First Impressions: Game of Thrones

Perhaps my previous rants about the Game of Thrones may have been spoken too soon.  Aside from the fact that I still do not like the King’s character whatsoever (nor Daenerys for that matter), the show exceeded my expectations after finishing the first episode and went on into the second episode.  The show is slow to start and tries to introduce a plethora of new characters all in one episode.  This is also the pilot episode, so I had low expectations of what to expect.

I won’t go into too much detail as Nemorem from the Rotted Rose blog has already covered this topic in detail.  I simply decided that the show deserved more justice than what I’ve been carrying on about.  If you haven’t watched it yet, I would definitely recommend it (instead of watching Camelot).

First Impressions: Camelot

Camelot Starz Series

Camelot

Now that graduation has come and gone, I have plenty of time to do other things.  Amongst those other things is trying to find a job in my field, blogging and working on my hobbies while the first one has me waiting.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing several shows that I have been watching and discussing topics related to the story that I have been working on.

This post marks the beginning of a new series of mine called the First Impressions.  This series will detail opinions from the opening trailer(s) and the first episode in a non-spoiler manner.  This series may run over into video games as well, excluding the over-reviewed Dragon Age 2.

Camelot recently debuted on Starz a few weeks ago.  Most of you probably know the story behind it.  We’ve seen it several times now, but of all of them, most of them are kept to a PG-13 rating or below.  Camelot made no such promise and features plenty of gore and nude shots – not quite to the extent of Spartacus.

The opening trailer leaves a lot to be desired.  The main character, King Arthur, looks more like a wussy Prince Charming than a charismatic King. Halfway through the trailer all interest is lost when they start playing 30 Seconds to Mars – This is War.  Probably the most overused song in trailers I’ve ever seen, and every time it’s not very fitting except for some of the lyrics.  Talk about unoriginal and uninspiring.  The trailer’s description of the series is good however, and is probably its only saving grace.

Protect me, Merlin! My acting is terrible!

In the wake of King Uther’s sudden death, chaos threatens to engulf Britain. When the sorcerer Merlin has visions of a dark future, he installs the young and impetuous Arthur, Uther’s unknown son and heir, who has been raised from birth as a commoner. But Arthur’s cold and ambitious half sister Morgan will fight him to the bitter end, summoning unnatural forces to claim the crown in this epic battle for control. These are dark times indeed for the new king, with Guinevere being the only shining light in Arthur’s harsh world. Faced with profound moral decisions, and the challenge of uniting a kingdom broken by war and steeped in deception, Arthur will be tested beyond imagination. Forget everything you think you know…this is the story of Camelot that has never been told before.

Despite the lackluster trailer, the first episode was slightly better than expected.  I expected something awful similar to the King’s acting in Game of Thrones, and in a way, there is something like that present in Camelot.  Comparatively, at least I know what’s going on, because not only was the acting bad in Game of Thrones, they were taking too long to introduce the story. In Camelot, you’ll know what the problem is 15 minutes into the show and from there, you simply have to keep punching yourself every time Arthur speaks, because he sounds like such an idiot.  Its not the Arthur I envisioned. I get that he’s supposed to be young but the pretty boy that’s acting as him, certainly shouldn’t be doing it.

Arthur aside, the conflict is introduced nicely and everyone else’s acting is pretty good. I’m still a bit skeptical on how the show will turn out over the long run.  Its not the best show I’ve ever seen, but its certainly worth a watch at least once.  For those interested, Camelot is based off the ancient British folklore, not the BBC version of the story.

The Borgias

Three new series have been aired this month.  If you haven’t heard already, they are The Borgias (Showtime), Game of Thrones (HBO) and Camelot (Starz).  Currently I’ve only really watched the Borgias in depth.  I’ve yet to watch Camelot assuming its even started airing yet, and the Game of Thrones….  Well I watched about 30 minutes of it and stopped watching it after awhile.  After reading The Rotted Rose’s review of it, I had some slight hopes for it, quickly blown away by the terrible dialogue of the so-called King. I’ll probably give it another chance later.  After all the first episode of Spartacus:  Blood and Sand was terribly bad as well, but turned into one of my favorite shows of all time (around Episode 4 and beyond).

