State of Decay 2 Impressions

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This morning as I alluded to yesterday morning…  I am going to talk a bit about my experiences with State of Decay 2.  This game is officially released today, but has been out for anyone who pre-ordered the game since last Friday the 18th.  Now I had every intent of playing this game on the Xbox One, in part because I really did not want the Windows Store nonsense in my life.  This game has been funded in part by Microsoft and as a result they have made a bit of an exclusivity grab forcing it to be released on the Xbox One console and the Windows Store initially…  though I assume at some point in the future it will also be available on the more important storefront of PC gaming…  Steam.  When you buy the game however you are essentially purchasing two copies and can shift back and forth between console and PC through cloud saves.  This is a fact I am super glad about…  but I will get into that more closely in a few minutes.

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I preloaded State of Decay 2 on my Xbox One and last Friday night when I got home from work I fired it up hoping to lose myself in the zombie filled world.  This however was what I was greeted with…  a muddy mess.  Unfortunately a number of my attempts to save screenshots on the Xbox One failed but the game was filled with a number of glitches and extremely poor textures.  It honestly felt like maybe I was back playing a game on the Xbox 360 which was a bit shocking as I had already at this point seen footage recorded on the Xbox One X.  Therein lies the problem I feel…  that maybe Undead Labs was directed to really push that 4k gaming version on the more powerful console…  and as a result those of us with vanilla Xbox One consoles are going to have a sub par experience.  On top of the look…  there were issues where the HUD would just start flickering for no apparent reason and there was a moment when my health bar and map widget disappeared completely.  There was absolutely no way I could stomach playing the game in this state and I started to get extremely sad and frustrated.

Upon logging out that Friday night I opted to swallow my pride and install the Windows Store client…  which honestly is something I had hoped never to do.  Has I been able to make the  Xbox version work, I would have waited until I could play it on Steam before installing it on the PC…  and in truth if that option comes up along the line I might take it.  I love Undead Labs the company, but I hate this deal with Microsoft they have crafted because I am a Steam and PS4 guy…  not a Microsoft ecosystem guy.  Thankfully for my sake after installing the Windows client the game immediately downloaded my most current save file and I was up and running in windows in pretty short time picking up exactly where I left off on the console.  Now this might be a really great option for people who want to be able to shift back and forth between the two platforms.  For me both my consoles and my gaming PC are sitting side by side and I use the same monitor for both…  so it doesn’t really save me much.

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For point of reference… I am running State of Decay 2 in 4k resolution with the High default options and manage to get a pretty stable 60 fps on my GTX 980…  which honestly tells me on the Windows side at least this is a pretty optimized client.  I’ve scaled down the images to 1080p resolution for the purpose of posting on this blog so just some things to keep in mind as you read the post (and in truth I think the wordpress content network scales them down further).  State of Decay 2 is above all else a game about building a community and trying to make that community thrive.  You start the game with one of several pairs of survivors that each have some sort of a unique link between them…  some are partners, some siblings, some just good friends…  all trying to survive in a zombie infested world.  This takes place in the same ecosystem that the first game did and you occasionally hear remnants of the same network of survivors that existed in the original and “YOSE”.

Your first step upon completing the tutorial is of course to build your base…  or in this case just take something over that looks fortify-able.    The icon on the map that looks sorta like the Arc De Triomphe is what denotes a stronghold that you can choose to move your base into.  Also in the above screenshot you can see a number of meters along the top part of the screen denoting the stability of your base and the sort of resources you have gathered…  which left to right represent Food, Medicine, Ammunition, Building Materials and Fuel.  These become extremely important to making your base work as they serve both as a resource to augment the functionality of the base by building new facilities…  but also serve as resources that are constantly depleting through the actions your community members are taking.

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There is a constant push to go out into the wasteland and search for new resources to take home to your base.  Gone are the sea of vehicles that you can drive around in endlessly and those two now serve as a sacred resource you need to gather up and horde, each with a very limited fuel capacity and range.  The game now differentiates between resources you find for yourself and can store in the communal shared inventory…  and packs full of resources that you find and have to take back to base and place in the material storage.  Similar to the first game you can only carry one of these packs at a time, but with the advent of vehicles being a limited resource…  we instead get the ability to store resources in them to make hauling things back to base a little easier.  As you approach a vehicle you can open the trunk…  even if a vehicle doesn’t have a trunk like a truck.  From there you can store up multiple packs allowing you to drive around and ferry a large number of resources back to base in a single trip.

Additionally you have the ability to claim almost every building as an outpost.  In the above screenshot you can see in orange that Swine & Bovine serves as a food collection resource, meaning that if I were to claim it as an outpost it would start sending back food every day to my community.  Similarly I managed to find a power station that upon claiming gave my base power as a resource, allowing me to start unlocking all sorts of electrical perks.  The cool thing about outposts is that they stay claimed even if you decide to pick up base and move elsewhere when you outgrow your previous home.  Right now my goal is to try and claim outposts in the major quadrants of the map allowing access to always have a safe spot nearby that I can unload my packs or pick up additional resources if I need to.

