Worth Reading: Giantbomb Lose Weight Stupid

Lose weight stupid.

That’s what I used to tell myself fairly often, “lose weight stupid." I’d look at my fat stomach and tell the tire around my waist that I would soon destroy it with eating properly and exercise, but it was always tomorrow, I’ll start tomorrow. Waiting until tomorrow would inevitability lead to many more months of inaction. And being a person who has begun a diet multiple times I can honestly say that the start is always the most difficult part. But, you need only look down to your shoes for inspiration because Nike isn’t kidding around; you have to quit being a dumb asshole and Just Do It! On that note, I’m waiting for Nike to change their slogan to “quit being a dumb asshole… just do it”, but I pitched them the idea and I later came to the conclusion on my own that it’s too advanced for them, too revolutionary of an advertising slogan.

Well, sometimes it’s difficult to ‘just do it’; sometimes you’ll make any excuse in the book to put off a diet. “Oh, but I don’t go grocery shopping until next week, I’ll do it then. I have plenty of time, that wedding isn’t for six months.” Stop the excuses and start your diet now.

The word diet usually has distressing connotations when people think about it, mostly due to the fact that no one really wants to be on a diet. The word ‘diet’ by itself is suggestive that your daily meals will be structured to lose weight or eat more healthily for an extended and given period of time. A diet suggest eat right for six months, lose weight and then you’re done. Well, that’s right, but you’re not about to go on a diet.

Losing weight and feeling better extends beyond simply eating foods that are more balanced and better for you, it extends into your daily routine itself. So, we want to get away from the word ‘diet’ and use a word that is interchangeable but also implies a healthier lifestyle altogether – that word is habit. To lose weight and feel better you must establish more than simply a better diet; you must also establish better eating habits. The time of day and how often you eat is nearly as important as what to eat. You need to keep your metabolism active throughout the day by never letting your metabolic rate slowdown and definitely don’t let it stop. Never go more than four hours without a meal. Hopefully telling you what I did will help you maintain a healthier body and lifestyle.

I’m not some health expert, nor do I have an education in fitness or nutrition, I’m not trying to sell anything or ask for any type of compensation. Hopefully this will imply that I’m at least not trying to take advantage of anyone with some stupid fake pills that miraculously make you lose weight or some crazy seaweed wrap drink to help you shed pounds. I’m simply a guy who did something to lose weight and it worked, easy as that. I’m just trying to help out my fellow people by letting them help themselves. I always wanted to figure something out but I just felt like I didn’t know how to start. I always felt like if someone would just show me how, then I could do it. So here it is for those of you who have ever felt the same way, this is how I lost 70 lbs (31.75 kg).

Daily Routine

Wake up and make something for breakfast that is very fast to prepare and make it immediately after you wake. You’ll want this meal to be high in carbohydrates because you’re going to need the energy. This is your first meal of the day and this early meal will provide you with the most energy. Also, the early-day carbs will be given the balk of your waking hours to be burned throughout the rest of the day. Breakfast should be a high-carb, low-fat, whole grain meal. After this, stay away from carbs (NO carb diets are bad, Low carb is a different story).

Oh yeah, I hope you like water, that’s all you’re going to be drinking.

Breakfast

This should be a high-carb, low-fat, whole grain meal.

Oatmeal

1 cup of plain oatmeal in a bowl, pour milk until flush with oats, heat in microwave on high for 2-3 ½ minutes (microwave strength will vary the length of time needed, watch closely the first few times to make sure the oats don’t flow over and so you can gauge how long your micro needs). Stir after removing from microwave. I like to slice a banana into mine and put about a teaspoon of honey over the top.

Cereal

Pour milk in bowl with cereal, shovel into face, and then punch self in face if you don’t know how to do this. A zero sugar, whole grain, no preservative and glucose-free cereal is fine with low-fat milk if microwave oatmeal is too time-consuming one particular morning.

Now that you’ve eaten immediately after waking you should note the time – you’re going to want to eat approximately every four hours. And I don’t mean starting to cook at four hour intervals; I mean you should be sitting down to begin eating by the fourth hour. So, say you’re up at 8 am; you should be done eating by 8:15. Then you’re at work by 9 and your lunch break should be at 12 pm, and hopefully you’re able to be eating dinner by 4-5 pm. You must form this healthy habit of eating on a regular schedule and it needs to be spaced similarly EVERY DAY. Eating on timed intervals, on a daily basis is very healthy… trust me, I’m not a doctor. Seriously though, it’s true.

