Vry Plays: Bioshock – Episode 4: A Game of (Corpse) Catch

You can pick up your friends, you can pick up your enemies, but you can’t pick up your friends and throw them at your enemies.  Wait… you can? Huzzah!

VOTING IS CLOSED. CHECK BACK ON HALLOWEEN TO FIND OUT THE FATE OF THE LITTLE SISTERS IN VRY PLAYS BIOSHOCK PART 5!

Vry Plays Bioshock – Episode 3: Bullet Hole-Istic Medicine

Doctor Vry will see you now. Take two shocks of plasmid to DA FACE and call me never cause your dead, ya splicer. Exploration of the sunken city of Rapture continues into the Medical Pavilion, with more Luigis, more explosions, and more insanity!

You can find the previous episodes here.

Catching Up With Korra

LoK

They always find a way to pull me back don’t they?

My twitter followers may remember a while back when I ranted and raved about the ending to the first season of Korra, where they stripped the villain of any back story or motivation they had thoroughly established for the sake of a less than satisfying plot twist and how the civil movement pushing for equality for non-benders in a world run by benders is immediately dropped upon finding out that the villain was a bender.  Which is kind of like if a white person spoke up in defense of civil rights, all African Americans realize that hey things aren’t so bad and immediately dropped it.  Yes, Amon’s motivations were sinister but no one in the movement knew that.  They just said “Oh, he’s a bender.  So I guess it’s back to happily living in fear of fire-bending mob bosses. Oh well.”

Suffice it say, the ending left me a bit irked.  But I had hope.  Maybe season two would continue the equalist storyline in some way as the Avatar works to restore balance between benders and non-benders – a very interesting issue in the world they inhabit.  What’s that season two premiere? Six months later you say? Everyone’s talking about Mako and Korra dating?  No one is talking about equality?  Well &%$* me.  So I walked away from Legend of Korra and decided it just wasn’t worth trying to get excited again only to be let down.  But then they tease bringing Toph back.  Toph.  My favorite character in Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Drat.  Now I have to catch up.

So I sat down and binged my way through Books Two and Three, praying that maybe they improved from the ending of Book One.  I mean, everything up to the ending was pretty good.  Downright awesome at times.  So did the rest live up to my hopes?  Well…  kind of?  Let me explain.  The absolute worst thing about seasons 2 & 3 of Legend of Korra is quite honestly Korra herself.  The villains are more interesting than our hero, the side plots are more interesting than the main plots, and Korra seems to be there to carry us between the better storylines while she is just trying to not die most of the time.

In Book Two, we’re treated to the history of the very first avatar. It’s a great story that quite honestly could have been its own season. The season is also book-ended with the start and end of a civil war between the Northern and Southern water tribe which we barely get to see any of. Also the reconciliation of the three children of Aang and facing the truth that maybe Aang wasn’t the greatest dad. In Book Three, you have the reformation of the Air Nation, the world of humans and spirits learning to co-exist for the first time in forever, and the reunion of the Bei Fong sisters  – all of which are far more interesting than a group of anarchist benders trying to kill Korra because Avatars are a force of balance and not chaos.  Heck the spirit/human relations thing is only mentioned for like two episodes and then Korra leaves and we get no additional resolution until the prologue of Season Four which mentions that 3 years later and everything is fine and dandy between humans and spirits.  It goes from everyone hates spirits and wants them gone to peaceful coexistence in 3 years AND WE GET NO EXPLANATION AS TO WHAT CHANGED.

The villains are equally baffling in some regards.  In season two, the villain seems to be motivated by a clear power grab under the influence of a dark spirit, but then in Book Three its revealed he was also a member of the anarchists who broke away for his own goals.  But even before that when they were younger, he made a power grab for the Northern Water Tribe…  so was he an anarchist or not?  “I’m against governments and order except when I’m not.”  The book three villain at least is fanatically driven by his beliefs, but out of his team of four he is the only one to get any kind of personality or development.  Making claims like “Just one of these four can overthrow a nation, all four can destroy the world” seem a bit of an exaggeration when there appears to be one threat and three flunkies.  Queen Beryl’s minions got more development and their entire purpose was to unleash the monster of the week.

But as I said, there are some great stories in these two seasons.  It’s just unfortunate they’re side plots and not the main course.  Instead we get Korra who spends her time shouting about how she’s the avatar, having extremely forced romance troubles (honestly, some of the fights she has with Mako can only be the product of bad writing.  No one argues like this in real life) and acting without care of the consequences of her actions.  She serves as a bridge to the better stories without offering much herself.  Even worse is that when all is said and done in the main plot, Korra’s lot in life is to just suffer.  Book Two ends with her connection to the past avatars destroyed leaving her without guidance of her past lives, and book three is just a straight ‘kill the avatar permanently’ mission that leaves Korra in a wheel chair. Which is a shame and something I’m hoping season four actually fixes with a lot of previews showing Korra striking out on her own and abandoning the avatar identity and hopefully will be a chance for Korra to actually grow instead of just being repeatedly broken.

So would I recommend it as someone who felt burned by the first season?  Sure.  Just go into it knowing that there are diamonds in the rough that make the rough worth it.  Here’s hoping the final season has a bit less rough to it.

Final Thought after seeing the first episode of season four:  What is with the Earth Kingdom having TERRIBLE leadership?

Vry Plays: Bioshock – Episode 2: Mr. Fix It

With all of Rapture going to hell, it’s up to Vry to give psychological help, fix marriages and save lives.  Or end them.  Which can also be helpful!

Class Storyline Review: Sith Warrior – Chapter Three

<– Chapter Two ||

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic class storyline for the Sith Warrior.  If you would like a spoiler-free summary of the third chapter, please look here.  You have been warned.