The release of The Borgias had great timing as some of their audience is probably attracted to this show through the recent release of a popular video game:  Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. If you’re anything like one of my roommates, you’ll be hooked based on the name alone.  Though I doubt many are.  My roommate is just plain odd.  They all are really as my other roommate watching the series thinks Lucrezia is hot, leading to a comical conversation of his pedophilia over 14 year old girls.

Honestly, I never knew much about this particular time period before AC Brotherhood was released, so I can’t say too much about how accurate The Borgias TV show is with what happened in real life.  They took the main ideas of what happened and formed their own plots from them. I feel like some of the words they used are incorrect, especially when they’re using the word Christian instead of Catholic.

Minor nitpicks aside, The Borgias has good acting, most notably Cesare Borgia (Francois Arnaud), Michelleto Corella (Sean Harris) and Vanozza dei Cattanei (Joanne Whalley).  Not to say that the other actors are bad, simply that these three are probably my favorite and most convincing. The only character I probably dislike is Alphonso II, whom you meet in the 3rd episode, simply because his voice is extremely annoying, however oddly appropriate.

You’ll have to brave through the first 20 minutes or so of the first episode before the plot begins to unfold and the conflict begins to present itself, but once it begins, it’ll keep you interested and wanting more.  If you like drama and a plot centered story, then you’ll most likely want to watch the Borgias.  The first episode is on Showtime’s website, which you can find here:  http://www.sho.com/site/order/preview.do#/Borgias_s01_e01 .  The quality is lacking and apparently they edited it for the website.  Definitely worth a watch though I believe.

Freedom & Choice

Some of my previous posts hinted at the start of a new project of mine, and since then, I’ve been working out new ideas and hammering out the kinks as I go along.  What I finally came up with is a bit different than my previous posts have stated, but remains true to its core.  The result is a more flexible story and lends itself to provide the reader (or player if it ever gets to that point – more on this later) with a reason to sympathize with the main character and his companions and, ultimately, feel anger at the antagonists of the story.

The resulting story will be separated into two parts, each containing their own plots and broken into 3 Acts.  The second part of the story was more of a spur of the moment, and as of right now, has very little worked out about it.  The idea was generated while listening to inspirational music and developing ideas for a companion.  It resulted in a full-blast conflict revolving around a religious conflict between two groups, which I’ll reserve for the second part or sequel.

The story will revolve around two major concepts:  freedom and choice.  More specifically, what if the only way to gain your own freedom was to sacrifice the freedom of another.  Would you still do it even if they did not volunteer to give their own freedom up? To give you an idea of the problem at hand, two concept generations are posted below, each pertaining to choice and freedom.

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The Geis

The word geis also spelled geas in some dialects refers to the obligation or prohibition imposed on a person.  The word is from Irish folklore, in which a geis could be a prohibition or taboo, a positive injunction or obligation, something unlawful or forbidden, a curse, or a spell or incantation. To violate one led to misfortune and death.

For this story, however, the concept of geis will take on a slightly different role.  A geis can only be created on a subject willing to receive it usually for something in return.  Once activated, the person under the influence of the geis will follow the commands of the terms that were agreed upon regardless of whether they wish to do it or not.   As an example, say that you accept a geis to have your life spared from the deadly disease eating away at your body under the terms that you’ll kill every crooked cop in the city.  For every cop that the geis determines to be crooked, you’ll be forced to accomplish the task. You are, of course, aware and conscious of your actions, but are powerless to stop them.

The Greater Beings

The greater beings are a mystery to everyone.  They existed during the creation of man, many speculate, and were created as servants to keep the interests of humanity in line. They are immobile sentient beings possessing a tremendous power varying from being to being.  All greater beings however, possess the ability to create a geis.  Many humans worship the greater beings as gods, and in a sense, they are.  They have powers to protect or destroy kingdoms, and such things have happened in the past and are bound to occur again.