Lunch & Dinner

Lunch and dinner are basically the same concept meal-wise, a meat portion with vegetables. So, I’m going to simply rattle-off a bunch of recipes for the meat portion of the meal below. Know that every one of these meat portions should be sided with a large (or so desired) helping of vegetables. When I first started I might make an entire can of green beans or half a bag of frozen vegetables with each meat portion. On that note, canned foods are by default higher in sodium which should be avoided, obviously canned vegies are not bad for you, but frozen or fresh is preferable. Frozen or fresh vegies is your best bet, learn to stay away from canned preservatives and their very high sodium content and you’ll be good on vegies. Your most healthy choice is to steam broccoli, but you can have any of the following: green beans, sweet potato, cauliflower, and or carrots. I usually boil the vegies, but you lose nutrients by boiling.

To cook vegies you can usually follow the instructions right on the bag. More often than not though, you can simply place frozen vegies into boiling water for 5-6 minutes, drain water and they’re done. Put them in for less time and they’re too tough and if they’re in for any longer than 5-6 minutes they’ll be a soggy mess. Now, moving along to the meat portion, I’ll go from easiest to prepare to most difficult.

Lunch and Dinner should be a high-protein, low-fat meal.

Seasoned Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Seasoning Salt

Garlic Powder

Basil or Parsley Flakes

Place frozen chicken breast in (toaster) oven on a cookie sheet and set to broil for 9 minutes. After 9 minutes, flip chicken breast and apply light coat of seasoning salt (Lawery’s), garlic powder, and sprinkle with your choice of basil or parsley flakes. After spicing, place spiced-side up and put the chicken in for an additional 9 minutes. After the 9 minutes, flip once more and season the plain side the exact same way and place back in the oven for an additional 4-7 minutes. I usually do it for 5, but every chicken breast is different. Cut the chicken at its thickest point and make sure that the chicken is white all of the way through. If fully cooked, enjoy.

Honey Mustard Pork Chops

4 Fresh Boneless Pork Loins

½ cup of Dijon Mustard

½ cup of Honey

1 teaspoon of Black Pepper

2 Zip-Lock bags

First prepare the pork chop marinate by filling a cup half-way with Dijon mustard and the other half with honey. Add the teaspoon of black pepper and stir the contents until there is a unified consistency. Now that you can’t tell where the honey starts and the mustard begins you’ll want to pour half of the mixture in each of the two zip-lock bags. Before placing the pork chops in the bags rinse the chops under cool water on each side for a few seconds. Massage the meat until you feel the light layer of greasy fat wash away. Place two chops in each bag and seal them tight as to let all of the air out. Mark the hour of the day and place them in the fridge, you’ll be eating them sometime 24 hours from then.

To cook the honey mustard chops place them in the oven on a cookie sheet and set to broil. Cook on each side for 7-10 minutes depending on thickness.

Dressed-up Seared Salmon

2-4 Salmon Fillets

Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Lemon Juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lastly, you’ll need one of those little Tupperware containers that lunchmeats are packaged in occasionally (or something that is generally the same size Tupperware) for each pair of salmon fillets. Click to see the general size of the container I'm talking about.

Before you start this, make sure your salmon is fully thawed, 3-4 hours at room temperature should be enough.

The salmon is the most challenging meat recipe of the bunch, but it is the best-tasting one. First, you prepare the marinate by covering the interior-bottom of the Tupperware container with a mixture of ¾ Light Balsamic Vinaigrette and ¼ lemon juice. Stir the mixture and then place the fillets side-by-side in the marinate. Pack the fillets in tight so you don’t let the top layer of marinate (top layer is the next step) seep under. Next, pour a layer of Light Balsamic Vinaigrette and lemon juice to the same mixture proportions on top of the salmon fillets. In other words, put dressing and juice in the bottom, place fish on top, then cover fish with more dressing and lemon juice. Let the salmon soak for 30 minutes. Use this time to go soak your hand and face in ice if you didn’t know how to make cereal.

Five minutes before your 30 minute marinate time is up, prepare the pan and olive oil for searing the salmon. Also, turn your oven on to bake at 325 degrees. Place the pan on a stovetop at medium heat for several minutes and pour a zigzag of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (roughly 2 tablespoons) across the pan, let heat for several minutes. You’ll know the pan and oil is hot enough when the oil wants to form together and not stay in the zigzag pattern.