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Now that you’ve crushed Darth Baras’ opposition, secured his power, and help him ascend to the Dark Council, what reward shall you reap for all your loyal work?  Well, how about being blown up in a cave and left for dead by Darth Vengean’s former apprentice turned Darth Baras’ replacement for you?  Oh yes.  That Sith that worked side by side with you to create a vacancy in the Dark Council for Darth Baras to fill is now after your job – at Baras’ request no less!  Luring you to Quesh for a mission and then collapsing the cave on you and leaving you to die.  However, you have a pair of mysterious rescuers and no, they’re not a pair of mice.

They call themselves the Servants of the Emperor’s Hand and suddenly I’m having Elder Scrolls Dark Brotherhood flashbacks.  They have come to tell you that you have been more or less drafted by the Emperor (Yes, the actual real Sith Emperor) to be his “Wrath”. Essentially, you are to go around and kill whoever stands in the Emperor’s way or whoever the Emperor wants.  The Servants tell you that your now former master Baras is telling the Dark Council that he is the Emperor’s Voice, essentially the guy the Emperor talks through to the Dark Council and whoever.  But the Servants know that this isn’t true, and the Emperor knows it isn’t true, so it’s actually Baras making yet another power play to be above even the Dark Council.  What a jerk.  Or what a Sith.  They’re interchangeable really. Chapter Three is essentially set up as trying to break Darth Baras’ power base and stop his attempt to be declared by the Council to be the Emperor’s Voice and to be obey Baras’ no matter what.  The Council seems kind of dumb like that.

Belsavis

Your first task is stopping Darth Baras from freeing his insane sister, Darth Ekkage, from Belsavis prison.  Go ahead and take a moment if you need a second to wrap your head around the fact that Baras has siblings.  I’ll wait.  Ready?  Okay.  There really isn’t much more than that.  You are chasing/racing with Baras’ goons to the deepest depths of Belsavis where the whackjob Sith is locked up.  Okay, there is kind of this whole B-plot where you have to work with a Jedi who wants to stop them as well and more or less forces you to team up with him to accomplish your goal (He’s the only one around the let you out of a sealed room.  Why you don’t just cut your way out with a lightsaber Qui-Gon style is beyond me.  Maybe Breaking and Entering is a Jedi only technique?)

What’s funny with a Sith and a Jedi teaming up to take down the baddies is that it turns the whole planet into a buddy cop movie almost.  The Jedi is constantly scolding you for unnecessary violence, and you keep telling him that he’s weak and your going to kill him when this is all over.  It’s cute.  Ultimately, you do end up tracking down Ekkage, who just gets freed and then immediately kills the goon that frees her ‘because’. You fight her with the Jedi and then get the choice of killing Ekkage because that’s what your told to do or turn her over to the Jedi to be taken away and face justice.  Just for a bonus, if you kill Ekkage you also can kill the Jedi if you really want to.  You can also just let him go for helping you.  But then again, Jedi-cide.  Is there any better way to end a planet? I think not.

If it seems like I’m not going into a lot of detail here it’s because there really isn’t a lot of details to go into.  Belsavis is just a really simple planet where you have a clear cut object and you just have to keep overcoming the crap tossed in your path along the way (traps, foes, etc) until you get what you want.  It’s not bad in that way, it’s just simple.  Which is fine for a single planet.  Plus Ekkage is just gleefully chaotic evil.  It’s worth it all just to watch her kill people just for the lolz but at the same time seem bored by it.

Voss

In case you’ve been wondering how the Servants and Emperor know that Baras’ isn’t the Voice of the Emperor, it’s about to be explained on Voss.  You see when an aspect of the Emperor (voice, wrath, etc) is destroyed or killed, it reverts to the Emperor.  It’s a part of him, so he kind of would know if his Voice was killed.  But then how does the Dark Council NOT know?  Well, that’s because apparently Darth Baras has trapped the Voice somewhere on Voss, the last place the Voice went for some kind of spiritual journey to get dark power or some Sith thing.  It’s up to you to find him and free him.

Your first objective is to go and find the old Voss sage that guided the Voice when he came.  This involves mostly just doing a bunch of tedious rituals in order to get him to show up.  Which I will tell you, puts my Sith in a BAD mood.  You finally talk to the damn Voss who tells you that the Voice wandered off into a place called the Dark Heart in the Nightmare Lands, a place of powerful dark side…  energy…  stuff.  But the only way to follow him is to get a blessing from the Shrine of Healing and a Talisman of Bone from the Voss soldiers fighting in Gormak territory.  Now I am already suspect at this point because I will tell you, I’ve been to the Dark Heart before on other characters, and I didn’t need ANY of this crap.  But whatever.  I wander off to the Shrine of Healing and they explain that in order to receive the blessing it must drain life energy from someone and possibly even kill them (spoiler: No, it doesn’t kill anyone. At all. Not even close.)  You are given the choice of sacrificing your own life energy, one of your companions’ life energy, or forcing the Voss healer to sacrifice her own life energy to perform the ritual.  I personally forced the Healer to sacrifice her own to do the ritual, because my team and I needed to be in peak condition.  We’re going to the Nightmare Lands! You get to sit in the Shrine of Healing.  HEALING.  I mean really.

The talisman however is where I drew the line with these people.  The Voss always get on my nerves so this mission was probably a god send.  The troop of soldiers will only agree to part with the talisman if you help defeat a bunch of Gormak because they have some insane superstition that the trinket is helping them win.  So only by killing their enemy will they no longer need it and be willing to part with it.  So you go and do their jobs for them and come back only to find that they want you now to go back and kill MORE gormak.  You have got to be killing me.  Are they gonna keep stringing me along and having me run back and forth through enemy territory until every last gormak is dead?  I guess I never will found out.  Because blessed be Bioware they give you to option at this juncture to just straight up kill all the Voss commandos and take the damn talisman.  Oh and I did.  There are no words for the sheer amount of joy beaming through my skull at the appearance of that option.  It’s a big ‘Skip the BS’ button for a measly 150 dark side points.  HOW COULD I SAY NO?

