The Dark Knight Rises Review - SPOILERS!

Although you Americans won't see it for another day or two in some cases, over here in Oceania, The Dark Knight Rises has landed and the Batman trilogy is well and truly over. If you don't like spoilers, leave now, although this review is less about the plot and more about the overall trilogy, my impression and thoughts. If you don't care, well I probably shouldn't either, but I've just spent 12 hours at the cinema watching Batman, so I am too pumped to cease and desist now lol.

First of all, the context in which I watched Rises was after first seeing Prometheus (again) then seeing both Batman Begins and then The Dark Knight, before the midnight release of Rises. I was supposed to just see the Batman films, but the theatre completely screwed up the file for the film and couldn't fix it. Ah for the antiquity and reliability of film eh? So I watched Prometheus, which is a bloody good film, and reveals itself even more the second time around. Then I stayed until the later showing of Begins in the hope some fanboy's heart had exploded due to over-excitement at the release of the final installment of Nolan's Batman, and left a seat conveniently for my to be fitted into. Being the super lucky m*therf*cker I am, there was a seat in an otherwise sold out series of screenings. No way was I giving up on the chance to see my hero for the last time, on the big screen, all in a row!

So a quick run down of the movies, for those not in the know - Begins is where Bruce Wayne's origin story really begins in earnest. Roughly, murdered parents, blames himself, goes into exile, learns kung-fu from Ra's Al Ghul and the League of Assassins, returns to Gotham city, adopts Batman as his alter ego (or in reality, does Batman adopt Bruce Wayne, billionaire and wastrel as his mask?). He fights the Scarecrow, his own fears, corruption and eventually, the paternal figure of Ghul as he fights to save the city from the evil which created him, all while learning who he is.

It was weird going back to this film. Of the two earlier films, I'd seen Dark Knight several times - twice at the cinema, and many, many more at home - but only had seen Begins twice, and both times many years ago. So I know Dark Knight like the back of my hand, but the opposite is completely true of Begins. So when I saw the Burton-esque style and less-polished feel compared to The Dark Knight, I was taken aback. I'm unsure if the genesis of the trilogy having such a quaint, raw feel is a good thing, or if it sullies the whole thing. It, however, is inescapably necessary to get the beginning of Batman's origin out of the way before you can begin to truly play with the character. So although it's inferior to The Dark Knight, and ultimately, Rises, it's a necessary evil.

The Dark Knight. Batman is a commonplace now in the city. The mob runs scared. Then along comes the Joker to spice things up with his all-touching chaos. I really shouldn't have to explain anything about this movie to you. If you've read so far, you're probably a Batman fan and have already seen the film. If you haven't, then you're probably not a person who should be reading this, but should watch the movie anyway, because if you don't, you'll be missing one of the best, most authentic performances by any actor. Ever. Heath Ledger's Joker IS The Dark Knight (the film, not the metaphorical one). He eclipses Christian Bale and delivers a performance so rare and so beautiful, you can't even call it a performance. Ledger, forever frozen in that film, IS the Joker, living and breathing it. You do not doubt or second guess a single frame he is in. Sadly, it will be his greatest, but last, performance, but if I was immortalized as any character, in any way, there are far worse ways to go out than that.

It's hard to explain how exactly The Dark Knight comes so far from Begins. Nolan only directed The Prestige in between the films, and it doesn't really foreshadow the likes of Dark Knight and Inception, two of my favourite movies of all time. Far from the small, beginning steps of Begins, Dark Knight bursts from the screen like a well polished masterpiece. Begins stuck to the rules. The goodie finds a cause, the baddies cause trouble, and then the hero saves the day and kisses the girl. But The Dark Knight kills the girl, kills the goodies, makes the hero an outcast and makes the main villain not only amazingly likable, but wholly forgivable as a child of the times! You look at superhero movies like Spider Man and Superman. None push the boundaries like The Dark Knight, and that's why it is, and probably always will be, the greatest superhero movie of all time. Rises could always have been a better film story-wise and acting-wise, but it was never going to be as groundbreaking, since the previous installment had already rung that bell.

The Dark Knight ends with a fallen hero-turned lunatic Two-Face taking Commissioner Gordon's family hostage, before dying. Instead of the truth, however, Batman and Gordon decide the city of Gotham needs a true hero, one without a mask, so Batman takes the fall for the murder and Two-Face, or rather Harvey Dent, remains the white knight of the city.

And this leads into Rises. Really, if you don't want spoilers, back away now...

The crowd erupted with applause when the opening scene began, a sign that all had been eager for the return of Batman to the cinema, even if it was to be his last from Nolan. Eight years have passed since The Dark Knight, and Batman has been retired for several years, not unlike Frank Miller's iconic comic book 'The Dark Knight Returns'. Harvey Dent is still the shining example, and Batman is still hunted. Bruce Wayne is a recluse after the death of his love interest in The Dark Knight. The city is at peace. It's a strange and terrifying world. It's funny, but true. A world without the Batman is one where fear doesn't stalk the streets, and yet you feel compelled to will him back into action. It doesn't take long. A perky Selina Kyle soon strikes up Bruce Wayne's interest, and re-instills his passion for life. Selina Kyle, as you comic fans may know, is of course Catwoman, although she is never referenced as such in the film, and that's how I enjoy it. The whole idea of Catwoman can destroy a film if it's not handled properly. I came into Rises knowing Hathaway would make or break the film for me. She normally plays the damsel in distress, so not only does it seem off to have her as the strongest female character in the Batman universe, but it also leads you to examine Catwoman's overall role in the film more closely too. So effectively not having a Catwoman in favour of just Selina Kyle means that fitting her into the Batman mythos goes down without a hitch. However, Hathaway is excellent as Selina Kyle. She plays the role perfectly and you soon forget the actress's previous roles as Hathaway captures Kyle's moral greyness perfectly.