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State of Decay 2 is a bit of an odd game because much like Destiny 2… if you told me it was simply a patch to the original game I would probably believe you.  Under the hood however I know it is a complete ground up rebuild of the game in a completely different engine, and that process has netted a much better version of the same game we have loved since the Xbox Live Arcade days.  The game is State of Decay but with all of the things about the first game polished a bit more.  Sure there are still some janky moments, but those are fewer and less severe and the end result at least on the Windows client is a very smooth and even experience.  The combat feels better and more purposeful, and while the zeds still occasionally get cheap shots in… it feels like you can control the flow of combat a bit better with dodges and kicks to intersperse into your rapid button mashing of melee attacks.

More than the melee however… the Gunplay feels so much better.  In the original State of Decay the best weapon seemed to be the shotgun… because everything else felt extremely inaccurate and I wound up needing to fire way more rounds than I would have wanted…  summoning an endless horde of the undead to attack me.  Gone are the random zombies that seem to warp into view from out of nowhere, and instead is a more strategic experience.  If you want to take down an infestation…  you can roam around the outside of the location picking off the stragglers to reduce the number of zeds that are going to come running the moment the action really starts.  This feels so much better as compared to SoD1 where just firing a gun would cause a string of roamers to simply spawn into the map.

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Weapons with suppressors like the one shown above slung to this characters pack also feel amazing, allowing you to pick off zombies at a distance.  What is awesome about this is they also serve as a bit of a distractionary measure because the gun fire doesn’t draw notice of the zeds…  but they are momentarily attracted to the sound of a body hitting the ground.  This offers some situations where you can pick off an entire horde a single shot at a time because they will keep swarming the location of where the last body fell, allowing you to line up the next shot.  There are also all manner of explosives this time around that really help when trying to take out the other big new thing in this game…  Plague Hearts.  One of the weird things about SoD1 is that your character could die, but you would never actually turn into a zombie.  Now in SoD2 there is something called the Blood Plague and the red eyed zombies from the first game…  now exhibit the infection with pustules on their body and seeping blood from their skin.

Getting hit by one of these increases a meter that you can see in the Swine & Bovine shot above, that effectively is the increase in the infection until you are ultimately overcome and turn into a mega zombie that your other characters can then take out.  The doctor that you find during the tutorial has a cure for the blood plague, but it involves killing plague zombies and collecting samples…  which in truth is something you are going to have to do pretty often in the game…  meaning you have a nearly endless supply of cure.  Scattered around the map are a number of Plague Heart locations where the plague is emanating from, and taking down one of these requires a ton of fire power… or sufficient explosives.  While you are attacking it the plague zombies are constantly swarming the location to protect it…  but fortunately upon killing it all plague zombies in the surrounding vicinity are killed.

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At this point I have moved from the small base I started to a fairly large hill side church that is pretty centrally located.  Similarly I have managed to upgrade a few of the vehicles that I found laying around in the wastes into proper zombie killing apocalypse machines that can now take the abuse of running things over.  I am pretty damned hooked on this game and I have a handful of survivors that I like quite a bit…  but I am in constant fear of being overrun and I spend a good deal of my time roaming around and taking out infestations to try my best to keep this from happening.  The larger your base gets the more often it gets attacked and as a result I find myself swapping characters regularly in an effort to build each of them up enough to where they are pretty skilled at defending the base when I am not there.

One of my nitpicks with the game however is that there really isn’t much that you can do to properly fortify your base from the zombies.  You will have these huge concrete walls with spikes on them… like you can see in the background of this shot…  but the gates are flimsy and can be beat down by a single zombie allowing them easy entrance into your base as soon as they get close.  I wish we had more options for doing things to actively fortify our bases, like digging moats or setting up spike traps to guard the entrances.  We are exhibiting the same bad ideas that Walking Dead did when they decided a chain link fence around a prison was good protection…  and ultimately found out the same thing that we are finding out with these garden gates on everything.  Like if I could fortify the gates and know that the only way in and out of the base was to hop the fence I would be completely okay with this.  In fact in my first location I did this purposefully to keep from having to open the gate and potentially let a straggler in with me.

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Ultimately Undead Labs has made a really worthy sequel to the first game.  It essentially fine tunes and improves upon so many of the things from the original, and provides enough new game play to make it enjoyable for me to roam around and experience everything again.  I’ve not really touched the multiplayer yet so I can’t really speak to it.  I know it runs on a guest/host type setup where you are dragging one of your community members into another players game and as the guest get very limited access to their resources.  One of the big things to think about when looking at this game is that it is not really a story drive experience.  Sure there is a tutorial that touches on some of the high points of the world and explains what the new plague zombies are…  but after that you are pretty much on your own to find your own reasons for playing.  Instead it is a big of a story engine in that a bunch of events are going to happen and how you deal with them… creates a personal narrative of how your group is interacting with this society.