So you finally get the Dark Heart, which to my shocking surprise has NOTHING to do with the second Care Bears movie.  Inside you find the Voice of the Emperor, but there seems to be a slight problem.  The host body of the Voice has gone insane in the face of the Dark Heart’s madness.  The ancient evil that slumbers there has claimed the body of the Voice so you are faced with the dire situation of having to kill the Voice in order to free it.  Once the body is dead the Voice can return to the Emperor, but at the same time it means that until a new host is found that for all intensive purposes Baras wins.  Either the Voice stays trapped in an insane body on Voss, or the Voice dies.  Either way, no evidence to prove that Baras’ isn’t the Voice.  Which is one of the reasons that the Sith Warrior storyline is actually really fun is because you’re not up against a stupid opponent.  Most are so blinded by their beliefs or convictions that they become desperate and stupid, but Baras has had this all set up way in advance and has clearly proven himself to be a chessmaster in the previous two chapters.  Now he’s guaranteed that the actual Voice can in no way be used against him and his pursuit of power.

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Interlude

So after you finish up with a less than successful mission on Voss, your trusted right hand man Malavai Quinn tells you that he has located a space station that contains some highly useful items to take a stab at Darth Baras with.  After congratulations all around that Quinn has scored a big win for the team, he leads you to a station and then proceeds to turn two massive war droids on you.   Wait.  What?

Yes, it would appear that our dear Mr. Quinn was and is firmly in the pocket of Darth Baras.  Serving him loyally since you first went to Balmorra and keeping him regularly informed of your progress.  So in case you were curious of how Baras’ goons got the drop on you continuously on Belsavis – look no further.  Quinn has calculated that these two droids which have been specifically constructed to kill specifically you have a success rate of 99% of doing so.  So naturally, you completely dismantle the damn things and beat Quinn around like a ragdoll.  Channeling the full power of the Emperor’s Wrath you are pretty much unkillable and deal insane damage during this fight even without a companion.  It’s awesome to watch really.  But not nearly as awesome as force choking Quinn and then flinging him around the room into the walls and floor over and over.  That, my friends, is what we call “Stress Relief”.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of this whole betrayal only ends in one of two ways: Angrily allowing Quinn back to the team, or forgivingly allowing Quinn back to the team.  No matter what he renounces Baras now and forever and swears fealty to you and only you and totally isn’t lying this time he promises for realsies.  This is probably one of those points back during the beta of the game where you could kill a companion but was taken out for reasons that have been explained hundreds of times by now.  Way too much buyers remorse and lack of saves in a MMO mostly.  But damn do I wish I could do something to not have that weasel on the ship anymore.  Or at least put Vette’s shock collar on him.  She’s been loyal! Quinn not so much.

Guess I’ll have to just survive with me knowing that I beat the ever loving &*%# out of him for even thinking of trying to kill me.

Corellia

Well, it seems that Baras is getting really good at keeping you on the ropes.  So now it’s time for the big one.  We’re going after his power base.  To do that we’re going to need some help though.  Turns out that the only Sith that is outright opposing Baras’ claim to being the Voice is overseeing the war on Corellia and unfortunately that has him completely vulnerable for an assassination.  So not only do you have to break into the secure REPUBLIC fortress he’s hiding out in and stopping all THREE assassins coming after him and then having to prove that you’re not an assassin and you need his help.  *deep breaths* Okay.  You get all that?  Luckily the convincing is pretty easy when you stop the third assassin right in front of him but dang hasn’t anyone in this galaxy heard of texting?  This is getting ridiculous to just ask for some help. Yes, all that is solely for asking for the help of a Sith.  For some planets, that could encompass the entirety of the story but here it’s only the first area you visit. Welcome to Corellia, where Sith gets real.

However, once you have gained the help of the Dark Council member, things fall much more into line with what you can expect.  There are three areas left on Corellia and each one has one thing that Baras is using to maintain control over the Dark Council and his power base in general.  That fits a bit better with what you expect.  The first area you have to tackle is the a large database in a secured bunker that holds all of Darth Baras’ blackmail information.  With this wiped out you pretty much remove the leash that Darth Baras has on the other Dark Council member.  These missions really aren’t ridiculously over the top, it’s mostly just fight through a secured area and hit the button to do the thing or kill the person or something.  So beyond the context of what each of these things are there sadly isn’t much to talk about here.

The next task is to eliminate the source of information and scheming that Baras has on the Republic side.  It turns out to help manipulate things in the war to his favor and tip off his own forces to give him seen downright clairvoyant, old Barry has himself a plant in the Jedi.  Yes, a loyal Jedi is on a Darth’s payroll.  Such a shame.  Luckily the best way to deal with that is to simply sever the source of information and to do that we can simply murder the Jedi.  However, before that you can also try to expose him for the traitor he is and then kill the Jedi.  Which is fun.  It’s always nice to shatter the spirits of the enemy.

The final strike against Baras comes in the way of breaking his connection to a powerful dark side spirit that he literally has chained up in a basement…  or a tower…  somewhere not on a first floor.  What’s interesting about this bit is actually the mystery around who this dark side spirit is supposed to be.  It’s been hypothesized that the spirit is actually Kreia from KOTOR 2, and supposedly the writer of the Sith Warrior story confirmed that this was the intent but I really can’t find a primary source on that, just forum talk.  It definitely seems from some of the dialogue that the spirit is more than just some malevolent dark side creature, but there really isn’t a confirmation one way or the other. I still like to assume that its supposed to be Kreia when I play through it though.

To break the connection with the spirit and Darth Baras, you need the help of the Dark Council member that you saved at the beginning of the planet.  However, there’s also a trap waiting for you.  Lord Draahg (yes, that’s his name) – the apprentice to Chapter 2’s Darth Veggie – is waiting for you to finish what he started at the beginning of Chapter 3.  He is going to prove he is the bestest ever to Darth Baras and then Darth Baras will love him like a son and they’ll be happy forever and ever and you will not mess it up! Okay, not really, but it sure as heck comes off like that sometimes.  Draahg uses some sort of life draining force curse on the Dark Council member (in case you weren’t convinced that the Force is just a re-skinned version of Magic at this point) and fights you to the death.  The only real advice for the fight is to keep moving a bunch because he likes to drop a crap ton of AOE attacks that stick around for a while and hurt like heck.  If you’re using a healing companion, keep Draahg away from them because he will drop AOE on their heads and they won’t be smart enough to move 3 feet to the right (QUIIIIIIIIINNN!)

