that.

attached trailer reviews: all garbo except hidden figures, and even that i don’t have any need to see in theaters. give to netflix pls.

i haven’t written about any movies in a while so i figured the best time to do that again was at 1am on a saturday/sunday. (and publish at 2:30 bc why not i can’t sleep anyway.) about a week ago i saw the new benedict cumberbatch vehicle. actually, i love everyone in this cast. sherlock, and the operative from firefly, and i’ve had an embarrassingly big crush on rachel mcadams since red eye and etc. you should expect minor spoilers here but nothing game breaking.

it’s impossible to remember any of the names in this movie, so i will refer to the following characters:

  • doctor strange
  • the ancient one
  • rachel mcadams’s character
  • chiwetel’s ejiofor’s character
  • the bad guy
  • the evil god-thing
  • wong

Short, spoiler free review: I liked this movie. I didn’t love it. tilda swinton was great. chiwetel was great. benedict wong, as “wong,” was outstanding. his beyonce gag made me almost choke laughing. rachel was good but didn’t get the screen time i expect SMART DIRECTORS to GIVE HER. cumberbatch was very good but his accent came and went a little. it was very very not boring and i had fun. the visuals were overdone at times, and the entire plot is only possible because of two extremely stupid decisions.

Longer, spoiler-light review:

i didn’t know anything about this comic universe at all going into the movie. that’s not uncommon but i’ve at least heard of most marvel properties. doctor strange is a new one to me. it starts by asking a deep, dark, and heavy question as top-of-his-game neurosurgeon Strange murders his own hands by driving like an arrogant moron: what do you do now?

instead of answering that question in any sane way, instead the movie explores different themes, like making an everlasting (positive) impact on the world. strange can’t keep working on his new surgical techniques now, but he can become some magical mystic warrior. just because one thing was taken away, the movie says, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep on in other ways. strange himself just never really addresses that. after about halfway through the film his hands are just never mentioned again. do they get better? that was his plan – learn to heal them like the paralyzed dude did – but when he accepts his new…role?… we forget that plotline completely.

mentioning the paralyzed dude brings me to the first extremely stupid decision.

strange can’t save earth from This Marvel Movie’s Version Of Alt-Hell without using the pendant thing. he can’t use the pendant thing without studying under the ancient one, who he first has to find. he can’t find her if the formerly-paralyzed dude doesn’t decide for some reason to give him the time of day, even though they have a history (very small world here). and he can’t find paralyzed dude if his rehab tech doesn’t seriously and egregiously violate HIPAA. i’m not kidding. this made me actually angry in the theater.  you can’t just go tell your patient about another patient just because he’s also in the medical field and a right prick and you want to make a middle finger of a point. there’s no medical reason for him to reveal that patient’s case to strange, who does not have permission to see that file, which means if someone found out he could face, i shit you not, $50,000 in each civil and criminal fines and up to a year in jail, let alone getting fired from more than just your job. no matter how frustrating a patient is, no rehab therapist is going to commit career suicide and risk prison to make a point. get all the way out of here.

also, This Marvel Movie’s Version Of Alt-Hell is getting annoying. please god let there not be a portal to another galaxy/plane/universe/dimension/whateverthehell in black panther. this goes back to the avengers at least and has to stop.

anyway. this movie was cool and different in a lot of ways. when the ancient one says “it doesn’t have to make sense” that explains exactly the way you need to look at this movie. people wave their arms around and MAGIC BULLSHIT HAPPENS and it doesn’t make any sense, with the sole exception that you need a sling-ring to make a portal. given how much appears to happen without those, that’s a strange and arbitrary rule in a universe that otherwise has none. but i had a lot of fun trying to figure out what was going on, and watching crazy fight sequences that defy Euclidean three-dimensional space, and correctly predicting what the cape was going to do when i saw it move the first time.

the trouble is sometimes the visuals get all of the way out of hand. strange’s first encounter with the ancient one is the worst offender here. he flies around and sees shit. what shit? whatever tilda swinton wants him to see, and how does he see it, like is he there, or is he astral projecting, or is she bringing it here, and how come she can throw him across time and space and back again with a shove but it takes a sling ring to make a teleport? that scene was overwhelmingly visually confusing to the point of being almost unwatchable. it was weird for the sake of weirdness.

i understand what it was trying to do, but something can be bewildering without being toss-you-out-of-the-movie visually confusing. the dark zone or whatever the evil god-thing’s house was called was kind of the same way, but not because it looked confusing, more like the texturing and lighting budget all went into Earth scenes and then it came time to add this and only one artist was left for the whole thing. like, it didn’t look bad exactly, just, like CGI, while the whole rest of the movie has wrapped entire buildings around dimensions you and i don’t exist in and looked amazing.

sounds like i’m whining a lot but i really did enjoy this movie. i told my coworkers it was “okay” and then had to quickly remind them of how i generally feel about movies for them to realize that was an actual endorsement. (these are people who don’t think thor 2 is boring because he fine. like, yeah, would without thinking twice, but google is for that.) kinda feels the same here as i am about to yell a lot at the bad guy in my lewis blackest voice.

hey asshole. and all other assholes in movies about magic spells and stuff.

and listen close, this is important.

if you need.
a spell.
from a book.
break in to the library.
and kill people.
to steal a spell.
in a book.
a physical book.
if you have to do that.
take the fucking book! not a page! don’t rip out a page and leave the book behind, you world-class moron. how can doctor strange stop your plan if he can’t learn the spells to do it in the book you took the spell from? why take the extra time to find the spell you want and tear it out – carefully, don’t destroy it – when you can just take
the whole
book

so yeah that was extremely stupid decision number two. bad guy takes a page out of a book instead of the whole book is an ugly movie cliche that makes no sense at all. happens right off the hop and made me think “oh god here we go.” but like i’ve said repeatedly the movie redeemed itself pretty fast. it’s really good when it gets out of its own way. wong is a treat, everyone else is awesome, try not to think about physics at all, and enjoy the trip.