You will meet other communities… some of which are friendly and willing to trade with you and others will just want to take what you have.   For example I have made friends with a group of moonshiners who taught me how to make a still…  which weirdly generates water for your base as a limited resource.  You are also constantly hearing calls for help out in the wastes that either lead to reputation with other communities or occasionally the ability to recruit new members to yours.  It is a really fun gameplay loop and last night I sat down around 7 and did not get back up until around 9:30…  and during all of that time I was finding just one more thing to do out in the wastes.  If you need a story to keep you focused however you might find the game play experience a bit of a grind.  Personally however I love this game and it is ultimately everything I wanted for them to give me in sequel form.

Good TV Bad TV

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Fear Season 2

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Something you need to know about me, is that I love Walking Dead.  I started watching it during the first six episode season and have been a fan since.  Over time it developed into a sort of watercooler moment for me and my coworkers, where we watch it every Sunday night and discuss it the next morning at work.  This is the first time in my life that I have really had a show that I wanted to talk about like this, and even more so had people I wanted to talk about it with.  So naturally when Fear the Walking Dead was announce we were pumped, because it would be our methadone to help weather the long dry spells between episodes of the main franchise.  That said…  season one was a massive disappointment, for me at least.  It centered around a cast of characters that I simply struggled to relate to.  I spent most of the first season rooting for them to get eaten by zombies, and now that we enter the second season I had hopes that maybe just maybe they would finally turn into characters worthy of the franchise.  As it stands the only characters that I can honestly say I like…  are Daniel Salazar and Victor Strand…  the characters that the show runners are very much setting up to be the “bad guys”.

The biggest problem I have with the show right now is that the characters seem so phenomenally dumb.  Admittedly the world has just fallen, and they are not quite adjusted to it… however they should have spent enough time by now to realize that the dead are dangerous.  They should also know however that humans are even more dangerous.  It just feels like they have exited the first season with zero lessons learned.  It is like they still keep expecting life to return to normal… even as they are heading out to sea with Los Angeles burning in the background.  I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but honestly that is pretty easy so far because nothing of any importance has really happened yet.  Right now I am still very much rooting for the zombies because I keep thinking if we can thin the herd of our cast a little bit… maybe just maybe they will start to take the threat seriously.  I guess the problem that I am having is that I keep expecting this to be Walking Dead, when at its core it just isn’t.  I will probably give the show a few more episodes, because until Game of Thrones starts up in a few weeks I don’t have a Sunday evening show to be watching… and I have gotten into the habit of watching something on Sunday nights.  That said…  so far the second season is off to a pretty boring start.

Daredevil Season 2

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As disappointed as I am in Fear… if there was a polar opposite I would feel that about Daredevil season two.  While the season did not have the strong single story arc that the first one did, it chopped up into what felt like three smaller separate story arcs that were equally enjoyable.  This is really the season where we see Daredevil emerge to be the hero we recognize from the comics.  Its like over the course of season one and the first half of season two… the pieces were falling into place one by one.  I guess that is part of what I have loved so much is that you can see the progression from a vigilante wearing essentially black sweatpants to the badass hero that we have come to expect.  There are going to be spoilers in this write up because I am not sure how to talk about it without really going into spoilers.  The quintessential moment for me was the creation of his “cane” weapon.  From that point on this show turned into exactly what I always hoped it would be and I was constantly getting rewarded with awesome shots of him throwing it into baddies and then retracting it just in time to hit someone else with it.  While he has better armor in this show… I like that it still shows the personal toll that being a hero has on not only his body but his relationship with Karen and Foggy.

The highlight of the season however has to be the introduction of the Punisher.  “Shane” was a character that I loved to hate in The Walking Dead, and when that character left the show there was a big hole that never quite got filled…  that is until Rick himself started to fill that role.  Jon Bernthal makes a phenomenal Punisher,  and I hope beyond hope that eventually we will see his own spin off series.  As a kid my favorite comic book character was The Punisher, and my friends was Daredevil…  so it was always an extremely special moment whenever we got to read comics where the two characters interacted and teamed up to fight the Kingpin.  I have this feeling that we are heading in that direction, because in this season the Kingpin also finally became the Kingpin that we love to hate.  As far as the Elektra arc I have to say it was done pretty well, and the whole hand vs chaste concept.  The season was essentially a condensed version of all of the story lines that I can remember relating to Elektra/Daredevil/Stick/The Hand.  Unfortunately the whole “Black Sky” concept is not something that I remember from the comics, because in that version The Hand worship a demon called the Beast.  So this appears to be the point where we leave the story line and go off in a different direction.  Regardless I am sure we will see Elektra once again, and I am certainly hoping that Season 3 will show us more of the Punisher and Daredevil team up as well.