With this Dark Spirit freed, the Dark Council dude saved, and the rest of Darth Baras’ power base left in tatters, the time has come to head for Korriban and confront Darth Tubby himself.  The Dark Council dude says he will happily announce you and will meet you there.

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Grand Finale

Wow. When was the last time I got to write about an actual grand finale?  This is pretty much the ultimate showdown that’s been built up for three chapters.  You enter the Dark Council chambers and face off with Baras who demands the Dark Council destroys you because he is the Voice of the Emperor.  However, you are the Wrath of the Emperor so it’s kind of a stand off.  Each of you says the other is lying.  So the Dark Council in their infinite wisdom (or complete lack there of) decrees a duel, and whoever wins is clearly the true servant of the Emperor!  Which honestly seems kind of a weird line of logic to me, and at this point its becoming increasingly clear that the Empire’s government is a complete mess.  The Emperor sends off bits of himself to do different things?  Why?!  Just call the Dark Council and say “Yo. Do this.” But no, now we have a duel to decide who gets to run this whole thing…   which to be fair is a lot more entertaining than actual elections.

Of course, you ultimately beat down Baras after multiple rounds of smacking him.  Honestly, I didn’t find Baras to be harder than Draahg.  Baras does have some slow cast abilities that probably do massive damage but are easily interrupted.  He finally stays down (after you finally get to see him without his helmet on finally) and the Dark Council declares you to be the real Wrath and him not to be the Voice.  Yay?  Couldn’t the Servants of the Hand tell you that?  Oh do they only speak to other Emperor body parts?  I dunno.  It’s weird.

The only thing to note here is this is chance to see some other members of the Dark Council that pop up in the storylines like Darth Marr who recruits you for the Rise of the Hutt Cartel storyline.

My Thoughts

Chapter Three honestly does a great job of feeling like a culmination of everything before it.  Darth Baras’ treachery and tactics are well established by this point and to find yourself on the outside of his forces now fighting against him is a way to put a lot of that to use.  If there was ever a real weak point it would be Belsavis where the struggle to stop Darth Ekkage from being freed doesn’t seem to have much of an impact beyond killing his family.  Yes, she’s a psychopath that would have brought ruthless and unrelenting power to Baras’ cause, but compared to a genius plan to trap the true Voice and destroying Baras’ power base, it seems a bit lesser in ways.

The betrayal of Malavai Quinn could have been done better if Quinn actually had tipped his hand at points showing that he was willing to listen to Baras over you.  But he may have and I just didn’t pick up on it.  Again, more to look for in the second playthrough.

I just really don’t get the incredibly weird way the Emperor runs things.  Like seriously, what the hell.

Looking Back

If the Imperial Agent shows life outside the ranks of the Sith and cleaning up their mess, and the Bounty Hunter shows what life is like outside of the Empire in general, then I would describe the Sith Warrior storyline as the definitive Sith experience.  In service to a master, the careful dance of treachery and loyalty, betrayal and internal power struggles – everything that I would view as a Sith trait is found in this plot line.  It has a ton of memorable moments that stand out such as the corruption of Jaesa, the betrayal of Quinn, the revelation of Draahg backstabbing you on Baras’ orders…  there’s some great stuff here and at no point do I find myself shaking my head at like some of the other stories.  While some parts don’t seem to have the impact as others, nothing feels like a waste of time or anything to make your character feel unworthy of his position.

Most importantly, the storyline feels like a whole single narrative.  The chapter breaks are not clear lines of this is a different plot like you find in the Trooper storyline.  The events of chapter one help set up the events of chapter two and likewise with chapter three.  It’s far easier than almost any other storyline for me to think of it as “The Sith Warrior Story” instead of “Sith Warrior Chapter X’s story.”  And I really like that.  Definitely worth a play through in my opinion.

<– Chapter Two ||

Box Trolls: Not the Internet Kind

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As regular readers know, I’m a grown ass man who loves him some animation.  There’s no shame in that.  I also like the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels.  There is some shame in that.  That’s off topic though. I wanted to talk a bit about a wonderful little film I saw that I’m worried might pass by unnoticed by most (there were only like 8 of us in the theater and the movie has only been out for 4 days) called ‘The Box Trolls’.

The movie is about a boy named ‘Eggs’ who has grown up in the care of the Box Trolls.  The reason for this we are told is because they stole him when he was a baby.  Eggs has a good life living with his pseudo parental figure Fish and his friend Shoe as the Box Trolls spend each night going up to the streets and taking pretty much anything metal or mechanical that isn’t bolted down to take home and make wacky inventions with.  Meanwhile, in the town above, the legend of the Box Trolls stealing children has taken on epic levels landing a group of exterminators to try to eliminate them in order to earn a place in privileged upper crust society.  Eggs meets the daughter of the Lord of the town, and learns what the upper world thinks of the Box Trolls and sets off on a mission to save all the box trolls that have been taken by the exterminators and prove that they are not monsters.

The Box Trolls is the latest film from Laika, the people behind the extremely enjoyable films ParaNorman and Coraline.  The film is a bit more a fairy tale than its predecessors though in such that it lacks the biting cynicism of modern day society.  That being said it does share the critique of family dynamics that were both in ParaNorman and Coraline – the problem of parents ignoring their children to some extent.  However this one takes the notion to the ridiculous when the Lord of the town pretty much flat out doesn’t even acknowledge what his daughter is saying most of the item.  Not dismissing it, not hand waving it away, but full on “Did you say something? Guess not.” level of ignore.

