Monthly Archives: June 2013

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (1/2)

It’s safe to say that I know KotOR like the back of my hand, seeing as I’ve been playing it for ten years straight now. I may have a soft spot for RPGs in general, but looking back at its release and playing it for the very first time, very little has changed in my mind, I still love this game to bits.

What really sticks out at me about KotOR is the level of control you have to tailor your character and your party to your needs. As you might expect, you play as a jedi in the old republic, thousands of years before the events of the films take place. But by no means does that mean you’re limited to playing as Mr Standard Jedi, no no, you can choose whether you dual wield or not, wear armour or not, use the force or not, even if you want to use a lightsaber at all! Though, let’s be honest, most of us want to go hack-and-slash through some droids. The combat is best described as dice rolls, but no knowledge of 20-sided dice is needed to be able to build a good character, and the combat still flows smoothly.

Like a fish

Like a fish

As in almost any Bioware RPG, the morality factor is central to the way the game plays. It’s up to the player to decide whether they go the ‘holier than thou’ route by being nice and helpful to everyone, or the ‘unnecessarily evil’ route by killing everyone, essentially. Unfortunately the good/evil system does boil down to those two choices a lot of the time in KotOR, but there are some head-scratchers in there. As it happens, on my most recent playthrough, I was a chaotic, evil, dual wielding Sith warrior. Because, why not?

On top of the level of customisation you can add to nearly every weapon and armour in the game, you have almost free reign on which companions you choose to take out with you into the wild world, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Carth (soldier, decent ranged fighter, but whiney), Bastilla (also whiney), Mission (street-smart rogue), T3-M4 (loveable utility droid), HK-47 (everyone’s favourite psychotic assassin droid), Canderous (big tough guy), Zaalbar (standard wookie), Juhani (awesome melee jedi), and finally to Jolee (comedic, cranky old man, excellent at buffing). There really is enough choice to complement whichever type of character you want to play as.

While the worlds and locations you will visit tend to be somewhat linear, the environments are beautiful and varied, with a soundtrack to each that enhances each area. From beginning in the sprawling city-planet of Taris, to the farmlands of Dantooine, the desolate world of Korriban, the ocean city of Manaan, the jungles of Kashyyyk and the desert wastes of Tatooine, there is enough variety to keep the adventure fresh and interesting as you go.

And the plot? Well, let’s just say that it’s not going to blow your socks off. As plots go it follows a fairly straightforward path, with nothing much happening throughout the bulk of the game. However, the main story is supplemented by side quests, and quests related to each of your companions, adding some much appreciated extra hours to the game. Along with a certain plot twist (which will not be spoiled here, fear not), there is enough to keep the player entertained through to the last minute of gameplay. With excellent voice acting on par with any quality Bioware game, and featuring such talent as Phil LaMarr and Jennifer Hale, the conversations and cutscenes are well worth paying attention to.

Classic droid

Classic droid

All in all this Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a classic, make no mistake. If you haven’t played it before, I recommend giving it a go. Any thoughts on KotOR?

First released: July 2003 ; Published by LucasArts ; Developed by Bioware

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Poll of the Week 26.6.13

 

Top Ten – Martial Arts Films

I have a soft spot for martial arts films, and not necessarily because they’re good films, but because more often than not they’re enjoyable. Which is what it’s all about, am I right? Be warned, the clips I put up my have some mild spoilers in, and the odd bit of violence (what did you expect?), so you have been warned! So, without further ado, let’s jump into it…

10. The Protector

Kham (Tony Jaa) travels from Thailand to Australia to rescue his elephants, ’nuff said. This film goes down into legend for its epic single shot inside the restaurant.

Not only epic awesomeness in terms of the quality of the stunts and fighting, but in one take? Brilliant.

Released: 2005

The Protector on IMDb

9. The Matrix

Back in the day I used to have this on VHS, and every watch was a treat. Combines old-world martial arts fist fights beautifully with new-world gun-play. Not much to be said here, this film is a classic in its own right, and not just as a martial arts film, it’s a solid feature all round. If you haven’t seen it yet, what have you been doing since 1999? Here’s Neo fighting Lord Elrond.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that the “real world” is actually the matrix, a computer simulation created by sentient machines. Good on so many levels.

Released: 1999

The Matrix on IMDb

8. Enter The Dragon

If I had to pick one martial arts film that made me feel nostalgic and classic, it would be Enter The Dragon, starring the legendary Bruce Lee as Lee, a martial artist hired to spy on a crime lord during a tournament held on a private island. Seeing as Bruce Lee died so young at 32, and never got to make as many films as he should have done, this films stands out as his lasting memory and the last film he ever completed.