Media Consumption 10/17/2015

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Television Lite Week

This week has been one that has seen me absolutely consumed with Destiny on the PlayStation 4, and as such I have simply not spent much time watching television.  I have however watched quite an excessive amount of YouTube videos, namely as I try to find information about Destiny.  There is this shift that is happening where certain games with certain audiences… simply do not have information blog posts about them.  I’ve gotten spoiled in a world with Dulfy.net and WoWHead.com in that I expect pretty much every game I have to have this quality of resources.  Instead for many games lately all I am ever able to find is YouTube videos on a given subject.  I am sorry to all the YouTubers out there… but I am of a generation where I feel like a video is the least useful way to disseminate information.  I will take a written explanation and some good screenshots any day over a lengthy video walk through.  At some point in the near future I hope to take some of these things that I found frustrating and attempt to write some blog posts outlining how to do this thing or that thing in Destiny.  Granted that is not to say there are not a lot of really good Destiny YouTube channels…  but I would still rather have an informational post.

Destiny Lore

The first time around when the AggroChat crew played Destiny… we joked that it was a game almost entirely devoid of story.  That apparently is not the case…  they just go to strange lengths to hide it from you.  The story of the game is told through a series of grimoire cards, item descriptions, quest text, and hinted at in cinematic scenes.  In fact there is actually apparently a TON of information about the characters in the game, their background, how they arrived at the tower… and all sorts of legends from the golden age, the city age, and the now tower age.  In my search for information about Destiny I happened to stumble across a really awesome YouTube channel called Myelin Game… which is not to be confused with long time friend Mylin1.  The channel is chock full of videos where Myelin digs into the lore of Destiny and connects the dots, weaving all of the known information… and speculated information into a narrative around a certain subject.  I linked the Black Garden video since the game does a pretty poor job to explain what the hell it actually is…  but I also highly suggest the trilogy of videos talking about thorn, last word, and first curse.  I have always guessed there was this rich story somewhere behind Destiny… because the dots connected too neatly at times not to be well planned, but now that I am starting to learn some of the actual story I am loving it.  I still feel it is a strange choice to make players dig for this knowledge, rather than letting you experience chunks of it through the story.  The Fallen King expansion does a much better job of being more forthcoming with information… and it gives characters that previously did not have much of a personality… plenty of chance to show it off.  I’ve spent a lot of time listening to these lore videos while doing other things and I highly recommend them.

Star Wars Minute

Another thing that I stumbled across this week is Star Wars Minute, which is a great YouTube channel that takes segments of the Star Wars universe and condenses them into roughly one minute long narrative explanations.  Much like the Destiny Lore, this feels as much podcast as it does YouTube video because the narrative explanation is the important part… and the images going along with it are nice to have but not 100% necessary.  I ended up finding this as I started doing some googling related to the Star Wars universe, namely for the upcoming pen and paper game that should have its first session tomorrow.  The funny thing about this is how much of the universe I already had a full grasp on but have no clue why.  I guess even though I have been a sleeper Star Wars fanboy since the prequels… I was still subconsciously hungry for knowledge about this favorite of universes.  Star Wars Minute is great to play in the background as you do something else and they release three new episodes a week, so there is a silly amount of content available already.

Arrow Season 3

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Be warned I am going to go into some serious spoilers here, so if you have not watched Arrow Season 3 or if you intend to at a later date…  you might want to skip this section.  Here is the point at which I get really frustrated with this show.  Generally speaking I am all for a television show deviating from the source material to make the universe work better for the TV audience.  For example most of the Batman movies have worked really well… and they are essentially a condensed soup version of the batman universe…  gathering up all the good bits and trying to weave a story out of them.  You have a very limited amount of time on television, and what might work fine to slowly build over the course of several years of a comic run… needs to happen in an under two hour long movie.  Television shows have a bit more leverage when it comes to pacing something out, and this is also cool.  The thing that apparently pisses me off though… is when you take actions attributed to one character and apply them to a completely different character.

What I mean is that this story line that has played out throughout the season around R’as al Ghul didn’t happen to Green Arrow…  ever.  Essentially this is a Batman storyline, and all of the events that are playing out happened at one time or another to Batman.  This caused me to think about Arrow the television show in a different light and realize that essentially… they have been turning Arrow into Batman this entire time.  Maybe it is because Batman has been tagged as a “film” universe and is not available to be done in a Television version that they feel the need to create someone that is Batman-like.  Green Arrow was admittedly a comic that I did not really follow.  I mean I knew that him calling his sister Speedy when that was the character that would ultimately become Arsenal was wrong… and I knew a few other points seemed less than correct.  However I lived in this world of relatively little knowledge about the show so I was able to pretty much ignore any differences… until they started stepping foot into the Batman universe.  THAT is a universe I know considerably more about, and after a whole lot of research and the council of Thalen…  I pretty much determined that nope…  Green Arrow has never really interacted much with R’as al Ghul at all.  So I am sitting here two episodes away from the end of the season… questioning if I care to finish watching it.

Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere

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Thank god Walking Dead is back.  “Fear The” was such a pale imitation of Walking Dead, and I am exceptionally happy that they chose to back up the start of Season Six to the end of the first season of Fear.  I do have to say though that it makes me extremely happy that Talking Dead has been pulled in officially for Fear as well, because for me at least that has become so much of that experience.  This is one hell of a first episode, and I really liked the way they handled Flashbacks in this episode by making them Black and White.  That is always the challenge with a show, how to visually tell the watcher that the events they are seeing are not happening in real time but instead an imagined replay.  When you are dealing with older characters and younger characters, it works naturally… but when you are dealing with only a few hours or days passing… it becomes much more challenging.  So the choice of black and white gave a nice clear demarcation point between the two time-frames.  As to the rest of the episode…  Rae sent me a text as the show as going on that simply said “Nosh Pit”.

