Category Archives: Review

Review: Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2

Developed by Arkane Studios

Published by Bethesda Softworks

Reviewed on the PS4

The misadventures of Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin were, in my eyes, perfectly encapsulated in the first entry in the now newly titled Dishonored franchise. Dishonored took the weaker aspects of the newly rebooted Deus Ex franchise, at the time Human Revolution, and placed into a refreshing and unique palette that both enthralled and terrified me. A world whose only reliable energy source comes from the blubber of whales. It’s fascinating and enriching to unravel the onionlike quality of the world through the lens of a tightly woven stealth game. The first Dishonored was like lightning in a bottle, was Dishonored 2 able to successfully integrate all the aspects that made Dishonored so unique and still improve upon them to make the game feel like a true sequel to, what I would consider, one of the most outstanding stealth games of the decade?
When it comes to what made Dishonored so successful, I’d have to start with the fact that the game created a compelling, elaborate, and dynamic world to explore. A world that reacted to your actions and allowed you to sit and ruminate hefty decision before executing them. Dishonored 2 carries forth the series’ obsession with the minutia. Small clues and details on the state of the world are scattered throughout the game world. While they provide very little in terms of advancing the plot, they are excellent at presenting the world of Karnaca as a living, breathing locale. I will also add that this change of scenery from Dunwall to Karnaca is refreshing even with the fact that the same tonal drabness is consistent. The plot in itself is straight forward and generally unexciting when taken at face value yet it is its implicit morality and choice system that makes the narrative feel as if you have control.

Within the opening moments of the game, the sister of the now long dead Queen has staged a coup and presented the player with the first pivotal decision of the game: who will I play? For anyone that hasn’t seen the extensive marketing campaigns for Dishonored 2 the playable character decision was the point that Arkane liked to harp upon the loudest and most frequently. My playthrough was done as Corvo as I felt he had more stories to tell after his adventure in Dishonored. He was also an interesting and complex enough character that I felt compelled to listen to his dialogue, read his extensive notes, and generally enjoy crawling around in the headspace of the Royal Protector. My biggest gripe against the game’s narrative is the lack of interesting villains, specifically Jessamine, who is about as interesting as a wet rag. She provides nothing of substance to the story and brings down the quality of a middling story to begin with. The villains who assist Jessamine in rising to power are each unique and interesting in their own way that they make up for Jessamine’s fault. The supporting characters of Anton Sokolov and Meagan are each cool and inspired although slightly generic. And, a particular twist involving Meagan falls so horribly flat that you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness and melodrama of the situation.

I’ll definitely be going back in for a second playthrough as Emily, which I feel speaks volumes on the overall quality and consistency of the product. No one playthrough will feel the same depending on the choices you’ve made. I played through as a Ghost, killing only when necessary and usually clinging to the cold embrace of the silky shadows, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to quickly and quietly dispatch of the target before anyone realizes they’re gone. Almost every playstyle is accounted for with regards to the plot. If you’d prefer to play Dishonored 2 as an action-adventure hack and slash (however silly that may be) there are definite opportunities for you to do so. If you prefer sticking to the shadows then that playstyle is also accounted for.

The powers in Dishonored have always been fascinating little trickery’s. In almost every aspect they are identical to powers that can be found in other high-profile stealth games. What makes them different, and in turn better, is Arkane’s ability to seamlessly weave their existence into the universe without making it feel ham-fisted or foolish. Everything has a place and was placed where it was for a reason. The Dishonored series has achieved a particular status within the annals of gaming history that allows it to, in my eyes, stand toe-to-toe with giants like Deus Ex and Hitman.