You'd think the main villain of the film is of course Bane. In a literal sense, yes he is. But in reality, the trials and tribulations of the times are the true enemy in Rises. Bane merely brings about their occurrence. As Batman begins his road back out of retirement, so Bane comes forth with a hidden agenda to wipe out Gotham, and there lies the clash. I think the plot line of having Bane suddenly as part of the League of Assassins and carrying out Ra's Al Ghul's vengeance is a bit forced, but it does become partially believable when Marion Cotillard turns out to be Talia Ghul, Ra's Al Ghul's daughter, and Bane had protected her in a prison. Long story, kinda, but they're all connected. Some may like it, I'm not sure it completely works, but at least Rises ties back into Begins, because otherwise the small film all those years ago would seem even more out of place in the trilogy with the newest installment's jaw-dropping scale. Tom Hardy does well as Bane, but between his mask and the fake voice (which really did drive me crazy at first until I got slightly used to it, but never quite enough), you do not truly connect with him as much as you'd like to. Not until his final scenes do you really feel for him and realize Hardy's performance is astounding.

As I mentioned, the true enemies are the signs of the times. Bruce Wayne's empire is hit by the financial crisis (with some prodding by shady businessmen backed by Bane) and the whole city is turned into a hotspot for civil unrest as the poor displace the rich in control for the city, ala French Revolution-stylez. It resonates immensely with the people of our day and age, and turns what could be just a garden variety, suped-up villain into possibly the most dangerous and deadly villain yet. Bane, true to comic form, breaks the Batman's back. He then sends him to the prison where he himself was imprisoned, to watch Gotham burn and languish without hope. In a way, Rises transcends normal superhero tracks, and becomes a commentary on the world as we know it now, where there is seemingly insurmountable hopelessness, but that we crave that light at the end of the tunnel. Batman must endure the agony of watching his city burn, and must find the will inside, and provokingly, the fear inside, to escape and return triumphant.

The film takes place over several months. Gotham literally is a warzone. Bane has seized control, all the police are trapped underground. Heck, even Alfred is gone! A nuclear bomb sits, ready to explode, holding the city hostage. The danger is very, very real. It's the final installment. ANYTHING could happen. So although the villains don't necessarily feel as gigantic as the Joker from The Dark Knight, the danger is the most intense of any of the films. Watching it for the first time, not knowing what will happen, keeps you on the edge of your seat and your heart racing. You live every moment with Batman and know, all too well, that even he cannot continue with the mask. That soon, all he has will be sacrificed. It is sad. Moving. Emotional.

The amazingly visceral score drives you onward until the final sacrifice. The trilogy truly does end. For Batman at least (there is some shameless sequel bait for Levitt's Robin the Boy Wonder to follow up, which slightly detracts from the emotional impact of the end - I mean you really don't want to be reminded that the studio is going to push out another money making spin off when you're trying to farewell your caped crusader!). You hark back to a scene earlier in Rises where Alfred recounts his thoughts to Bruce Wayne. Without Ledger's amazing villain, although Bale really does shine as the best performance of Rises, it is Alfred who steals the show with his incredibly emotional scenes, and this one is none the different: He tells Bruce how he prayed he would not return when Bruce had left during Begins. How he prayed he'd go to the cafe in Europe where he lived during that time, and glance over to another table and see Bruce sitting there, family, wife, happy. Neither would say anything to the other, but they'd both know. For some reason this idea pulled at my heart strings. And ultimately, this is what happens. The world thinks Batman is dead. And he is. But Bruce Wayne, finally, has a life, with Selina Kyle, and Alfred and Bruce see each other at that cafe. And although they both know, just like the audience, that neither will see each other again, and that the life they've lived all that time is truly gone, neither mourns it. Instead they just smile and know. And that's how the best superhero movie trilogy ends. With for once, the hero gets to rest. He's done his job and he can finally be at peace.

I think this was the smartest and most fitting way to end the series. Batman gave everything to the city of Gotham, and now he is finally at peace. Unlike some series that go on and on long past the expiry date, in the hopes of big returns and some inspiration, Nolan cut the series concisely and intelligently. I've admired the way Nolan has gone about directing the whole thing. Using film, resisting the irritating urge everyone seems to be doing to go 3D, and going against the grain to deliver a stellar trilogy. It treats the fans with respect and is probably the best Batman series of films that will ever be released this side of 2050. Ultimately, I think that The Dark Knight still comes out on top of Rises. They ARE different films, given, so that is debatable. The Dark Knight's villain is insurmountable, but Rises' danger is so intense and real, it elevates the film. And I mean, damn, it's the finale! So go and watch the last film, have fun, enjoy it. If you get the chance, watch all three in a row. To feel the gut-wrenching bellow of trombones and the pulse of massive drums once more is unlike anything else. Farewell caped crusader.

We'll all miss you.

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My perfect Minecraft world

After getting extremely bored with my first Minecraft world, now that I've picked it up on the Xbox 360, I opened up a new one. I was determined to leave the world as an open, friend-welcoming world where all could come and do whatever they like with it. My darker side has now taken over and I have crowned myself KING of the land, its protector and guardian for all time! *Trumpets*

This was mainly due to my friends creating hideously fugly houses and not finishing them and the fact that I'd actually built something I really love, but that a couple of my friends are griefers. Ah, I love that word... My first map was all underground, ala Fallout stylez. But eventually the constant digging and not being rewarded with an amazing sight from a mile away of a gigantic, glowing castle took its toll on me. So in my new world I began with a gleaming castle of delight. I carved out an island and made a gigantic tower. It is complete with a lava moat, a cactus moat, mushroom farm, nether portal, servant's quarters, a grand living room with a fireplace and balconies where you can shoot wild game from, a juke box and drums, and then of course the grand library, bedroom and over-ground farm. It's only accessible from a secret sea entrance (which is great when your friends try to destroy your place!). Doing it all on Normal mode definitely made it a fun challenge too.