Like other Laika productions, Box Trolls is also not afraid to “go there”.  And despite having significantly less frightening images than ParaNorman or Coraline, it does not shy away from darker subjects such as death and the monstrous fables about Box Trolls routinely make mention of things like ‘rivers of blood’ and ‘mountains of bones’ (it turns out to be more of a river of insects and mountains of scrap junk).  The little girl Winnie is pretty much obsessed with the grotesque aspects of the legends and routinely fantasizes about being ripped apart and devoured by monsters.  She is weird.  But truth be told if you’re worried about kids getting scared at this film, the worse it gets visually is a silhouette of a man being beaten with a wrench and one hideously extreme allergic reaction.  So definitely less frightening than ParaNorman or Coraline, but still a bit dark.  It’s not my place to say if your kid can handle that, so I’ll just leave it to you with knowledge to decide.

The casting and script is absolutely phenomenal with pretty much everyone turning in a fun performance.  The story has honest moments that tug at your heart strings, have some great moments of suspense, and will have you laughing your head off – ESPECIALLY if you like puns.  Yes, lots of puns.  Mostly cheese puns.  The upper crust of this town have an obsession with fancy cheeses and the puns just fly out whenever the topic comes out.  Once to the point of having an in-universe rim shot.

I do recommend this film, especially if you liked films like Coraline or ParaNorman but wanted something a tad bit less frightening for the family.  Even if you’re not worried about frights, it’s still a solid enjoyable family film that has something for everyone and doesn’t treat its audience – even the little ones – like morons.  Heck, the first 10 minutes barely has English spoken on screen.  Just troll gibberish.  Still you don’t get lost with it and it’s told well visually.  The film runs about 90 minutes, and uses it all well.  It never feels  slow or rushed.  So go ahead and go check it out!  This film needs some love because it honestly looks like it’s going to be booted out of theaters soon for not having the big audience it deserves.

Okay, before I end this post I do need to address the elephant in the room. People who don’t want to hear about potential real issues, you have been warned.  From this point on, it’s real talk about real issues.  And also spoilers.

There’s been a lot of talk in various online circles about the Box Trolls since it hit early previews that the film should be avoided and even boycotted due to it being transphobic or transmisogynistic and that it makes fun of trans women.  The problem really with that statement is that as a completely cis-het white male, I’m not in any sort of position of telling people how they should FEEL about something in the movie.  But what I can do is offer my observations on the events of the film because from what I saw it didn’t seem exactly that transphobic.

I know, I know! “Vry you just said you were a Cis-Het White American Male! Why should we even listen to you!”  And that is fair.  You might not listen to me.  And by no means am I saying you must but allow me to present why I am saying that before my opinion is dismissed.  You see, without going into too many spoilers (there are some. You have been warned.) It’s revealed about halfway through the film (or a third of the way if you’re half smart and figure it out yourself) that the local star of stage Madam Frou Frou is in fact the villain, Mister Snatcher, dressed in women’s clothing.  He does this to perform a show that paints the box trolls as hideous monsters that need to be exterminated by – well – Snatcher, and he also uses the persona of Frou Frou to hobnob with the social elite that he longs to be a part of (They are called White Hats, where Snatcher and his crew are lowly bottom-of-the-city working class Red Hats).  Those are the only times we ever see Snatcher dress or act as a woman and in fact drops the Frou Frou voice and any pretense of not being a man as soon as the rich people are out of sight.  At no point in the film does he ever wish to identify as a woman, or become a woman, beyond putting on the show and milking the fame it comes with.  The fact that he dresses as a woman is used to comedic effect TWICE.  Once is when Eggs tries to expose him and as Frou Frou pretends that ‘she’ wears a wig and not that the identity is fake to maintain face among the rich, and when the rich people finally figure it out the Lord of the town makes a passing, completely ambiguous “I regret so many things now.”

So is this transphobic?  Well, it’s a difficult thing to put in a box actually (see what I did there?)  From my research (yes, I actually try to read up when I’m dealing with REAL issues) there are several ways the term transgendered can be used and in some ways it refers specifically to people who were born one gender but identify as another gender.  However, some broader definitions of the term include any activity where one gender takes on traits, dresses like, or presents oneself as another gender, in which this definitely fits.  See, Snatcher’s persona of Madam Frou Frou would technically be Drag – presenting yourself as another gender for the purpose of entertainment or performance.  He does not identify as a woman, wish he was born a woman, or desires to be a woman outside of his time performing or hobnobbing as a consequence of performing.  One is to promote his business, and the other is to temporarily live the life of his dreams.

However beyond the wig joke,  the Lord’s embarrassment at finding out his dream gal is actually the man he’s been so disgusted of he refuses to usually let him in the door of the house when they speak, and how atrociously bad his Madam Frou Frou outfit is (It’s a dress, wig, and make up. Nothing else.) The entire concept is never really treated as a joke.  At no point is he vilified for putting on a drag show after its revealed.  Heck, Snatcher is the one who lets it drop that he IS Madam Frou Frou to rub it into the Lord’s face that he was so easily duped.

Though again from what I’ve read there are real issues between drag performers and transgendered people.  Namely that there are trans folks out there who feel that drag is an insult that mocks the very real and difficult issues they have to deal with.  That drag gives a negative public image to people who then turn around and think all trans people are just “cross dressing weirdos” or something and this has created a very real rift between the two groups.  So for that reason,  I can’t just write off the complaints of transphobia as complaining for the sake of complaining.  If you are trans person who takes real offense to drag, then yes, you probably will find parts of this film offensive because those elements exist in it.  I can’t tell you not to be offended by that.  It’s not my place.