This version of Dishonored 2 was played on PC after the release of Patch 1.3 which added sweeping changes and bug fixes, essentially making the game playable. I did encounter a few stutters and frame drops on occasion, especially around the more complexly designed maze like levels, yet those issues were few and far between.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

Dishonored 2 has allotted itself as the premier stealth game of the year. It hits all the right marks when it comes to story, gameplay, and world-building in such a stupendous fashion that I can’t help but feel giddy when discussing it. As a gamer who absolutely loves deep, richly-crafted worlds and environments the very idea of Dishonored 2 gets me excited. Also, it only helps that Dishonored 2 is one of the most beautiful and stylistically intricate games of the year. If there is a stealth game, or game for that matter, that you absolutely must buy this year then I can’t recommend Dishonored 2 enough.
5.0/5.0

5-rating

 

Review: Shade, The Changing Girl – Issue 2

Gerard Way has hit many aspects of pop culture media from being the lead in a little band called My Chemical Romance to being the curator behind the newest DC Comics imprint, Young Animal. I’ve been reading the three comics currently in the imprint, Shade, The Changing Girl, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, and Doom Patrol, (with Mother Panic coming up later this month). I have to admit, the imprint has some of the most exciting work I’ve read in the DC Universe in quite some time and each of the stories provides you with a new look at some of the universe’s strangest people.

This month is the release of Shade, The Changing Girl issue 2 and while I didn’t review the first one, I will probably follow up this review with that one. The issue begins where the previous left off, with Loma,a girl from the planet Meta, stealing the madness coat and changing into the human girl Megan Boyer, who has just woke up from a coma. Megan wasn’t the school’s most well-liked student and is in fact despised by many of her peers due to her manipulative personality. Loma, now wanting to be referred to as Shade, (due to the coat belonging to her favorite poet Rac Shade), tries to understand life on Earth but is unimpressed with all of their ‘primitive’ and ‘elementary’ technology.

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The madness that embeds the coat follows Shade as she tries to make sense of the human world around her. She refuses to use the technology around her, like phones and computers, and is constantly dozing off in the expanse of this new world. She realizes that she has the ability to understand, or at least sort of understand, the relationships that she had with her former classmates and decides whether or not to keep talking to them accordingly. Her former boyfriend is ignored completely regardless of his confidence in getting her back and she realizes that the ‘friends’ she had on the swim team hate her.

She finds her way into the library where another acquaintance of her makes it clear that she doesn’t like her. However,  Shade manages to find some kind of link between them that lets her know that this girl doesn’t hate her. But, she ruins her chance and the girl runs off. In the library, she meets a boy named River who she discovers is her new neighbor from before she fell into a coma. She decides to befriend him in the only way she knows how to and then spends the rest of her time trying to understand this new world that she put herself in.

The book is very strange and depicts the beginnings of the changes that Shade will be going through with the madness coat. It also depicts the actual dangers that the coat produces as Loma’s friend on Meta, Lepuck Lado, hides the truth from those looking for it.

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This issue paves the way for the possible human wonders that Shade will discover and how she will display them to those who once knew her. Of course, there isn’t anything in the way of Megan’s life, being presumably dead, or just what Shade plans to do with her new knowledge but that’s the exciting part; this comic leaves almost everything Shade says up to interpretation. Everything Shade says is simply just a blurb in her mind as she tries to do anything on Earth but those blurbs are a collection of everything that everyone normally takes for granted because we experience them every day. She has a scene in her shower where she comments on the feeling of water and how she enjoys it however that wouldn’t necessarily be something that we would talk about.

However, the dialogue and thought process of Shade is sometimes jumbled and doesn’t always reflect on any actual thing that you see within the pages. in most cases, she is just talking to herself about feeling and understanding but to readers, it just seems like mindless garbage. Hopefully, these random thoughts will become something relatively coherent soon so that the comic can appeal to more than just those that think deeper than most.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

Shade, The Changing Girl issue 2 opens up the imagery that spreads throughout the idea of an alien trying to figure out life on Earth. It is interesting and uplifting as Shade tries to understand things, despite her possible motives towards those she seems to resonate with. This issue opens up many possibilities for Shade’s life and introduces characters that resonate with Megan negatively to pave what their motives towards her could be. It’s an exciting entry in the Young Animal imprint and hopefully a pathway to a more immersive story. Hopefully, the comic will sort of walk its way around the dialogue and focus on Shade’s new life rather than just her thoughts however the comic as it is is a fantastic read.

