Thursday, July 14, 2005

When Dick met Chris

I was given the 'Batman and Robin' toy as a present from Drew a few years ago, when I bought the Nightwing toy and I saw them next to each other, this was the first thing that popped into my head.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Anyone thinking about giving this game a go, REALLY don’t bother. When I started it, it was going quite well, but very quickly is broke down into fight every minute then watch a cutscene.

The over reliance of Gandalf voiceovers for movie clips seriously hampers the story mode. Nearly after every fight do you unlock an ‘Epic Scene’ that tells you either a bit of the film that doesn’t really concern yourself, or an explanation of events that just happened to you with scenes from the film which are quite irrelevant, for instance when I met my dwarven companion the Epic Scene was full of shots of Gimli with Gandalf’s voiceover saying something like, “This is Gimli, the Dwarf I travel with, he’s quite a nice chap unlike the one you have met. Shame you won’t get to meet him.” Occasionally though, the story will be told from in-game cutscenes that actually feature your own characters, when those happened I felt a lot more connected to the characters. Shame they were few and far between.

The battles are almost random encounters, just not quite. There’s a nice little icon at the top of the screen that gets brighter the closer you get to a fight making it feel slightly less random and much less annoying. They’ve put a few variations on the Final Fantasy style fighting. Most obvious of which is to change your party mid-fight. This is a major change and one I welcome quite enthusiastically, the amount of times I’ve got into a fight in Final Fantasy and think “Damn it, so-and-so would be really handy right now” I can’t count. Also the variation of the line ups; reinforcements, being surrounded and only long range is really quite cool. Shame they didn’t bother with different rows like Final Fantasy.

This game could have been great. But they turned it into constant fighting and ‘unlocking’ scenes from the film. And don’t even get me started on the Balrog fight.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Knights of the Old Republic II

The sequel to one of my all time favourite games is out. Is it any good? Hell Yeah. Rich story and great characters, but it has its faults. Improving things for my personal experience is Chris playing Dark Side this time, instead of vaguely watching someone retrace my footsteps I get to see the other side of the game, some small differences, some major.

One problem I do have is the loading screens/times. I must stress here that in some areas they’re fine in, but others, of note so far the second planet you visit where I got extremely pissed off with them, every two seconds there seemed to be another one. What made it worse was some of the areas appeared tiny, making me wonder the reason for the need to load the area.

I’ve heard the complaint that the game doesn’t have any of the planets from the films. THANK GOD. Is it just me or is the fact that so much happened on backwater planets like Tatooine or Hoth getting a bit ridiculous? I have no problem with places like Coruscant constantly being visited, it is the Capital of the Galaxy after all, but the place furthest from the bright spot of the galaxy I do. Instead we visit a bunch of places that have resonance for this time period, originals or mainstays from games. Onderon, Dxun and Korriban are from the Tales of the Jedi comics that this is following on from. Plus Korriban is a return from the previous game, as is Dantooine. While Peragus II and Telos are originals. Its Telos and Nar Shaddaa that I have problems with. Why make it a new planet with Telos when the previous games Taris fulfils the role perfectly? Nar Shaddaa, surely this hasn’t been this built and that bad for all this time, I can buy that Coruscant is but not a Smuggler’s Moon.

One of the main parts of any RPG is the story. In this KotOR 2 excels… sort of. Personally I think the story of your character is much better that the one in the first time game. Instead of a mind wipe and you discovering what happened to you, the digital you knows exactly what he’s done but he’s keeping quiet, you have to put it together from what other characters know/say. To me this was much more satisfying, the character much more mysterious and for my Light Side game someone who didn’t want to advertise where he was during the Mandalorian Wars.

Which brings us nicely to the other members of your party. Once again all the members have rich stories behind them. Unfortunately this only comes out if you spend time with them, a good touch as they’ll only tell you things if they trust, an excellent example is in Chris’ Dark Side game where the Handmaiden won’t even speak to him anymore because he’s too evil. However it also has the downside that you can miss some major plot points if you don’t favour the right people. In my games one or two of the Handmaiden’s decisions were a bit surprising, and I imagine Chris is going to be quite baffled by her.

The plot characters outside your party are quiet a mixed bag which I feel is LucasArts fault rather than Obsidian’s but more on that later. Colonel Tobin, a secondary character on Onderon who reappears (in the Light Side game at least) felt extremely well flashed out. Meanwhile Darth Nihilus, one of the main bad guys, was as two dimensional as a Garfield cartoon. This becomes blatantly clear during the ending.