There was one hiccup however; the update and the new autosave feature! My friend came in to check out the place and we were messing around, knowing we wouldn't save. One thing lead to another. Some parts of the castle were destroyed. Then BOOM autosave. FUUUUUUUUUUU! Needless to say I was mightily pissed and turned it off immediately after that. Repairs were made, but it took a while. -_-

Then things just started to roll in! The castle sits in the middle of a giant lake/sea, so the next was a pier. Then a fisherman's hut. Over to a new continent I founded the "East Indian Mining Company" on top of a large cavern system. Then in view of the castle, a grand arena. And just yesterday I completed a massive lighthouse and a community mine with fine goods traders and inspectors. Eventually I was out on the high seas with a boat, sailing around with a map. I felt like an ancient explorer, finding fertile lands and planning new sites for towns. So far Lanisport (the lake where I'm king of) is just one port and a collection of houses. But I've found a site further on for a new capital. I intend to found it and hold a public election for who will be king there. I should, naturally, win.

Then I have plans for a grand floating city, and later on, a sunken city beneath the waves. It's just so exciting! Eventually when I'm near completion, I'll install my friends as roles in my world. A few are excitedly waiting already! I've got some basic roles to fill - traders, jailers, court mages etc - but to fill that position they'll need to start as slaves and work in the mines for resources. Then if they're lucky, I'll grant them a house and a job. And if they're lucky, maybe they'll even be voted king/lord of their province and inherit a castle! I've even installed a trading system! 20 coal for 1 iron, 30 iron for 1 gold, 10 gold for 1 diamond.

Man I sound like a major nerd. But heck, I find the concept of having a working community exciting! Minecraft is exactly my kind of game. You work in the mines, you give 10% of your take to the mine inspector who gives half to the king. If you short change him, the sheriff hunts you down and locks you up. And if that doesn't work, a bounty is put up for the prisoner's return. *Giddy with excitement*

That was all probably boring to read, but I thought I'd just share how much fun I was having. Hope to see you on the battlements! :D

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Minecraft incites RAGEEEE: A tale of the downward spiral to war

You heard it here first folks! Minecraft is slowly but surely becoming Minecraft: Modern Warfare Edition amongst my friends. It all began a month ago with the embedding of a pick axe in the back of a skull...

I hang out with some pretty cool guys online with Minecraft. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but there you go. However, there is one kid no one truly likes. He's a bit of a c*nt. Okay, he's totally a c*nt. He's their friend in real life, while I'm only an online friend. As far as things go, I'm liked and respected between everyone. Except for this kid, who we shall name Tom for now. Why he is even their friend in real life is anyone's guess. He betrays people, ruins their creations, mutes strangers (myself included) and is a jealous little kid. No one hates this guy more than me. If he were to die in real life, I'd sleep a bit better. Cold and harsh though it may sound, Xbox LIVE is a large part of my life and he is seriously ruining it.

Now I'm sure you're asking "Minecraft? How can such a peaceful game be so divisive??". Beneath the guise of prancing sheep and colourful flowers, lies a darker turmoil. You're inviting trouble into your world whenever a friend joins. It's like falling back into someone's arms - you pray they don't break anything.

So one day I was mining along in a friend's world, possibly humming a tune. tom had just bought the game and was a total noob. He strolls in front of my pick axe. Instead of being a humble person and seeing it was an accident, he instead turns on me and kills me. Like an enraged toad, he is not entirely sure what he is angry at, but lashes out at the closest thing (me), a mindless drive to palm off blame and shirk self-responsibility. In turn I slay him with a sword. He drops about 3 stone pick axes. This in turn incites more retaliation as he apparently thinks stone pick axes are rare and hard to come by!

So I wait. Revenge is best served cold. After a few hours, him and my friend have been in their mine for hours. My friend returns to the surface with his stash, while Tom remains below with his. I launch my attack, trying to divert a lava flow into his tunnel. I fail and he once again kills me. I feign a truce through my friend and manage to sneak up behind Tom whilst he is trying to escape the deep cavern. It is then that I corner him and stab his bloated, fetid body with several blows from a pick axe. What drops is not too short of a treasure trove. Diamonds, gold pick axes, ingots, lazuli, obsidian, iron...

He tried to reach me, but I repel him once more. After this final kill, I run as deep and far as I can and dig. I build a chest, and I bury it. I do not mark the chest and I make sure it is very well hidden deep underground. I return to my home, Tom screaming he wants his stuff back. I tell him he stole my stuff so he's not getting his - if he wants it, he can go find it. Very childish and petty, but he started it, nyah nyah!

He then proceeds to destroy my house. Unwilling to budge, I watch as he destroys my home and everything in it. This trespass will not be forgotten. I try to sabotage the world by diverting a river into his house, but my friend gets annoyed and kicks us both from the game. Until next time...

Today was such a time. I entered another friend's world to see him cleaning up the remnants of thousands of cobblestones. I was told Tom had placed rivers of lava all over their houses and then water, petrifying the entire valley in stone. He refused to clean it up, so I helped my friend. For my work, he let me build a tower. A sh*t trade considering the clean up took little over an hour! But I built it none the less. All the way up to the stars. It was glorious. Tall, gleaming and bold in its design. But like the World Trade Centre, it was the pinnacle of human achievement, and thus, the target for terrorist attack. No sooner had I completed it had another player climbed to the top and raided my chests, stealing with wild abandon.