4-rating

4.0 / 5.0

Review: Smallville – Season 1

Superman hasn’t necessarily been out of the limelight these past few years. With Henry Cavill as the new ‘Man of Steel’, the farm  boy turned hero has never been more popularized in everyday conversation; that is, unless you were tuned into a little TV show on the CW fifteen years ago called Smallville.

Smallville gave life to Superman’s past as more than just his life as Clark Kent, son of farmers. The show introduced the relationship that Clark had with characters like Lana Lang, Pete Ross, and even Lex Luthor. In fact, the show defines the intimacy of Clark and Lex’s relationship far before Clark even donned the red and blue costume. Of course, this is only a single iteration of the acclaimed superhero, but this one paints the perfect picture of a simple boy who is destined for greatness.

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The first season really only serves as a platform for the different relationships that define the comic book hero. His soon to be best friend, Lex Luthor, smashes his car into Clark and drives off a bridge and straight into the water. Being the ‘Man of Steel’, Clark is unhurt and pulls Lex out of the water, calling it a simple rush of adrenaline that saved them both. This drives Lex to owe Clark his life and does all he can throughout the series to prove to the Kent family that he is much more than just another Luthor, seeing as his father drove most farms in the area to the ground in crippling debt. Their relationship builds after that event, with Lex being Clark’s window of advice for things bigger than the farm and Clark providing Lex with that glimmer of friendship and trust that he never received.

Despite that, Lex, through the duration of the season, focuses on finding out about the events of the crash and how Clark wasn’t hurt at all. He believes that he should have died in the impact but simply didn’t because of Clark. He uses several people at his disposal to discover the reason behind the crash but continuously drops the subject in order to preserve his relationship with the Kent’s. While all this happens, he develops a much stronger relationship with Lana Lang, the girl who was left behind in the comics. Their relationship deepens as it becomes clear that they both have fallen for each other, however Lana is dating Whitney, star football quarterback at their high school.

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Clark spends his time at the school newspaper with his friends, Chloe Sullivan and Pete Ross. Of the two, Chloe is the only character that never appeared in a Superman comic and was created solely for the purpose of this show. She is the editor at The Torch, said newspaper, and does everything in her power to attain an internship at the Metropolis Daily Planet, conveniently where Clark Kent will be a reporter at in the future. Clark doesn’t necessarily show an interest in journalism this early on but the show does capture his research skills and his competency in the major.

Each episode acts sort of like a ‘monster of the week’ type of deal with every episode capturing a different antagonist and how Clark has to put justice in front of all else.  In almost every case, the antagonist’s anatomy was somehow disrupted by the meteor rocks, (an early rendition of what I assume will be later known as Kryptonite), and possess some kind of powers.Clark finds out very early that the meteor rocks make his sick and that he has to find alternate ways of defeating these enemies without making it seem as though he is more than what he appears to be. Several people begin to discover his secret, namely those who work for Lex, but they never manage to pass on the information to him.

Each episode develops his sense of selflessness just a bit more while mixing in a flair of teenage angst that you would believe and high school boy has. He disobeys his parents, he speaks out for what he believes in, and he goes out; leaving Martha and Jonathan Kent to fear for the son’s secret. There are no glimpses of Superman, aside form very under the radar jokes and a few references, but the season does act as a incredible beginning to the life of the Superman that we all know today.

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Closing Comments:

Smallville’s first season acts as more than just the beginning of Clark Kent’s life as Superman. It acts as a sort of coming of age for him and it is the first step towards developing the nobility that the Superman we all know has. It’s very present this early on in the series, considering the ten seasons and the eleventh season comic book, but it is very clear that this Clark Kent is the embodiment of more than just a powerful human but an average teenager. The show features an incredible soundtrack and incredible acting, despite a few awkward stands and visible special effects, but great nonetheless. It is a show that any unabashed comic book fan should definitely watch before it is off of Hulu.

4.5/5