The greater beings are not without their own flaws.  Their immobile state has left a few craving for true freedom, to experience a free life like that of the humans.  Why must they serve the humans when they are capable of so much?  Few greater beings have escaped their immobile chains through a specially created geis.  This geis allows the soul of the greater being to swap places with the human, while retaining some of their powers.

Human hosts are not used to having supernatural powers, and as such, suffer adverse effects.  The more they use their powers, a taint spreads across their body, eventually consuming them in a stone prison – returning them to their immobile state.

This is not to say however, that all greater beings are evil or are capable of such things.  Many greater beings wish to live as they are in servitude of the humans or serve as their protectors.  Very few have ever ventured down the path of obtaining freedom.

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Knowing this back information now, you can probably figure out where the problem settles in.  These greater beings or primordials have never felt freedom before, but long for it.  They are no longer content in watching humans enjoy their freedom without care or repercussions.  They have no idea why they have been created or why the humans were created as the favorable race, but they were gifted with strange and powerful abilities.  Can you blame them for seeking freedom?  Can you blame the humans for fearing the primordial beings freedom and what might occur when one free being has all that power at his disposal?

The next couple of blog posts will probably detail the introduction of the story and more concept generations.  Tell me what you think and see you guys next week (or two since I’m graduating next week – finally!).

The Power of Geis

In conjunction with AmstradHero’s BG2 Antagonist post, I’ve decided to introduce the origins of this new currently unnamed project of mine. The correlation between my post and his is the reference to the geas.The word geis also spelled geas in some dialects refers to the obligation or prohibition imposed on a person.  The word is from Irish folklore, in which a geis could be a prohibition or taboo, a positive injunction or obligation, something unlawful or forbidden, a curse, or a spell or incantation. To violate one led to misfortune and death. The origins of my project started with Code Geass.  At that point, I was fascinated with the geas concept and decided to use it myself.  Code Geass wasn’t my first encounter with the geas, however, but it was definitely one of the better representations of the concept where other concepts revolved around it.

BG2 SPOILER

In Baldur’s Gate II, the geas spell was seen several times, such as the Spectactor Orb and more memorably, Yoshimo.  Irenicus had placed the geas on Yoshimo to help bring you, the Bhaalspawn to him.   In the end, he couldn’t face his geas and apologized before he attacked.  I don’t think the concept of geas was well-played out there since he was a companion.  I would’ve been far happier if they decided to kill the whiney Imoen and let Yoshimo live, but alas, it was not so.  They let us keep yet another Mage/Thief.  The 3rd (or 1st depending on how you look at it) Mage/Thief in the game, and they killed the only pure thief.

END BG2 SPOILER

But on to the main point of this post.  Back when the concept behind Shattered Dreams was being developed, I was sketching out an idea for the next project, and present it to the others once the talk of the next project had begun.  The idea was to already have a well-developed skeleton base to shorten some of the design time.  It never got that far, so I took the concept behind the idea and shaped it into something else.

The first version of the story was to start in Cormyr, where sealed beneath the castle, a powerful and ancient primordial lay in wait.  Its power was not in the form of brute force or even magic that could incinerate you in an instant.  It had the power to read your mind, and offer you the power to achieve your goal on the condition that you would help set it free.  The seal on the door was weakening and to prevent it from escaping, a war hero was called upon to reseal the door.  But the primordial being was able to interact with people outside of the weakened seal, offering them their greatest desires.   The door was sealed but not before it was able to offer power to the others.  In a power frenzy, the other guards attacked, and in the end, only the War Hero remained.  The door remained unsealed, and the war hero later faced charges for crimes against the crown, and he was locked up in prison – his family executed.  This news was unbeknown to the people, so as far as they knew, the war hero was still alive and a hero to their country.  The primordial lingered in his mind, offering him revenge, power, and upon hearing the news of his family’s execution, he accepted the geas of the primordial and the story begins when he breaks out of prison with the country’s most dangerous criminals.