In retaliation, I not only stole his stuff, but I stole his chest. Retribution paid correct? Surely not he said! Tom reentered the world, despite being told he was banned. Immediately he sought a single reason to destroy my creations. The other player gave it to him when he said I'd stolen his chest. I returned from the forest to see Tom, my chest in hand, destroying the bottom of my tower. I pleaded with the host to kick him. But I was denied. And so began world war two...

I was lucky when Tom, like the blundering fool he undoubtedly is, fell from my tower and dashed himself against the ground. Out sprouted a whole raft of goodies. I gloated as I escaped gleefully with the loot, making sure he knew I was once again to bury this inventory as well. Far away, deep underground, I placed another chest, never to see the light of day again. I returned and saw that a kind of arms race had begun. At first iron swords, which I died several times to, then crude armour. Before long, we both had steel plate protection and carried swords of glinting metal. Across the tops of houses we battled. I had better equipment for once, and killed him again after he returned from mining. Diamonds and gold aplenty I took, but kept this bounty for my personal stash deep within my secret lair. Then I returned to find Tom had made diamond armour from the duplication glitch exploit. I was killed, my body falling lifelessly to the ground, my life blood sullied and pouring into the grass. This called for desperate measures.

Desperately, I searched for a trump card. I found it while raiding one of the player's rooms. TNT. Like a chemical warfare specialist, I tested the device on a lone hill. It made the hill not a hill. I was pleased. I gave Tom an ultimatum. Leave me walk in peace, or face a wrath unlike any other. He declined. To show a force of my power, I laid a block of TNT on the main bridge. He saw me and advanced. I had no choice but to destroy the bridge. In a dramatic explosion, the bridge was severed in two. He stood on the other side, his dim-witted mind contemplating what had transpired. I pitied his tiny peanut brain at that moment, for I knew he would die before I was through. Then... kicked. For simply rising to arms to avenge my needless murders, and despite my efforts to clean up the world after hurricane Tom swept through, I was removed from the game. I still have the TNT in my hand ready to go, but I fear I will never have a chance to use it...

So heed my story miners of all ages! If you are going to be playing with people, make sure you can trust them. Or at the very least, play on maps with them that you do not mind being destroyed. If you have no choice but to play with an assh*le, leave no weakness. Do not become attached to any dwelling or creation, for it will be used against you. Hide then deep underground and behind fake walls, traps and best of all, water. And if events do lead you to war, find their weakness, upgrade your arms and use any means necessary. Do not count on the host to always boot the other player.

This whole foray has of course left me jaded with Minecraft. I despise bullies and trolls. I hate unfairness. I never exceed the fair quota of revenge, but others enjoy dishing, but not eating, pain. What will happen next, I am uncertain. All I know is that Minecraft can be a dark, foreboding world with little escape from death and despair, so do not be fooled by the shiny blocks and happy tunes. There is malice in the caverns deep...

17 Comments

Do you ever feel like giving up on life?

I do. Right now. Sick of fake friends. Sick of arguments. Sick of things never changing. Sick of rejection. Sick of LIFE.

No, not the magazine, but the shitty thing you're born into without your consent. You're forced to endure "life" with no manual and no purpose. There is no level of what is success, what is good, what is not. You don't grow horns if you are evil, and you don't have a halo if you are good. There are no rules and there is nothing you can rely on. You can live life just as much as anybody else, and yet still fail at it. There are no cheats in life. There is no quick glitch to boost you to a place where you want to be. Life is. And it doesn't care.

It doesn't care. People don't care. If I were to top myself right now, no one would give a damn in my life. People may be sad for a week, maybe two, but after that they'd carry on. Every year a caring soul might take the time to visit my lonely grave atop a weathered hill, and drop some flowers which will but wither in the unforgiving sun. But ultimately, alone.

So yeah. I'm sick of my life at the moment. The life I knew is gone. For good it seems. Every move I make seems to be futile and ineffectual. I see feather friends blow away before me. I've seen a pigeon's worth before, but still their jabs stab at my heart with each betrayal, with each let down. Jaded. Disillusioned. I feel like a drifter with no home and no safe haven.

I don't care what you reply. I gave up caring along time ago. I'm just sick of life and I'm sick of being sick with it. I can't run away from it. There's no escape. No escape from the perpetual let down that is this chamber of confinement. I can't stay. No, if I stay it will keep chipping away at my soul. Chip chip chip. I may be a potato the number of chips life has taken out of me. Even bad humour cannot lighten my spirits.

Maybe if I just shut myself away I will finally be ridded of these burdens. And there is always the other way...

138 Comments

Dark Souls: Doing Hard The HARD Way!

I think I have completely screwed up my Dark Souls play-through! And only 85 hours in! The night was so young!

It all began with my escape from the gadamm painting world of Priscilla. I FINALLY beat the cross-breed beotch into submission, but it seems her cursed grasp has not left me since. I decided to take on Anor Londo's bosses Ornstein and Smaug, but was having a tough time doing it. Decided to do a bit of soul farming for some extra levels, but twice, not once, TWICE got sliced to bits by invaders. Sigh.

So with going un-hollow out of the question due to this annoying influx of pain-in-the-ass invaders, I had to take on the duo on my own. Astonishingly I actually beat them on my second try.

Yeah, no more warm fire cuddles for me.