Class Storyline Review: Sith Warrior – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic class storyline for the Sith Warrior.  If you would like a spoiler-free summary of the second chapter, please look here.  You have been warned.

sithwarrior_act2_02

So last time we completely dismantled a compromised spy network, rooted out a hidden padawan and then converted said padawan to our side using manipulation, lies, trickery and cookies.  So how do we follow that up?  Do we ascend to being a powerful Lord with a spy network and servants of our own? No!  We get to work for our boss’ boss.  That’s right, there’s someone even above Darth Barry and his name is Darth Vengean.  And while your first instinct may be to pronounce that Darth VEGEN (Also not to be confused with Dark Vegen, the toast loving villain of the Johnny Test TV show), it is actually pronounced like Vengeance but without the -ce. So like Ven-Gen.  Not much better.

Anyway, Vengean and Baras have a new job for you: Plan Zero.  Which despite it’s cool name, is actually just “Kill this list of big wigs in the Republic brass”.  Well, okay. I can do that. I’m very good at killing things.  Just like Jaesa’s family and master.  Right Jaesa?  Jaesa? OH GOD PUT DOWN THE MEDICAL TABLE!

Taris

Taris is where suprisingly four of the generals you need to kill are.  That’s convenient. So the entire planet quickly devolves to “find a general, kill a general, repeat.”  I’m not going to go into every little detail of tracking down these guys because honestly for the most part it isn’t worth it.  However it is worth noting that we do meet our next companion: Lt. Pierce.  Pierce is a soldier.  That is his defining characteristic.  He is not a boot kissing promotion craving soldier like Quinn, but more of a rough and tumble, down and dirty, smoking in the mess with the boys while playing poker kind of soldier.  But he also knows his stuff. And is bad ass to boot.  He actually holds off several hundred republic soldiers by himself. Now it’s important to note, he does this off camera.  When he’s actually in your party, he can maybe take like…  three?  That said he is a tank, so killing isn’t his strong suit. (Neither was tanking really so he stays on the ship)

No, the thing I really wanted to talk about here was the final mission on the planet.  You, Pierce, a small army, and all your other companions team up for a giant assault on the Republic base.  Yea, that only interesting thing from all of Trooper Chapter 2?  It’s just a regular planet mission here.  Oh, and they do it right in this storyline too.  See, the mission requires you to divide up your forces into three teams.  One is the assault team, one deals with the traps, and one deals with stopping reinforcements and Quinn stays at the base coordinating (There goes my healer…)  Now the big difference here is that it actually matters who gets sent where.  If you send the wrong person on a job, they will fail and it will make things harder for the assault team.  Extra mobs if the reinforcements arrive, turrets if the traps team fails, and dealing with mercenaries if you can’t apply the right pressure to make them run.  Quinn makes it fairly clear who should be assigned to each team, but you can put Vette, Jaesa or Pierce on any of them. I was just happy that there were consequences to incorrect team assignment.  See, Trooper storyline, THAT’S how you do a mission.

Narratively, the generals all seem to be working on a super power battery to fuel weapons, ships, droids…  anything really.  That increases the power of whatever they’re installed into tenfold.  Which doesn’t sound scientifically possible.  Wouldn’t that just break most things?  Don’t most devices have some sort of ceiling to how much power they can use, hence the term “overload”?  So they invested billions of credits in a battery that will overload their stuff?  I mean, if they were built to use that 10x power, sure that’d make sense.  But then it wouldn’t be 10x the power, it would just be the expected amount of power because it was built specifically to use those batteries.  Republic military! What the heck is wrong with you?  Anyway, it’s implied Vengean and/or Baras wants the tech, but I was just told to kill them, so I did.  Just left the stuff there.  They can send someone else to collect it if they really want it.

Quesh

Quesh actually begins not on the planet at all but on a ship floating in orbit around it. The ship is apparently being attacked by the forces of one Admiral Monk, another target of Plan Zero.  You have to fight your way through the ship and stop the attacking Republic forces but unfortunately, once you reach the bridge Monk is nowhere to be found.

According to the captain, Admiral Monk shot off in an escape pod to the surface of Quesh.  You get ready to depart, but the Captain appears to be quite upset.  He doesn’t want to be part of these ‘games’ of Darth Baras and attacks you.  Honestly, I pleaded the fifth.  I was just sent to kill these guys.  Not to play schemes & scenarios.  That’s my Inquisitor’s job.  So I had to kill the captain. It was self defense. And fun.  Lots of fun.

Down on Quesh, you finally find Admiral Monk who claims to be one of Baras’ deep cover agents, and that there’s some sort of scheme against Darth Vengean?  And that Monk knows the truth and he won’t be silence because he’s loyal and his cover is intact!  But I don’t know anything about all that, and honestly I am getting tired of being dragged above my pay grade.  I was told to murder kill destroy, and murder kill destroy I shall. Farewell Admiral Ninja!

Hoth

The final stage of Plan Zero sends you to the frigid world of Hoth, and the target is a Jedi master named Xerender.  A notoriously pain in the butt Jedi to find it seems as he constantly is able to give you and Baras’ flunkies the slip. (I am not Baras’ flunkie, I’m his apprentice.)  Not to mention that this troublesome Jedi has employed the help of an entire clan of Talz!  Okay, not an entire clan.  Apparently, the Talz are also being hunted by a former clan member that was ousted out and wants revenge: Broonmark.  You and Broonmark sort of compete for the kill as it where as you keep running into him, fighting him, and ultimately working with him to get what you both want.

The trick to finding the Jedi is really to find what he’s after.  Some sort of secret super weapon hidden among the icy caverns and wrecked ships.  Of course, the mystery is actually fairly quickly banished as you figure out that the Jedi is after not a “weapon” in a traditional sense, but his former master named Wyellett who crashed on Hoth years ago, and has been living off the Force ever since (cause you apparently can do that) and thus has granted him profound insight into the nature of the Force.  To make things interesting and way more personal, it seems that our stranded Super-Jedi was also a former rival of Darth Baras and even captured Baras’ lightsaber years ago.  Which honestly seems like a bit overkill in the ‘it’s all tied together’ area, but it also allows Baras to find the Wyellett because he can kind of sense his lightsaber? And read its mind?  Crystal?  I have no clue.  It’s space magic. I give up trying to make sense of this stuff since man first asked why the lightsaber stops at yay high.