Half the fun of this film is the crazy sound effects, as shown in the above clip.

Released: 1973

Enter The Dragon on IMDb

7. The Raid

The Raid is definitely one of those films which you are never quite sure if it’s great or terrible. Essentially, it breaks down to this: SWAT team gets trapped in a block of flats filled with tight corridors and uptight gangsters, who understandably aren’t too happy to see the fuzz. Here’s a typical scene from the film (NB the video stops a second before a pretty awesome/gruesome death).

What follows is fast paced, fast kicking, fast hitting action. The plot isn’t anything to shout about, but that’s not the name of the game with this kind of film, we watch it to see fools slapped down by ludicrously skilled madmen, and this film delivers.

Released: 2011

The Raid on IMDb

6. Oldboy

Okay, this is a bit of a loose one, because you could argue that Oldboy is more about drama than fighting, and you’d be right. The plot follows Oh Dae-su, his mysterious imprisonment and even more perplexing release, in what is some tense drama. But I couldn’t leave this off the list:

Never has a hammer been used so effectively. Also note, one continuous shot down the hallway. I haven’t got too much to say on this as it’s not a martial arts heavy film per se, but nonetheless a truly great film. A remake starring Josh Brolin is in the works, so let’s see how that goes…

Released: 2003

Oldboy on IMDb

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

It would be a crime not to add this film to the list, as it has become the defining film of the genre. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is set in late 18th century China, revolving around three central characters: The retiring warrior Li Mu Bai (owner of the legendary Green Destiny sword), his friend and fellow fighter Shu Lien and a governor’s daughter Jen Yu. This is the fight scene between the latter two.

It really is hard to fault this film. Great, atmospheric score, and the same fight choreographer who worked on The Matrix. This is two hours of epic, martial arts romance.

Released: 2000

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on IMDb

4. Zatoichi

It sure is useful having working eyeballs, as most of us do, but Zatoichi shows that true skill needs no such things!

Travelling to a town full of gang members and generally bad people, Zatoichi (masseur/swordsman) begins to shake things up. For a blind man, he does a damn good job.

Released: 2003

Zatoichi on IMDb

3. Hero

Here we are, top three. Hero is set in China before unification, and stars such veterans as Jet Li and Donnie Yen on fine form in the sweeping, artistic epic.

This has got it all. Flying around, duels, and twists and turns. This film will leave you thinking.

Released: 2002

Hero on IMDb

2. Kill Bill: Vol. 1

I’ll admit it, I love Tarantino films. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds. Hell, even Django Unchained wasn’t that bad. But for my money, it’s the first part of two about our favourite arse-kicking woman, The Bride (Uma Thurman).

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is stylish, has good pace, and even some anime thrown in there. This definitely deserves a viewing. But there’s one film which I think just has the edge on it…

Released: 2003

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 on IMDb

1. Ip Man

Starring Donnie Yen (seen above in 3. Hero) as the man who would later turn out to become Bruce Lee’s (seen above in 8. Enter The Dragon) mentor, this film is set primarily around the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. As essentially the most skilled, polite and rich martial artist in town, Ip Man is loved by all. Here he is dealing with some ruffians.

I find it hard to fault this film on any level. The music is distinctive and well executed, the character of Ip Man is so loveable, the plot is solid, and the fighting is amazing to watch yet not too unbelievable. Truly a marvel. I have seen the sequel to this, centred around Ip Man’s life in Hong Kong under British Rule post-WWII. Both good films, but this one is the classic.

Released: 2008

Ip Man on IMDb

So those are my top ten martial arts films. Which ones do you think deserve to be on the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Poll of the Week 19.6.13

 

Picture-File 6.16.13

Lord of the Rings Online

Seeing as I’m still living at university, post-exams, I have a lot of time on my hands, so an MMO seems a good place to start.

I’m not an MMO person, in general (although I can understand the companies needing money to maintain the servers, etc, I don’t like subscriptions. I’m poor.), but I that’s where “free to play” games are a blessing. No subscriptions, woop woop! There are lots of free to play MMOs out there, but I’m playing LotRO because why not? And I love Lord of the Rings.

Riding my horse like a badass through the Eastern Bree Fields.

Riding my horse like a badass through the Eastern Bree Fields.