But what really rubs me the wrong way is that I finally figured out how to invade the world of the murderer of the firekeeper in Firelink. I kill the dude and his henchmen. It pops up that I have a firekeeper soul. Awesome! What would anyone who has had little sleep at 3am who sees this do? Straight to the lady in Anor Londo and upgrade my estus! Then straight from there to Firelink to save the damsel in distress! I charge down the steps excited to see how my favourite mute is faring. Dead. Still. *Despair*

To my EXTREME frustration, it turns out that the souls I just ate, was hers. I kinda feel a mixture of sorrow and kinkiness (cannibalism is kinda sexy dontcha think? ya know, you just ATE her SOUL), but it now means no fire at Firelink. So it's kinda just a link now.

Sigh. Well at least I still have my Anor Londo bonfire at kindle 20!! Well........

At the same site I saw my screw up with the firekeeper, I saw there was an easy hidden covenant to find in Anor Londo. Darkmoon blade thingy. Seriously, I've lost count of how many Gwyns, Gwyniveres, Darkmoon Gwyns and Gwyndolins there are. Geez, try for a new name you incestuous inbreds! Anyways, I go down, and find the covenant. Awesome! But I don't join. The teenager-like voice goes - and I QUOTE - "Oh well, exit her then". I take that as, "Exit through this mysterious fog wall here!". Another mistake. Some little creepy teen dude starts taking me on. Hard fight until I figure out how to dodge his attacks. Then I destroy him.

I DRINK YOUR MILKSH- Erm I mean firekeeper soul...

Brimming with pride, I skip back to the Anor Londo bonfire. "Hey honey I'm HOOOOO--- What the? Why are you lightning your sword? URGH! Hey! Why are you attacking me???" I get slapped to death by the lady in the bonfire there. Apparently she liked the little teen deity dude I just killed. On my long walk back, I have time to think about my actions and now how much I was regretting them. I kill her and it turns out she was a firekeeper!! And now that bonfire is out too!! FFS!!!!

Everywhere I turn I seem to be destroying my game. The lordvessel? To find the hidden darkwraith covenant I needed to NOT put it on the altar. BOOM, did that, screws it up until NG+. FML. Now I'm stuck in the bliming Duke's Archives. Took me foreverrrrr just to escape the tower, and now I can't reach the exit on account of all the bloody spell casters and arrows slinging my way. Tried to summon my way out and instead got invaded. The dude was funny though, trapping me on one of the rotating stairways. We danced for a while before I got backstabbed. I can NEVER seem to backstab ANYONE.

At least I learned how to get a special item outta one of those mimic chest things. Scary as hell, but chuck a Lloyd's Talisman at them, they turn back into a normal chest which you can loot! If you're lucky, you'll get a chest for a helmet! With a tongue and everything!

So the moral of the story is: you will probably screw up your game in some way, but here are some things NOT to do.

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The Most Emotional Games I've Played

I've been thinking about what makes a game good lately. With the number of games I've bought and played over the years, it's hard not to begin to wonder about your preferences and likes. Fun. Ingenuity. Story. Re-playability. Design. These all make up most of a good game. However, there is one aspect not too many games do well. It may not necessarily make it an amazing game, or even one you enjoy, but when a game gets you connected and emotionally involved in it, there is something special to be said. And no, I'm not talking about rage at another player in multiplayer, but a game which sucks you into its world and makes you forget that you can, at any point, cease to be connected to the characters, world and plight, and instead makes you care deeply about the outcome of your actions and insists you feel every corner you turn. Those games are rare indeed.

So I thought I'd present this small collection of games that have touched me and brought me into their world - it's by no means a definite list, or even one you may agree with, but one that might stir some discussion about what games you've felt emotionally attached to and what it takes to be an emotionally engaging game. Be aware, there may be *SPOILERS* ahead, as we will be discussion key emotional points in the game.

Dark Souls:

The scope of Dark Souls' environment is breath-taking.

There are very few games which capture the extreme sense of dread and despair as Dark Souls. In Dark Souls, your life seems to drain very quickly. You start playing at 6pm, and you may end up finishing somewhere near 3am, if at all. So it is not uncommon for you to begin your gaming session stuck in a hellish sewer, and finish just entering an equally abysmal underground swamp many hours later, all without ever seeing sunlight. It saps your very soul and you begin to wonder when you will ever leave such a place. Even trying to get out, like quick sand, can make you more enveloped in this sense of hopelessness, as you struggle and die, over and over. Even small comforts like seeing another player's ghost by a bonfire or message in the world makes you feel secure, even if only for a fleeting second.

It is for this reason Dark Souls makes my list. Your character has little background and even less dialogue. There are no books to be found to explore a rich narrative such as in Skyrim, and there are no characters you can sap for information as in Mass Effect. Quite simply, Dark Souls should not be appealing to your emotions whatsoever. And yet you feel every second of the game. The struggle to survive a world out to kill you. It pulls you so deeply in, that in your quest to further your exploration of the world, you cannot help but feel every death your character endures.

BioShock:

The musty halls of Rapture suck you in as you explore them.

There is something quite unique about BioShock. I make no secret of the fact it is my all time favourite game. The setting and theme of the world around you alone makes this a game of unbeatable proportions. And this is partially why I felt connected so strongly to the game. You feel the environment around you, crumbling and decaying. It isn't just a game world, Rapture actually takes on a role and life of its own. You care about its fate. You begin to know its secrets and the wonders and horrors that took place within it. You can smell the damp deco wallpaper and the billowing machinery.

However, setting alone isn't why the game appeals to the emotions so strongly. The game literally drives you mad. As you twist your way to the game's conclusion, BioShock pits you against nutbags and lunatics of all colours. After a while, you too fall prey to Rapture's insanity. You experience epic betrayal and journey far from the realms of possibility, all whilst feeling that everything in the game is entirely plausible as you play it. Few other games create a world so rich that you could believe such a thing.