So you find Wyellett and Xerender, and pretty much just kill them.  Yea.  That’s about it. Okay, well you also help Broonmark get his revenge and he agrees to come with you.  I like him.  He’s all super bloodthirsty and grumpy, but also fuzzy.  Kind of like a really tall Treek that can’t heal.  You are also given the chance to spare the Wyellett or even just hear out his gift of wisdom about the true nature of the Force.  Which I really didn’t take him up on either offer.  He’s a Jedi, I’m a Sith.  It just makes more sense to not listen and just kill the old man.

sithwarrior_act2_01

Finale

It seems that all those people I killed talking about schemes and tricks may have been right, because no sooner do you get back to Darth Baras on Dromund Kaas then he explains that this whole thing was a trick to get his master, Darth Veggies, out of favor with the Dark Council so that he can (read: YOU can) kill him and Darth Baras can take his position on the Dark Council.

You end up teaming up with Darth Vegemite’s apprentice who has betrayed his master to join up with Darth Baras.  Clearly he wants to bat for the winning team.  Which is a sports metaphor or so I’m told. He helps you break in to the fortress of Darth VeggieTales by doing absolutely nothing as you kill your way through the Darth’s servants.  Supposedly he’s handling the security, but honestly I couldn’t tell you if he did or not.  I know he shows up at the end to help take his share of the credit.

The battle with Darth Vegeta is pretty epic as well, combined with the dawning revelation of Baras’ plot against him and the warnings that Baras will betray you as well it serves as a good capstone on the Chapter 2 plot.  The whole bit ends with a return to Baras who welcomes you and his former boss’ apprentice as his new lieutenants in his new order of his new Sith-y-ness.  Wonder how long that will last.

My Impressions

In terms of middle chapters, the Sith Warrior does a pretty good job.  It builds on the scheming nature of Darth Baras but no by blatantly letting you in on his plans.  Instead you find confused military officers and Sith that you kill for just doing what they were told.  You get to be in that position of ‘our mutual boss told us both to come here and kill each other…  hmmm….’ kind of plot that is so fun to watch unfold, but this time from the inside.

Maybe its just me but the idea of getting to watch a grand chess master scheme unfurling from the perspective of one of the pawns (ie YOU) is actually really cool.  It does a great job of establishing Baras as this powerfully manipulative magnificent bastard that really does have everyone around his finger.  Which you got a bit of that in the first chapter, but not nearly to this degree.

The villain of the chapter is however less than interesting.  Which I suppose is fine since his only real purpose is being someone to off so Baras can make a power play for a seat on the Council.  If there was anything else to be done with it I suppose he could have tried to make a deal with you behind Baras’ back to try and take out your master.  Something like “I know what Baras is up to. It won’t work.  Come join me.”  but then Baras knows that Veggie knows and plans around it with you retrieving some kind of powerful tool to get the upper hand. But that might have been a bit much for the short middle chapter.

As for your new companions…  meh.  Pierce makes an excellent foil for Quinn as the pragmatic soldier versus the cunning officer.  Quinn does things by the book, but Pierce realizes that the book isn’t prepared for everything and sometimes you have to go with your gut.  It’s a nice change of pace that shows the difference in the mentality of the troops that serve the Sith.  Broonmark on the other hand is a giant hairball that hangs out in the cargo bay of the ship.  Really all you get to know about him in his initial encounters on Hoth is that he is A) Ruthless and B) Out for vengeance.  Which naturally makes him useful but he does not make much of an impression.

<– Chapter One || Chapter Three –>

New Address: LandOfOdd.Net

Greetings fellow Oddites!  Vry here with a little announcement.  We’ve got like a real legit web address now!  That’s right.  From this day forth you will be able to find The Land of Odd by just typing in:

LANDOFODD.NET

into your web browser and it will bring you right here.  Don’t worry, you don’t need to change your RSS feeds, or bookmarks, or anything because the old Landofodd.wordpress.com address STILL works and still brings you right here for all your Land of Odd fun.

This has been a Public Service Announcement from the Land of Odd City Council and Mayor Whositwhatsit.

Vry Plays BioShock – Episode 1: Plumber Down Under

Victim of an overzealous TSA investigation, Mario Jumpman Mario ends up below the ocean itching to inject random liquids he finds into his veins.  Or something like that.

Serah the Explorah: Final Fantasy XIII-2 Part Three

XIII-2_Main_Menu

Well, it’s been a while. The wheels of time spin ever onward into the black nothing that is everything.  Or something.  That being said with the announcement of all three XIII games being released for PC via Steam, I think it’s time I put the finishing touches on my critique of the second installment of the “Lightning Trilogy” now that the Fabula Nova Chrystalis includes Final Fantasy Type-Zero and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV which I am eagerly awaiting and dreading since the sheer amount of cash I know I will have to drop on a Playstation 4 to play it will render me a pauper panhandling for pixels.

Anyway, the only thing really left for me to talk about is the general game mechanics and since this is a sequel you’d think there wouldn’t be much to talk about in that department, but there actually is.  See there were a lot of complaints people had with the original Final Fantasy XIII.  The lack of exploration, minimal sidequests, the extremely linear crystarium leveling system, and the list of course goes on.  XIII-2 does its best to try and remedy a lot of those complaints.

For instance, most locations you visit are quite open, with big fields and sprawling towns that you can look around and talk to people in.  The weird little floating terminal shops are replaced with the more annoying time-and-space-bending Chocolina (I like her but I’ve been told that she is…  ahem… “Weird and annoying.”  So there’s that.)  and there are a ton of sidequests that not only involve going around and exploring the area you are in, but will routinely require you to travel to alternate timeline versions or future/past versions of the same location to complete.  There’s a bunch of sidequests too.  Ranging from simple fetch quests through time and space to defeating powerful enemies.  Some include game wide spanning tasks like completing maps of areas (which requires time travel again because some areas are only accessible in certain points of time) or gathering lore objects to unlock new abilities.