The problem with this version was the setting.  It was very restricting as Elysius had told me, so we looked at other options for the setting.  There were a few, such as Tethyr, but we decided on Chessenta, the Greek inspired country ruled by a ruthless red dragon, Tchazzar.  The country had known peace during Tchazzar’s disappearance, but when the dragon returned, war had begun again.  The story was adapted as a battle occurring near the haunted woods of Methwood.  And the war hero now become a soldier who abandoned his position, knowing that the battle was lost.   He stumbled through the Methwood and came across the ruins.  In a similiar fashion, he found the sealed primordial and accepted the geas to bring peace to Chessenta again.

The settings were different, but the concept was the same, although the Chessenta version had more focus on war than the Cormyr one, which for a video game, makes it a lot more difficult to accomplish, but would be rewarding if done right.  In a way, one could say that the story might have a problem with the villain seemingly pushing the main character aside in importance and depth.  But the way the story would have progressed would’ve made it such that the character would be one of the few that could take down the villain, aided by how the war hero became what he is after the geas.

The third version which is what this project is about is in a setting of my own, rather than dealing with the rather restrictive lore of Dungeons and Dragons.  The concept is similiar, but the creature placing the geas no longer cares about freedom as it is already free to do what it wants.  It simply wants to destroy the world as its nature.  Whenever I begin to set everything in stone, I’ll release more information.

For now, I think 900 words is enough for one post.

Return

Its been awhile since my last blog entry. School got rather busy, and once it was over, I was busy doing other things. All of which have been non-NWN2 related. As of recent, I’ve been playing through the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Beta, which regretably ends today. On the brighter side of things, its official release is July 27th, so I do not have that long to wait before I can play again. It’s been pretty fun to play, but I have to say that the balance is a bit messed up. The Terrans are by far the most overpowered race there is, closely followed by the Protoss. The Zerg have been hit with the nerf stick, and usually amounts to nothing more than a nuisance.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

On another note, I’ve decided to abandon the idea of ever making a module of my own. Between time constraints and keeping it real, I’ll never ever finish one that I’ll ever be happy with by myself. Call me a bit selfish, but I’m very picky when it comes to area design and plot development, and if it isn’t just right, I’ll have to keep working on it until I like it.

So, I’ve decided to take on a slightly different project, something that doesn’t require me to be sitting in front of my desktop to do. That is, I’ll be writing my own story. The concept has been floating around in my head for nearly 8 months now, and I’ve now started preparing a design document for it so to speak. Its more of an outline for me to refer to and keep me in line. Any change I make to it, I’ll have to go through the plot line and determine whether the change will make any sense.

At the moment, its planned as a trilogy, but each story is definitely stand alone. The trilogy is just conceptual and the plots developed for the latter two stories are intentionally vague and shall stay that way until I get around to writing them later. I’ve had this problem before with stories of my own, and this nasty Tesla Coil fires up in my brain and comes up with all sorts of wild and interesting ideas.

The reason I thought of the plots for them at all is to help keep the stories between all of them in line and gradually building up for that great finale. It’ll definitely take some time to write, but in the end it’ll be worth it I think. It’s always been my dream to get a grandiose idea out of my head and onto something someone else can run through it, whether it be a book or a game, it matters not to me. Games are simply cooler is all.

Will I ever finish it? I hope so. I have written many short stories before and even 300 page stories, which I will never ever show anyone. Suffice to say, they’re that bad, not to mention I don’t have them anymore. The imagination of a 13 year old is horrible and pretty far out. I won’t go into any detail on what I have planned yet. That is a story for another time.

Mass Effect 2

It’s been a little while  since my last post.  Life has been a little busy.  I was under the weather for awhile and schoolwork has been pretty hectic as of late, so I haven’t been able to do much.  The short break I did get was dedicated to the title of this post.  That’s right, folks:  Mass Effect 2.

I’ll be honest, I was skeptical at first, but after playing this for a few hours, I changed my mind.   I’ll keep this to a non-spoiler review. 

Bioware made some rather odd decisions going from ME1 to ME2.  Everything that people criticized about in ME1 were no longer present in ME2.  This isn’t because they fixed it, rather they completely removed it.  No more elevators, we have loadscreens instead.  No more Mako (which isn’t a very big deal).  No more inventory system.  And there’s a few others as well.