Fable:

She will probably die. Just like in real life. *Sob*

No, not Fable 2 or 3, but the first. The sequels over-played much of the unique charm and emotion that made the first in the series so compelling. Fable was unlike any other game I'd played at the time. You begin your journey as a small child, happy and content in your small corner of the world, where even small issues take form as quests to be solved. Life is simple. And then it is stripped away - your family killed. This was the first time anything of the sort had ever happened in a game to me. I was so emotionally involved in the safety of my family, I reloaded my game in the vain hope that there was some way I could save them or warn them, like it was all a bad dream. But there wasn't. Now games use this premise often and it is not nearly as compelling or realistic.

Throughout the game you come across more characters that you feel for. You might marry or meet a quest character. And more often than not, the Fable world finds a way to strip them from you or toy with your emotions enough to make you both distressed and cautious about investing yourself in any other Fable character. Fable 2 was touted for the "unique" love you had with your dog, but it fell far short and felt synthetic at best. Fable held no such premise and let you invest yourself in characters without your say, and did with them equally so, making it the infinitely better game.

Kingdom Hearts:

Yep, you lose her too. And everyone else. Just like in real life. *Sob*

The piano solo at the end of Kingdom Hearts is the first of only two times I've ever openly cried over a computer game (outside of losing all progress towards certain achievements on numerous games haha). If you viewed it on YouTube, you'd wonder why. But after many months playing it (and for a teen with chores and school, that was a very long time) that final screen heralded the end of a long emotional journey with no seeable end. You'd first grown to love your life on an island with your friends, before becoming separated and lost in a dark and often strange world. And although you find new companions and forge new relationships with them, you are still very emotionally invested in finding your lost pals. And to have the game cut that search short without any answer, well it is destroying. News on games back then was not liquid as it is now. There was no instant internet news - you had to cross your fingers and hope a game series would continue in many cases. Luckily Kingdom Hearts continued.

It is the characters alone that makes Kingdom Hearts such a great game to play and get lost in. And you are lost with them for so long that you really do start to depend on their uplifting presence to pull you through. Those few times in the game without them really floor your emotions and the only reason you power through is the hunger to reunite with them. Kingdom Hearts keeps you searching, even to the end.

Gears of War 3:

R.I.P. *Sob*

You've gone through nearly a decade of fighting Locust with your team. *Spoilers* It is obvious that Gears of War 3 was going to kill off a few characters. When Dom died to save the group, it was the second time I openly cried at a video game. Seeing the flames engulf his truck, you knew that for once in a modern video game, there was no coming back. A final note on a long song that you've been playing for many years. The game doesn't stop there. Gears 3 keeps pulling the brutal punches and it is this destruction of your favourite heroes that makes it special to me. The fight has been getting more intense and more desperate for the past few games, and now it has reached a head. It doesn't tie things in a pretty bow. It shows you how a tragic story like Sera's ends.

And so there you have it. Some of the games I've found emotionally taxing over the years. I'd have included Halo too, but only because I have an unnatural compassion about my marines and not wanting them to die. Similarly for Red Dead Redemption, although I did not feel too attached to the plight of John Marsten, *Spoilers* the emotional interplay between him and Bonnie, and of at his death, were quite connecting.

Let me know what you think should be on the list and why. And what makes a game emotionally connecting? And if one is, does that in itself make it a good game, or even one you'd automatically like?

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Is DONE with BF3!!!

Done. DONE. That is all. Well for a week or two anyways. Before I return to the game, tail between my legs, craving some decent shooter action...

Seriously though, the new update is infuriating! There are few matches now where I am not raped over and over and over by jets and helicopters. Or javelins and sneaky C4 planters if I'm in a tank. Or f*cking shotguns. The balance of the game prior to the patch was decent. Now tanks are next to useless. Take the Russian spawn on Caspian Border for example: Try, just TRY to take a tank down that hill and capture flag D. TRY IT. If some c*nt hasn't placed mines in the small brook on the road leading there, there will be some smart guy with a javelin on the buildings around the flag locking onto you before you'd barely left your spawn. Or there will be some pr*ck who comes behind you with C4. And if you manage, just manage, to even half capture a flag, your goose is cooked with a heli or another tank on your arse. Or a single guy will block your capture because we all know OUR TEAM MATES ARE TOO PREOCCUPIED WITH AIR COMBAT AND/OR STUPID TO JUMP IN YOUR TANK AS A GUNNER (!!!) so you're on your own against a superior force trying to capture one damn flag, let alone FOUR!!!

Seriously, it's as if in one day the gaming community of BF3 has gone from acceptable, to full of d*ckheads wielding shotguns and exploiting every minor boost in power allowed by the patch. And it also seems to be that no one on MY team has any clue at ALL. So after dying for the umpteenth time in a game, after reducing the same person to 1% health before he shot me with his shotgun, and after dying for the millionth time in a tank by one missile of heli round, I decided to respectfully call it quits. Then I went and quietly played Sims 3. Where my character is successful and a hit with the ladies. He's nearly a chess grand champion, so go suck it.

DONE.

51 Comments

Thoughts on the BF3 multiplayer update

Phew! Long time no write! Well, I come to you as a newly ranked Colonel in Battlefield 3, bearing gifts of insight and reviewershipiness on the new multiplayer update! Thought I'd cast my hand at giving you my thoughts on what is probably the most game-changing update that the title will be subjected to. For a full list of the changes, see here: http://blogs.battlefield.com/2012/04/xbox-360-patch-going-live-april-3rd/

Jeeps have horns. Gee this update is off to a good start. Here I was all ready to hate the new gameplay, and you throw a curveball like giving jeeps horns at me! Damn. Yes. Now speeding past enemies, guns blazing, horns blasting and wheels burning, is possible yet again, after being mysteriously absent from Bad Company 2. With the heat tanks bring though, your jeep musical number is bound to be cut short in a flaming smear of glory on the landscape.