The premise of the show has to be one of the most Rube Goldberg style plot devices I have seen in awhile.  To figure out a way to draw the walkers out of the pit and along a fixed path to get them away from Alexandria.  The parallels to herding cattle…  was extremely strong in this episode.  They even managed to draw them down a chute just like you do cattle for a period of time… and then cleared out the farm supply store just to make sure nothing would spook them and draw their attention away…  kinda like you do cattle.  The slightest noise can distract cattle and get them to move in a different direction, and that apparently is the case with walkers.  The thing is… going into this episode… you knew something was going to go wrong.  There were scenes in the Season 6 preview show of Walkers in Alexandria or at least the hint of that happening.  This show is really good about misleading us, for example the above poster would seem like we are heading towards some central conflict between Morgan and Rick… and in truth… it seems like Morgan instead manages to back Rick down from the ledge a bit.

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As far as the walkers…  when they are nearing the clear zone…  someone sets off a horn in Alexandria, causing the mega horde to turn that direction.  So the question is… who did it.  At work the popular theory for awhile has been that Enid is a spy from the Wolves, and that the scenes of her in the car with the walker outside…  hint that she set off the horn.  My personal theory is it is Father Gabriel once again trying to destroy everything around him.  He wanted to go out on the mission to herd the walkers, but Rick shut him down immediately.  My theory is he is vindictive, and after being shut down by Andrea as well…  he is still on some mission to destroy this community and in the process allow himself to be kill in some sort of twisted act of contrition for letting his parishioners die.  In truth it could be the wolves themselves, who have been watching everything happening and see this as their opportunity to let the zombies batter down the defense of Alexandria and allow them to come in after they are done… and loot the resources.  If nothing else this episode explained why Alexandria had been left fairly unscathed… because the giant pit of zombies had been drawing in more zombies and keeping them away from the town.  It is going to be interesting to see how the next few episodes play out, and who we lose in the process.

 

Media Consumption 10/10/2015

Netflix Binge Time

This week things felt like they were starting to get back to normal.  Since last week was so freaking crazy I ended up taking Tuesday off and just hanging out around the house.  That meant it was the perfect time to binge watch something on Netflix.  Unlike the previous week there have been multiple times that I simply hung out downstairs with the laptop and television, and as such have some shows to talk about.  Of note, if anyone has something they suggest I watch feel free and chime in.  I am always looking for something interesting, but the caveat is it must be available either through Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime streaming.  I know iZombie has started back up, and I have the episodes recording to my DVR but am largely waiting on my wife to watch them since she also was able to get into the previous season.

Dark Matter – Season 1

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Dark Matter is one of those shows that folks had been suggesting to me for some time now, but I never really got around to watching it.  When I first checked to see if the show was streamable somewhere, I was only able to watch like the last five episodes through Hulu.  Now the entire series is on Netflix and it seemed like the perfect time to watch it.  I can’t think of this show without also comparing it to another SyFy channel show Killjoys.  There are moments where you wonder if this is set in the same universe, because they seem extremely similar.  Distopic future where corporations control pretty much everything, and folks are forced to carve out their lives on the fringe of society.  The twist here is that the  crew woke from out of cryosleep only to find that they have all had their memories erased.  During the first season we spend a lot of time trying to sort out who they are and what exactly they were doing, and at the same time blending together as a team.

So far my two favorite characters are “Five” aka the hacker stowaway girl, and the Android…. that they sadly just keep calling Android.  I am hoping in season two they finally give her a name, because I like the character and actor playing her.  If you are a fan of Lost Girl it is the same actor that played the Fae Doctor on that show, and sometimes love interest of the succubus title character.  What is awesome is that obviously there is some malfunction with the Android as she is starting to develop emotions, which makes the experience very “Data” like.  As far as the hacker… I knew she looked familiar and it finally hit me.  She is the little girl that played Alessa in the Silent Hill movie, and I IMDB’d to confirm it.  There are moments where the show gives me very Cowboy Bebop vibe to it, as they wander around space looking for jobs to pull…. so you know they can eat and have fuel.  All we need now is a genetically modified Corgi.

Arrow – Season 3

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Also showing up on Netflix is season 3 of Arrow, which I somehow completely missed arriving until last night.  While playing SWTOR I binged my way through about half of the season and plan on trying to finish it up today.  So far I am liking it, but I am not super keen on some of the events that have transpired.  There is a lot of this season that just feels like it is set up material for future events.  I feel like I also really need to watch Flash after this to help piece together some of the parts that are missing when ONLY watching this season.  The cross over episode felt a bit odd, because I am assuming it started with Flash.  Also the lengthy set up for Atom has been interesting but a little contrived.  I am also not super sure what is going on with the character of Felicity this season, she seems to be shifting personalities a lot.  I am largely cool with Laurel taking the mantle of Black Canary as well.  The problem with the DC universe is that I only really know a shallow version of it that tends to be very Batman-centric.