The crystarium was brought back in an improved form as well.  The original crystarium was pretty much just a straight replacement for gaining experience and abilities from leveling up.  You got points, put those points into whatever class you wanted to level up, and unlocked new abilities.  Each path was pretty linear.  In XIII-2, the Crystarium is equally linear… sort of.  The actual path of the Crystarium is pretty much a straight line following the design of a character’s weapon.  However, where things got interesting is instead of having each node be a set bonus or ability, the game leaves it to you to decide which class (sentinel, commando, etc) to level up.  Based on which class you assign to a node determines which bonuses to attack, magic, or defense you get and the size of the node determines how big the bonus is.  So a larger sphere might give you a +10 to a stat, while a smaller one gives you a +2 or something.

Once you’ve assigned a certain number of spheres to a class, you will unlock abilities.  For example, every 10th sphere for a class grants a new ability and everything in between gives stat bonuses.  It’s actually a really clever system to add some customization. You can min max to make sure you get all the bonus you want, or you can just do what I want and just fill out the Crystarium with a single class until you unlock everything and then move on to the next one.

Now, you may be wondering how this is possible when a linear crystarium with a set pattern clearly has a beginning and end.  Well, once you completely fill up the pattern you get a new blank one to fill out.  When this happens you get a choice to either boost an existing class you put spheres in on this “level” of the crystarium, or unlock a class you don’t already have like saboteur or medic. But keep in mind, the point cost for each sphere continually increases. So the higher you go, the pricier things get.

Speaking of classes, in Final Fantasy XIII you had three party members to balance out the roles.  But in XIII-2 you only have Noel and Serah! How can this work?  Well, that’s something else they added to this game: Monster partners.  There’s a chance when you defeat a monster, you’ll have a chance to get a crystal that carries that monster’s essence, which will allow you to summon them in combat to assist.  Each monster has a pre-set class that can be leveled with its own crystarium that improves with monster food that you can find or buy.  You can also dress the monsters up in silly hats.  Not that I did.   Much.

I suppose I should talk about the elephant in the room: The downloadable content.  Yes, this is – as far as I’m aware – the first Final Fantasy to employ DLC.  I might be wrong there. The DLC for this game falls into three categories: Outfits, Arena Opponents, and Story DLC. There’s not much to say about the outfits.  They’re usually just skimpy outfits for Serah and increasingly weird outfits for Noel that look like something from Cirque Du Soleil. The one I DID like was the Mass Effect N7 armor, because then I can put Serah in something that looks like practical armor for once instead of a bikini.  There are also some weapons you can buy, and to be fair they tend to be fairly powerful in the early game but quickly get eclipsed once you start upgrading the other weapons in the late game.

The Arena Opponents are insanely powerful monsters to test your mettle against in  the Coliseum that gets unlocked with the Snow DLC.  They include anything from Snow and Lightning, to homages like Ultros and Typhon from FF6 to staples of the series like Omega Weapon.  The best part is that if you defeat these powerful enemies, you gain the ability to summon them in battle like the monsters.  Which is kind of weird for Snow and Lightning, but whatever.  I was never able to beat any of them during the actual game.  Pretty sure these are for the folks that are on their New Game+ playthrough or something.

Finally, the two story DLCs are Sazh and Lightning’s stories.  They kind of fill in some of the gaps with the other characters.  Sazh’s DLC is essentially playing at a trans-dimensional casino for both his and his son’s lives, and learning the truth behind our supernaturally everywhere-at-once shop keep Chocolina.  Lightning’s DLC is actually an epilogue to the game that bridges the gap between XIII-2 and Lightning Returns and features an insanely long battle against Caius that involves Lightning dying over and over and coming back stronger each time like a season of Dragonball Z.

If you want my recommendation, skip the outfits and the arena stuff unless you really want to do dress up and have a good challenge.  The Story DLC is actually kind cool and a fun break from the main game.  Especially the Sazh stuff, since it actually lets you play the casino games which include poker, slots, and a weird clock based card game that is really fun.

The only other thing that comes to mind to talk about would be the fact that like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy XIII-2 employs a New Game+ that allows you to access multiple endings called “Paradox Endings”.  At the end of the game, you get a special ability called a Paradox Scope.  By re-beating levels, sometimes with alternates means, with the Paradox Scope activated you can get the eight extra Paradox Endings for the game.  The fights for these Paradox Endings are incredibly tough but also kind of cool to see all the different ways the story would have ended by creating paradoxes.

An interesting thing to note, is that each of the Paradox Endings supposedly make references to things that happen or exist in Lightning Returns, a game that takes place after the Chaos floods the world at the end of this game.  No clue why.  It’s just one of those really neat things someone noticed.

Overall, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is probably my favorite of the XIII games.  A return to exploration and side-quests, a lighter more enjoyable story that doesn’t feel rushed or jam packed with “See Wiki for more info” bits, and the whole time travel thing was actually really enjoyable.  Especially seeing all the different locations with hundreds of years of difference.  It’s probably the most fun of the three in terms of sheer attitude.  I know some people really didn’t like Serah or Noel for…  reasons I suppose.  I never quite got it myself.  Serah is pretty much the best parts of Vanille and Lightning in the first game without all the annoying beats or horrifically tragic backstory.

Well, that wraps up my talk on Final Fantasy XIII-2 and hopefully I’ve convinced at least a few people to try it out when it comes out on Steam.   While I would recommend playing XIII first, I know that’s a hard sell so I won’t blame you if you skip it.  Heck, Square Enix won’t either.  The console version had a recap of FF13 option right on the main menu of XIII-2, and I’m going to assume that it will on the Steam version too.  So go ahead and skip the first game and just use the recap.  It’s easier to understand I’ll admit.  But if you enjoy Final Fantasy, I would recommend trying out this gem that many overlooked because of the negative reception of the first game.

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