Onto some major (although some would argue less important) changes; MAVs have been "fixed". And by fixed I don't mean broken-fixed. I mean fixed like a horny dog who just humped grandma. No more MAV riding and no more excessive roadkills with the dang thing. Which is a shame because I was just beginning to get the hang of squishing snipers with it.

And of course, major tweaking has been done to a fair amount of the guns. Stuff like reduced/increased recoil, accuracy, damage, etc. My favourite assault weapon, the AEK, has been nerfed a tiny bit, but if it means I am not being killed every second by a FAMAS lurking, somewhere, somehow, sometime, then I am happy. Luckily, IMHO the best PDW only got better (!) - they reduced the PP-19's recoil, and also increased damage. Now I was already pumping out a hefty amount of kills with it already, and now they're telling me it wasn't good enough and they wanna throw more good stuff at it? Fine with me lol!

Those are the only real guns I use, so I'm not too concerned with the rest of the nerfing. I heard from some players that the carbines were now rubbish, but I wouldn't know. I like meh classes, I stay with meh classes. One curious occurrence though is that my favourite M40A5 doesn't appear on the list of weapons altered, but the horizontal recoil seems faar worse now. I am very disappointed in this - it was basically the BF3 equivalent of the GOL in BC2. Super accurate, not too powerful, but a certain headshot. Now it feels spoiled. Like a hot wife who has cheated on you. No matter how much you try to make things like it was, with gifts and platitudes, it just isn't the same. Her body feels cold and you can't find her spots like you use to. She probably starts faking orgasms. Then you're getting a divorce and your two children tell you they want to "live with mumma" and you're left alone, afraid and end up folding a SVD for comfort (and $50 per hour). *Wipes tears from cheek*

Some other cool fixes I think will just make things better are of course the jet/heli/IR flare interplay. It just makes things a bit easier on ground troops, but also rewards pilots for smart flying. And giving all users IR flares automatically was a nice touch by DICE to help out those newbies who still can't fly to save themselves (myself included when it comes to attack helicopters). Dealing extra damage to the sides and back of tanks is also very appealing to me. It makes zoom optics a must have, allowing you to effectively thread the needle of combat and deliver a shell straight to the parts that hurt most. My personal request which I campaigned for was that the stationary guns on the ship in Kharg Island should be counted as stationary guns (pretty obvious I know!) as I've gone 16 and 0 several times on that thing without any reward. However, they went a biit too far in reducing their effects on ground troops, making them now near useless to me. Boo.

This brings me nicely into things I think they completely screwed up with the update. Gadgets like the SOFLAM have been improved, but with one hand they giveth, and the other they taketh away. Mortars. Absolutely useless on some stages now. It's hard enough to kill anyone with a mortar if your team isn't onto spotting enemies like bosses, so why on earth would you basically make them vulnerable pieces of sh*t? Take Seine's Crossing for example. I used to sit just in the spawn and rain terror down on the mortals below. Now I'm nearly brushing the balls of the opposition with my mortar stand. Which I could abide, if, and a HUGE IF it is, if the mortar had a shorter minimum range! On Seine you can barely get close to the MCOM stations to lay smoke down as the mortar over-shoots it and you cannot aim closer. Only further into the round do you get any use for the mortar and by then it will probably dawn on most people it is easier to just run up and do work with a gun.

Reducing the splash damage of RPGs and grenade launchers is also a bit lame. I can barely get a hit marker with a 40mm now, and RPGs to the face merely bounce off some attackers. Adding decreased aimed accuracy to foregrips is strange, as is having claymores disappear 5 seconds after your death. And really, they've both fixed some of the ribbons and destroyed others. The MCOM defender ribbon limit has been dropped (thank God!), as has the number of assists for the Suppression ribbon, but on the other hand they raise the limit for the Avenger ribbon (I have not gotten a single Avenger ribbon since the update, except for one which I got whilst in a 1000 ticket, hour-long game!) and the Anti-explosives ribbon, which you don't even get a medal for anyway?

In addition to those, the changes to the repair gun (slowing it down to an agonizing repair speed) drastically reduce any chance of getting the Repair ribbon. I used to be able to repair about 1.5 tanks and get a ribbon. Now it takes me twice as long, exposed next to a tank. I'd have to be going for repairs and little else (along with copious amounts of luck) to get a Repairman ribbon, let alone more, in a game. I'm in two minds, as I know the repair gun was destroying helicopter gameplay, but if you had a team of even two Stinger-wielding engineers, or even one and another with a laser-guider, helicopters were easy to take down, so I don't think nerfing the repair gun THAT much was necessary. Wouldn't have making air vehicles unrepairable from the air make more sense?

So there you have it, a bit of whining, but to tell the truth, I actually like the game far better after the update. I can't pick WHY exactly, but I'm doing far better than I was before the update. I'm going positive every game, getting lots of kills and points, and generally having a more enjoyable experience (you know I'm happy if you don't hear me cussing out the screen every few seconds!). Maybe it's a combination of the guns I use getting a small boost, or that the guns others use being nerfed. Whatever the cause, I think DICE has really done a good job fixing what needed to without totally destroying the game. Or even destroying it all.

The best addition outside of gameplay is of course the rentable servers. Not only did it allow me to get the last of those pesky multiplayer achievements I was never going to get in this lifetime (shameful I know, so sue me...) but it also allows people to play the way they want to. Which is pretty much why you'll see a bunch of servers saying "24/7 Metro 1000 tickets..." or the like. And that's why you'll also see me on those servers, because I like long epic games. And on servers which aren't zero bar all the time.