Having said all that, LotRO isn’t quite a free to play game, in that you will be constantly hounded to make in-game purchases using their Turbine Points system. VIP members of the game (who DO play a subscription fee monthly) get free Turbine Points every month, plus they don’t have to buy as lot of the things that the free to play people do (such as a skill from the LotRO store to let you ride horses, extra backpack space, additional slots for your character to improve his/her stats, etc), so they really are nudging you towards either (a) buying more of their points, or (b) going VIP subscription. However, you can get by without spending a penny on this game, so we’ll take that as a positive.

As far as gameplay goes, it’s standard MMO from start to finish. Questing, looting, side-questing, killing wolves, looting, skirmishing, auto-attack, classes, and more looting (hence why they charge you for extra backpack space, sneaky buggers). If you’re familiar with any MMO, and let’s be honest, they all more or less play in the same kind of fashion, you’ll pick this up pretty quick. If not, it’s simplistic, with standard WASD-movement, right click to attack/loot, you’ll be all over it in no time.

With the community, in a few words: not too bad. I suppose it’s dependent on the server you’re on and the people you meet (I’m on Withywindle, by the way, name: Fendeviper), but in my experience the people are usually friendly and not too weird, unlike most of the people I met on WoW… And this definitely helps when finding fellowships (groups) for questing, kinships (guilds), or to do skirmishes or instances. The latter two are great ways, when you get access to them at lvl 20, to level up quickly and earn currency to buy unique items/weapons/armour, or to upgrade and customise an AI ally to use in skirmishes.

That’s about all I have to say about it. If you have Steam, it’s easy to install and entirely free. If you have an excess of time on your hands, and a tolerance for MMO grinding, this is a good one.

Anyone out there playing LotRO at the moment, or used to play it? If so, how did you find it?

First released: April 2004 ; Published by Turbine and Midway Games ; Developed by Turbine

Shoes

The true way the lace your shoes up.

New Alpha Papa Trailer

Here it is, the new trailer for the Alan Partridge film. (Sorry it’s not embedded, but it’s only just come out and I have to take it from Bing.com, urgh.)

Alpha Papa (via IGN)

That’s textbook.

New Hobbit Trailer

The trailer for the second part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy is out, here it is:

This one seems to be very elf heavy, with Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) cropping up all over the place. We get a small glimpse of Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans), and the usual bunch of dwarves and wizards, etc, featured in An Unexpected Journey. Plus, a sneak peek at Smaug himself, who, for my money, is looking a little too CGI for my liking. But then again, I suppose they can’t film many live dragons these days.

What did you guys think of the trailer, excited for The Desolation of Smaug?

E3: Sony vs Microsoft

First off, I’m leaving Nintendo out of this, because (a) at the time of writing they have yet to present, and (b) let’s be honest, it’s all about the PS4 and Xbox One (aka the Xbone). So, let’s get started.

Sony, PS4

Price: £349 / $399 / €399

This looks the bee’s knees. Sony seemed to be out to gain popularity over Microsoft on the things most gamers we’re looking for, such as no restrictions on second hand games and no always-online requirement, solidifying their statement of valuing consumer ownership and consumer trust. Check out this video from Playstation:

Other details included information on PS+, which, for current subscribers, will carry over to the PS4 automatically, and will entitle its members to one free game per month. The downside, however, being that one of what I believed to be the PS3’s main advantages over the Xbox 360 of free online multiplayer will only be available to PS+ subscribers (so I suppose it is similar to the 360’s current set up). With 140 games announced to be in development for the PS4 (and PS3 games becoming available next year), Sony’s presentation certainly could be called a success. Plus, they’re remaking Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. Which is just awesome.

Microsoft, Xbox One

Price: £429 / $499 / €499

It’s a good job I’m allowed to be a little biased with this blog, because although I’m not a Playstation fanboy by any means, I felt that the Microsoft presentation didn’t cut the mustard. For a starter for 10, the Xbox One is £80 dearer than it’s rival, which will put off the more budget minded purchaser. However, this is countered to an extent by the inclusion of Kinect within that price, which if you’re into that whole thing does trump the PS4’s capabilities. A welcome addition is the Blu-Ray player in the Xbone, bringing it up to par with the PS3. On top of that there were some pretty decent games announced, such as Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, MGS5 Phantom Pain and Battlefield 4, which definitely boosted the Xbox’s rep in the conference. And speaking of Battlefield 4

But I suppose that these things are inevitably going to happen.

Summary

In short, from my standpoint both consoles look pretty strong, each with their own advantages over their competitor, but the PS4 stole the show. How did you guys think the two respective giants’ presentations went?

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