Growing up I was a Marvel kid, and the only comics I really delved into were the Batman and Green Lantern universes…  other than Superfriends that is.  Marvel always felt like the universe of gritty anti-heroes and that was the sort of thing I thought was cool.  DC however tended to have much more detailed story arcs, and they obviously did a far better job of licensing their properties than Marvel since we have the ability to see all of these cross overs.  Obviously the whole handing Cupid over to Suicide Squad bit… is going to end up biting them in the ass.  I am hoping as the season goes on we see more of the Suicide Squad, especially as this season and season four probably really need to set up for the Suicide Squad movie, seeing as that is not a part of the DC universe that most people know anything about.  Well that is other than Harly Quinn… at this point everyone knows and loves Harly Quinn.  Looking forward to finishing the season today, as I continued to work my way through the Bounty Hunter storyline.

Fear The Walking Dead – Season Finale

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The funny thing about Fear the Walking Dead is how the episode finale had two vastly different effects on me and my wife.  Up until this point in the season she had been watching the episodes with me, and it seemed like maybe she was almost getting into the show.  Whereas honestly I was bored and kept waiting for the inevitable other shoe to fall, because having been a long time walking dead watcher…  you knew the bad stuff was coming eventually.  Finally in this episode everything starts to go wrong, and this is the point at which my wife completely loses interest.  It seems like she is fine with a world where people have to sort out how to survive, but not so much in a world where they are constantly being chased by the dead.  Daniel still rises from this episode as my favorite character, namely the only one who is truly prepared to exist in this world.  The only problem there is he takes what is a bad situation and makes it even worse by letting loose the first horde.

In earlier episodes we find that they were using a stadium as a shelter, much like they did in Katrina with the super dome.  Something goes wrong and people start turning, and the military is unable to sort out who is living and who is dead and just ends up chaining the entire contents in essentially assuring that all two thousand plus people end up as zombies.  So when Daniel turns them lose to use them to attack the military compounds, it gives us a hint and maybe HOW the hordes form.  Maybe they get started when zombies finally break out of places they have been pinned up in and keep wandering together because they don’t exactly have free will.  Which makes you wonder… where exactly did the mega horde near Alexandria come from?  The big thing I wanted from Fear the Walking Dead, was more insight into WHY the world fell to hell and that seems to be something that was not on the menu.  Largely I am disappointed in the show, and the lack of Talking Dead after it was a problem for me.  Talking Dead essentially played the role of having someone to talk about the show with, in a strange way.  I am hoping when Season Two comes around they will do a “Talking Fear” show or something like that.  In any case this week we get the return of the real Walking Dead show so in the meantime I am pretty amped for that since experiencing the watered down version.

 

 

 

 

Media Consumption 9/19/2015

Another Thing

One of the things I have found myself doing a lot lately is hanging out downstairs on my laptop and watching a fairly steady feed of television and movies.  Now some of this I am consuming from the On Demand service from cable and others from Netflix or Hulu.   Over the last few years there is a ton of television content that I have wished I had seen, but never actually got around to seeing.  With fall coming on, I tend to spend a lot more time snuggled on the couch, and as such I think I am going to start another weekly feature similar to my Sunday “what I have been playing” column to watch about the media content I have been consuming.  One of the big things that has changed over the years is I tend to watch an entire television series over the course of a couple days, instead of letting it drag out over the course of a season.  In fact I prefer this method of consumption so much that I will let an entire season of a show record on my DVR before starting in on watching it.  I blame Netflix squarely for this tendency and right now quite literally the only shows I watch as they are airing are the Walking Dead series simply because most of my development group is hooked on the show and we discuss it Monday mornings.  Hopefully folks will dig me going back and talking about what I have been up to.

iZombie

izombie

I started this show on my own a few days ago, but quickly realized that this would actually be something that my wife would enjoy.  As a result last night we started in and managed to get about three episodes into the series.  Essentially you take the smart and quirky writing of Veronica Mars, mix in a dash or True Calling and Crossing Jordan, and add a dash of Being Human and maybe a sprinkle of a show like Drop Dead Diva… and you end up with the weird mix that is iZombie.  The premise is simple… she was a promising surgical resident until she went to a party on a boat…  where a designer drug turned people into zombies.  She got scratched and wound up as a member of the unliving… completely uprooting her promising career, her engagement and most of the relationships in her life.  Instead she now works in the Morgue where she has a ready supply of brains, and a series of misadventures that spring around her ability to see flashes of memory from the brains she consumed.  Flat out if you loved Veronia Mars as much as I did… you will love this show.  It is more of the same sort of intelligent writing and snarky commentary mixed with crime solving…  just of a different sort.  I look forward to picking up and continuing watching this show over the weekend.