So give me your thoughts below about what you think the BF3 multiplayer update got right, and what it got wrong. Like I said, I think it was a pretty positive outcome for the game, and can't wait to see how the next big "update" - the Close Quarters DLC - affects the game. Probably by bringing more CoD drones to play, but we live in hope...

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Dark Souls Giveth, and Dark Souls Taketh Away...

Probably had my "worst" experience tonight with Dark Souls, after a great experience! It really showed me the highs and lows that the game delivers with brute force, something I'd not fully experienced yet after being generally pretty lucky with the game (or possibly I'm just a really good gamer haha...?)

For a couple of months I'd been stuck in a precarious position. If I ventured one way I found ghosts which sliced me to bits. Another and I found an endless maze of catacombs and respawning skeletons. And of course Sif, the great wolf in the Darkroot Hollow. However, I'd not put the game in my disc tray since the giant update. So I tried my hand at it and the new and improved summoning system. Almost immediately I was summoned and helped a guy kill the Hydra in the basin, and the butterfly thing in the forest. With my newly found humanity, I was able to finally summon someone to help me defeat that pesky wolf.

I made it to the bridge. Heart pounding I saw a summoning sign. Tentatively I began the process. I was in luck. The guy had super red robes on with long scythes and was pretty much impervious to magic. He bowed and I knew this, THIS would finally be the time I slew Sif. We crossed the fog door. And....

The last thing I saw was a giant wolf with a sword bounding towards me and kill me in one swoop. Sigh.

After a tiny bit of raging (another pen didn't make it to write another day after colliding with my office wall) I began the process again. This time I was summoned so I could collect humanity. It took two attempts but we finally killed the wolf. He offered to help me out too. We began so well. After about what seemed like 10 minutes of solid chopping and dodging, we took the beast down to a sliver of health. Then of course, I let my guard down for a second. And that was all that was needed for my head to be disconnected from my shoulders. SIGH.

The guy was a good sport though and we did it again. This time everything seemed to slot into place. Everywhere the wolf went he seemed to land on a sword. Before long he was dead. And in the immortal words of Sir Edmund Hillary, "We knocked the b*st*rd off!!" I was happy.

But after the great triumph, was a series of disasters leaving me finally feeling the sting Dark Souls has delivered to so many gamers...

On my way back I by chance looked up in a destroyed tower in the forest. Sitting on the window was a creepy cat! I instantly knew it was a new covenant. I took it. The cat spoke in riddles, but I figured it was protect the forest and if you wear the ring you get summoned to kill some other people. And something about not doing something which I skimmed. Mistakenly.........

I put the ring on and was transported to some poor lad who I attacked in the forest. He was dodging and weaving. Eventually I was joined by another and we cut him down. Great rewards too! I got back to my world and went to go visit the cat again. Then it happened. And by it, I mean accidentally attacking a forest worker (if you can call them that?). The action which made me want to repeat all my 40 hours of Dark Souls over. Covenant broken apparently. No comeback. Nothing. F*ck. So obviously I'd outstayed my welcome (with all the creatures swamping me it was kinda obvious...) I returned to Undeadsberg on the trail of "The Depths" which a friend had told me about. I never even knew they existed!

Still rueing my failed Covenant, I finally found the door to the Depths. I went through the areas without much hassle, except for getting lost many times and falling down numerous pipes (and those gross sludge things!). So I found the boss area, still human, summoned two of the knight spirits to fight for me, then proceeded on. "Aw, it's a cute lil drago-HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!! WTF IS THA- IS THAT ITS MOUTH?????"

The cute dragon's mouth kept on coming out from the pit. Like literally the mouth was the length of its body. I was versing a mouth. With legs. So I fought it. And lost. About 20K souls and 2 humanity. The mouth jumped up and down on my head. No problem I thought, I'll come back, avoid the jump and kill it.

Halfway through making it back, I was invaded. I ran away, but thought "Geez, this is it!". But the guy was useless. I smacked him over like I was pimpin'. First time I'd been invaded, so it was interesting, but at the same time scary. Made it back to the mouth. Recovered my souls, now at about 30K and 3 humanity. Dodged the jump. Attacking attacking... Dead. The mouth apparently had a tail. Which hurt. I was down to a tiny bit of health, and then out of nowhere some magic bolt hit me and killed me. FUUUUUUUUU!

So now it was the usual gamble you get with Dark Souls. You keep adding 10K to the lost total each time you try to kill the boss, and it's a battle of wills between the game and your tolerance to just letting things go. I wasn't prepared to.

So I made it all the way to the last corridor before the mouth thing. And then the unthinkable happened. F*cking googly-eyed motherf*cking frog things zap me like they have before, except THIS time I die instantly and get cursed!!! FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!! 35K souls, about 6 humanities, and all that time and anticipation and I get killed by something the French eat. The French. Who are notorious for surrendering. I got killed by that. THAT. THAAAAAAAT!!!!

Now at a quarter health I then had to hand over 6K souls to some chick for some stupid stone which got rid of the curse. Then I gave up on the Depths.

So I lost my cat. Lost my souls. Got killed by a mouth and a frog. Worst. Dark Souls. Session. EVER.

But the funny thing is, I still love the game. And although it was the worst experience I've had, I enjoyed it. These Japanese people must be pretty damn sick to create a game which screws you over completely and have you somehow enjoy the experience. For some reason escaping the sewers was a sort of triumph for me that instilled a sense of pride. And that my pain was somehow being felt by gamers everywhere in the world of Dark Souls.

If ever there was a time: You win some, you lose some. Then you get killed by a frog. Deal with it...

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