Ah, the ending, the main complaint of nearly every gamer whose played KotOR 2. The game was originally planned for a February/March release, then LucasArts took the bright decision to ship for Christmas in the US. Clearly the game wasn’t finished or even ready. Obsidian tried their best but in the end nothing will ever make up for that lost time.

This game could have outclassed the original easily and was well on the way to doing that. Unfortunately, LucasArts got greedy and as a result the game’s ending lets it down. Hopefully Knights of the Old Republic III can address this.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Comics Aren’t Just For Kids

In this here text you may find a rant about Comics aren’t just for kids. However, this is more about a conversation I’ve been holding in for years. The conversation you have when someone actually says to you “But comics are for kids!”

Last night, I was in the pub with a fellow comic reader and a lady from work. As the night was winding up my friend just had to ask me about Green Lantern: Rebirth #4. The lady in question sat with a puzzled expression as we chatted for a minute or two about Hal, Kyle, Ollie and Sinestro. She just had to ask what we were talking about, “Comics” we both replied. Her eyebrow raised and “Aren’t comics just for kids?”
Darren launched straight into “Some of the comics I get I let my kid flick through, but others I wouldn’t. Take the Punisher for instance…”
I announce I’m going to the toilet while he covers the Punisher, figuring hit her with an obvious one first. As I leave I just hear “He’s a marine who’s just got back from ‘Nam and he goes on a picnic with his family and they stumble on to a mob hit…”

So I siphon the python, get some more drinks in and wander back to the table. Not sure what Darren’s said but it looks like a god damn good start. Angie still looks a bit hesitant though. “Why not just tell the stories in books?”
“Why should you?” I ask
Angie starts saying how books are quicker and easier to show what’s happening. Personally I think she’d conceded that comics tell stories for adults, but is struggling with the fact adult stories are being told in what she sees as a child medium.
We hit back that think of comics as a film, the art as the actors. While a book tells the story by spelling everything for you out, in a comic the art helps tell the story. Someone is sad it shows on their face, someone is sad their body language shows it. The look on Angie’s face proves another score for the comic geeks.

Angie’s crawling for ground, she knows she has a point, tries to bring up Batman, he’d been mentioned during the GL: Rebirth conversation. The problem is some people still think of Batman as Adam West, “Holly Campness, Batman” and the death traps they always escape at the start of the next episode.
Now she’s just wandered right into my territory. Time for the big guns.

Batman is a true psychopath. As a child he watched his parents get gunned down in a robbery, vowed no one would ever suffer like that and dedicated his life to fighting crime dressed as a bat which causes fear in criminals.
Angie hits back with Robin.
“Do you remember Robin is Dick Grayson?” I get an affirmative smile and nod. “Well in the comics he’s grown up and nearly got married.”
“And became Nightwing,” Darren pipes up, somehow I miss this little fact out, don’t ask how I wonder myself.
“The second Robin had his brains smashed in with a crowbar by the Joker,” Angie’s face is dropping as I say this, Darren drops in “Then blown up” and I carry on, “Which brings us to the third Robin, Tim. Tim’s mother is killed and his dad crippled when he first became Robin. In the last year, his dad, his girlfriend and another girl he is very close too have all been killed.” Angie’s face dropped. “Not exactly for kids is it.”

“So I should be careful the next time I take my son into the newsagents,” Angie quite rightly asked.
“Not really, comics are more in specialist stores these days. However, if you are thinking of buying any comics for your kid make sure it’s the right line. In one comic you have the fun stories suitable for kids, another you have Spider-Man finding out his first love woman cheated on him with his greatest enemy and gave birth years ago. The first love who he accidentally killed.”
“Erm Ok… He killed his first love?” Angie asked a bit intrigued I think.
“Absolutely. In the film where Green Goblin drops Mary Jane off the bridge and Spidey saved her. That didn’t go so well in the comics. Gwen was thrown off the bridge but Spidey webbed her feet to stop her, only problem she’d hit terminal velocity and SNAP. He breaks her neck. She was dead anyway though.”

That’s when the conversation pretty much ended, it being closing time and all. While I don’t think we had a convert on our hands, I do believe Darren and myself managed to get somebody to at least respect the medium. Another victory for the good guys.