Black Mirror

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This one is available on Netflix, and is a British show which means…  short seasons.  There are two seasons available currently, which only actually mean six total shows to watch.  I tweeted that this show was weird, but there is something infectious about it.  I like to think of it as Tales from the Crypt for Futurism and Technology.  Essentially they take ideas that folks have always thought might be cool…  and take them to really dark extremes.  One of the episodes featured a device that you stuck behind your ear, that recorded every single moment in your life allowing you to review them later.  But what happens when no one ever forgets anything… and can scrutinize every moment and everything you have ever said in full high definition color?  The show makes up a series of disturbing what if’s that bring cautionary tales about our own lust for technology and innovation.  I managed to make it through four episodes of the series before finally falling asleep the other night, so at some point I will pick up and finish it.  The six episodes make it a quick watch and if you are into dark futurism….  it might be down your alley.

Chappie

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This movie combines a bunch of weak spots for me…  Artificial Intelligence, Die Antwoord, and Neill Blomkamp.  I loved the movie District 9, so when I saw the trailer for Chappie I thought I would probably like it as well.  The problem is it just took me a really long time to get around to watching it.  The movie is really odd at times…  because for most of it, it really just feels like a really long Die Antwoord video.  Pretty much every piece of music found in the video is theirs, and it features all of the same odd visuals that you find in their videos.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it just makes the movie feel less “movie-like”.  I am imagining there will be a Chappie 2, because they left a lot of things unresolved at the end of the movie.  As far as Chappie itself…  the robot was kinda adorable…  and he is voiced by the same actor that played Wikus from District 9.  The robot is vulnerable and childlike and extremely impressionable… but at the same time very loyal to its humans.  The movie as a whole asks a bunch of trans-humanist questions about what exactly consciousness and sentience is.  It will be interesting to see where this goes if there is a sequel.

Star Wars Prequels

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Something that I did last weekend and over the course of this week was watch the Star Wars movies.  I’ve talked a bit about how Phantom Menace was a massive let down for me… and how I have been afraid to get excited about Force Awakens because of it.  In spite of all of my better judgement however…  I am infected with full on hype mode when it comes to Force Awakens and Star Wars in general.  I grew up loving this series… and in spite of the prequels I am once again in love with anything and everything Star Wars.  As a result I thought to myself…  maybe I was too hard on the Prequels, so in my rewatch of the movies attempted to go into them with an open mind.  The end result is that I don’t necessarily “hate” them, but objectively they are really bad movies.  The pacing feels off, and the characters feel forced to act out awkward dialog at every single turn.  There is something however that bugs me even more about them.  There are times in movies and television shows when the viewers know more about the movie than the characters on screen… and this can be interesting.

The problem with Phantom Menace is that it somehow pretends that we don’t know that Senator/Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious.  Like when we finally find out that he is the Dark Lord of the Sith… the movies act like we should be shocked.  Additionally making these movies about Anakin Skywalker just feels wrong.  We know from the moment this series starts that he is ultimately going to end up in a fight with Obi Wan and be damaged to the point of needing to go into the suit to survive and become the Darth Vadar we all know.  The prequels should have focused on Obi Wan, and told his story… with his failure to steer Anakin away from the Dark Side as being a part of that story.  Obi Wan is the interesting character here, not the whiny bullshit of Darth Teen Angst.  There are awesome moments scattered among the three films, but I feel like you could make one really awesome movie if you just edited out the bad bits.  In fact there is a fan edit that does just this and trims the movie into a 2 hour long epic.  The only part of the first film that is shown is the “Duel of the Fates” sequence.  I think this would be a much better way to jump start the awesome movies that follow… and really the original movies are awesome.  I found myself thinking just how great they were as I watched “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”.  I can still however take or leave “Return of the Jedi”, because I feel like it starts some of the bullshit that George Lucas tried to continue throughout the Prequels.

Fear the Walking Dead

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Finally I wanted to talk a bit about Fear the Walking Dead, which this Sunday will show its fourth episode.  Last week the shit finally started hitting the fan, as the Zombie infection began to finally get noticed.  My wife happened to catch the first two episodes before watching the new episode last week because she happened to be downstairs grading.  She made the same sort of comments that I had been making internally about how stupid the characters were acting.  At one point she made the comment “Have none of these people ever seen Scream?” as another character put themselves in a really dumb position.  Over the first two episodes the series played on the fact that we know how the Walking Dead unvierse works, and placed the characters in compromising positions….  only to have the Zombie NOT jump out of the shadows to get them.  That however I think is changing, and this week I expect things to start to get really crazy.  I love the way the series is playing on the modern riots as the way the public at large is dealing with the zombie epidemic.  When the police put down a zombie, it is seen as police brutality and a huge riot breaks out downtown.  The show keeps giving us little clues that things are heating up… like the first few zombies took awhile to turn, but now the virus is mutating and speeding up.  In one sequence there is a cop being munched on by a zombie… and then a few scenes later that same police officer is munching on a protester.  The only thing that really frustrates me is the fact that at no point do people seem to recognize what is happening.  I mean are zombie films not a thing in this universe?