Most of the changes I didn’t mind too much.  I recall the annoying inventory system from ME1, but I don’t think removing it was really the way to go here.  None of the weapons have any specifications, so when you equip them, you’re pretty much going in blind with an unknown weapon.  At the very least, let us compare the weapons.

I played the campaign as an Engineer, which was an interesting playstyle, but I felt like compared to the Soldier and the Biotic, they were were the weakest.  The Engineer’s main strength is taking advantage of an exploit in BioWare’s own AI.  Oh look, a drone that gives a little jolt.  Let’s attack it!  Poor excuse to attack when everyone else is unloading their ammo into your backside. The only real asset for the Engineer was the Incinerate ability, which burns through Armor very quickly and has a tendency of killing the weaker units in 1-2 hits.  The other abilities weren’t all that useful for the most part.  AI Hacking wasn’t worth the effort; Cyro Blast has a few uses, but very limited (does pretty much 0 damage and freezes the target after 6 seconds).  The Biotic in my party, although not as potent as in ME1, I felt did most of the work.  Then there was Zaeed, the DLC Companion that I used for brute force power.  So, my opinion of the engineer wound up being this.  For a class designed to excel at destroying mechs and bots, it did a pretty lousy job at it.  The other classes are far better at it I thought.

The graphics of ME2 seemed pretty hit and miss.  Overall, the area design was pretty solid although I thought their tropical areas were an eyesore on all accounts.   Then there was the Citadel and Illium areas, which BioWare could’ve left out completely and not affected the game one bit.  They weren’t fun to run through and the amount of content in them was little.  What content was in them could’ve been moved to Omega, which was a far better place to visit visually and atmospherically.  Some of the best designed areas in the game I would probably say were the 1st Collector Ship, Omega, Normandy, Freedom’s Pass and some side mission with a ship hanging off the side of the cliffside (although it ranks the #1 buggiest area in the game).

As far as Companions though, you basically travel around the universe in search of “criminals” more or less with a few characters as an exception to this rule.  Most of them were interesting, but there two that I felt that could’ve been left out completely.  The final companion is just untimely, and why BioWare brought Garrus back is beyond me.  He never said much in ME1, and he says even less in ME2.  After you get him in your party, he’s mute until he has a quest, after you do his quest and right before the final mission.  Waste of resources I thought.  The Krogan said more than Garrus did, which is pretty sad if you ask me.  Krogans aren’t known for being chatter boxes.

Romances weren’t all that great in large part.  None of them carried over from ME1, not that I blame them or anything, but the amount of people they have to keep track of for ME3 is going to be monstrous.  I really do hope at the very least Tali’s Romance gets to carry over properly into ME3.  Call me selfish 😀 The romance scene was just a big tease to say the least.

Finally onto the bigger part of this review.  BioWare in large plot is known for their plots (NWN1 excluded) and interesting stories.  ME2 felt like some cheap intermission story.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the game and all, but when all is said and done, I reflect on what all had happened during the story line.  I learned very little.  85% of the main plot is collecting companions.  It seemed like they were saving everything in their arsenal for a big bang in ME3.

One of the most frustrating parts of the game is probably fighting the LOKI Mechs on some side quest mission.  BioWare thought it cute to blow realism right out the window and set these little bastards on infinite spawn in a very confined crate maze.  These mechs were showing up in places where you had already scouted and determned nothing was there.  These little monsters certainly pack a punch with their Heavy Pistols as well.  They annihiate my character in 2-3 hits and with infinite respawns, BioWare made a cheap attempt at raising the difficulty.  Aside from LOKI mechs and Geth Hunters, every other creature in the game was a pushover – especially the Collectors.  I really expected more from them, but they were really easy and the final battle was cool, but extremely easy.  So that’s that I guess.

Overall, I would rate the game as (out of 10):

Story: 4

Fun Factor: 9

Gameplay: 9

Atmosphere: 9

Graphics: 7

Total:  7.6/10

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