Seasons Change

Fear and a Little Loathing

The Full cast of Walking Dead spin-off Fear the Walking Dead

I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead and have been watching the show since the first episode.  Well technically that is a bit of a fib, I intended to watch the show…  but ultimately bought the first season boxed set and used it as a way to leap frog me into caring about the show in season two.  I struggle to get into shows if I do not watch a deluge of episodes, because it takes a good four or five before I start to care about the characters.  Zombies have always been that one movie monster that freaked me out, in part because other than twitter I am really not that connected to the media.  So a movie opening like Dawn of the Dead where the entire world falls to shit while a couple is having an unplugged “date night” ends up resonating with me.  It has never been so much about the zombies, but more about the hopelessness of it all.  One bite or scratch and it is just over… and there are so many more of them than there are of you.  The Walking Dead started several months after the fall of society, so when AMC announced that there would be a show set in Los Angeles during the fall..  I was on board with it from the start.  As the summer drug on I looked forward to the premiere which was set for last night August 23rd.

Now that I have watched the first show…  I am decidedly “meh” about the show right now.  I guess part of it is that society is falling apart far slower than I had expected it to.  Usually in the zombie movie genre the world changes over night, and in this case the show takes place during several days and even at the very end…. the world has not fully woken up to the danger.  I expect that in episode two there will be a lot more action as people scurry about and attempt to get someplace safe.  Quite honestly I cannot think of a worse place to be than in Los Angeles.  The interesting thing about this show is we the viewers…  know more about their world than the characters on screen do which causes a strange frustration.  You want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and make them realize that the shit is going to hit the fan soon and they need to get the hell out of town.  The other strange thing that is going on is that as I am watching I am trying to figure out which character is going to die first.  There have been enough people introduced at this point as to assure that at least one of them will not survive the initial fall.  I am taking a wait and see attitude on whether or not the show is going to “feel” better.

The Talking Dead set is part of the experience
The Talking Dead set is part of the experience

One part that feels completely wrong however is the fact that there is no “Talking Dead” airing immediately after it.  This has become part of the experience for me and my co-workers as we watch the show.  It is like this grand after party where you watch other fans of the show hash out the details that were just seen.  To be truthful the entire Walking Dead > Talking Dead > Walking Dead rebroadcast thing has become a Sunday ritual for me.  I sit on the sofa with my laptop and periodically change the laundry while watching the first two shows, and then fold the laundry during the rebroadcast.  So just having Fear the Walking Dead without the Nerdist and friends…  left the whole experience feeling hollow.  There was a Talking Dead show ahead of “Fear” but it was to show off previews of Season 6 starting in October.  On that show he mentioned that there would be a special Talking Dead after the season finale, but I am really hoping that AMC fixes this for Season 2.  There was a hashtag going around twitter last night saying as much, so hopefully someone is listening.  Chris Hardwick is pivotal to my enjoyment of this series.

Seasons Change

Crusader season 3 character joins the stable of normal characters.
Crusader season 3 character joins the stable of normal characters.

Last night was also the end of Season 3 and I had wondered ahead of time how exactly the transition would work.  Starting about thirty minutes before the end of the season we started getting warnings piped across the server, and the strange thing is that when the season actually finished it did not disconnect us from the server. Being curious however I ended my game and went to start a new one and got a message telling me that the season was over.  I killed the Diablo 3 client and started it right back up, and immediately my new character was sitting in list of available normal characters.  When I logged in I had a bunch of mail messages waiting for me, and in each one was an item that had been in the bank for seasonal characters.  So I have to say the transition went extremely smoothly.  I knew that I would not hit 70 before the season ended, but I did make it to around 35 before it finished.  When season four starts I will absolutely make a brand new character, and it honestly may end up being another Crusader.  Right now I am pretty fond of the gameplay, and it mixes some of the things that I loved about the Warrior and Monk together into a more enjoyable package.

Demon go boom!
Demon go boom!

Right now I am using a combination of Slash for my main attack which hits multiple targets in an arc in front of me, and Sweep Attack for my secondary which does pretty much the same thing… but just deals a hell of a lot more damage.  My favorite ability however is Falling Sword which is an almost Dragoon like jump attack that crashes down on a target location dealing a radius of damage around where you landed.  I love the versatility of this ability, that I can use it as a strong AOE attack or just a way to move around the battlefield quickly.  It is great for chasing down runners like Treasure Goblins.  My original plan was to rush through normal mode and then start cranking up the difficulty, but I only actually made it to act three before things went offline.  While I might have had every intent to rush through the levels, I still found myself unable to skip up that option dungeon here or ignore that unexplored bit of map there.  In hindsight I should have cranked up the difficulty from the start and just played like normal.  I was under the impression that adventure mode did not actually work until you had unlocked all of the story content, but maybe I was wrong there.  I’ve honestly not really spent much time exploring the Reaper of Souls features, because my friends and I had a few weeks where we played Diablo 3 hard and heavy…  then never touched it again.  For the time being I am still focusing on my Crusader because I am having a lot of fun playing it, and it fits my current gaming attention span.