Before placing the salmon fillets on the pan, dust (extra light) each of the fillets with a light coat of seasoning salt and garlic powder and then sprinkle an even coat of basil. Use long tongs to place the fillets in the pan, on the oil, seasoned-side down. Sear for 2 minutes. Use this time to season the side that is up in the same way you seasoned the side that is currently being seared. After 2 minutes, flip to the newly seasoned side for an additional 1-2 minutes.

After searing for 2 minutes on each side, take the fillets from the pan and place them on a cookie sheet. Immediately after, place the cookie sheet with fillets in the oven that you have had heated to 325 degrees. Bake at 325 for 6-10 minutes (usually around 8 minutes for 2-4 fillets). The bake time differs depending on how many fillets, oven size, fillet thickness, and spacing of the fish. Keep a close eye on them after 5 minutes; this is the most important part of making certain they turn out delicious. As soon as the centers of the thickest portions are no longer red-pink, and have turned to a very light-pink, pull the fillets out. Next, enjoy your mouthwatering, melts-in-your-mouth morsels of Dressed Seared Salmon.

AFTER DINNER

You’re going to get very hungry by the time you go to sleep; this is part of what makes it so easy in wanting to eat immediately when you wake in the morning. You must fight the urge to eat after dinner; the very beginning will be the most difficult because your appetite will be as big as your stomach. You must give your stomach time to shrink. Not eating at night will get easier with a few weeks of this practice. You can have an apple or a banana 2-3 hours after dinner, but you absolutely must stop eating four hours before you lay down to fall asleep. In time, learn to cut this ‘snack’ meal out of your schedule as well.

If you form these healthy eating habits you will lose weight. It’s as simple as that, that and a bit of exercise, but that's a conversation for a different time. That that that that.

9 Comments

Mass Effect 3's Ending and Why We Love It!

Before anyone goes any further I'd like to state that there will obviously be spoilers.

Also, this is not some cheap attempt to plug my youtube channel that has like 6 whole subscribers. Okay? So, please GB moderators just settle down on the whole locking threads thing. A video aided representation was the best way to help me with the message in this theory about ME3's ending. So, I made this specifically for the site. It is no different than typing the thing out, accept it's not typed. Please don't lock it.

Alright, this is what I thought of Mass Effect 3's ending and the overall conclusion to the series in its entirety. I'm sure it will be difficult for people to not just simply say this is BS right from the get-go, but please actually try to watch the entire thing. I think there are some good and relevant points in there and it is at least worth a watch. Maybe it will put some perspective on the game as a whole and a new spin on the very end for you. That doesn't mean you'll have some epiphany and start to love the ending, but at least maybe it will shine some light on a possible conclusion.

Also, if you didn't like the way things like "Inception", "Primer", "Brick", or things of that nature end, and you didn't like those narratives...you're most likely never going to like ME3's ending no matter what anyone says. I for one happen to love ambiguity and really enjoy crafting my own interpretation from a handful to choose from. So, right from the get-go I say that my opinion of the subject is a bit bias. All I ask is that you try to not have a bias mind of hate toward Mass Effect when watching. I've heard a lot of the reasons why people hate the ending so much and I think many of those arguments are justifiable. So, even with a bias I'm able to listen to a different perspective. I hope you can do the same.

Let me know your thoughts and thanks for watching.

96 Comments

What's Your Dream Video Game?

With the recent release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and its particularly decent success for a new IP I began to think about what other project could be rather fantastic if a crack team of proven "imaginative creators" were band together to make another dream game much in the same fashion as Ken Rolston, Todd McFarlane, and R.A. Salvatore were put together for Kingdoms of Amalur. Well here it is, my dream team for my fantasy gaming franchise.

Developer - Rockstar and BioWare

Rockstar (Red Dead Redemption) and BioWare (Mass Effect) would bring an excellent level of competence to the intellectual property and between the two of them the game would have the technical finesse to pull off a game that felt open-world while giving it the personal connection of a small group of comrades adventuring through a universe on a boat that is surrounded by life-ending subzero vacuums.

Lead Art Director - Cain Kuga

I am not the biggest fan of an anime stylization but Cain Kuga has already proven himself with an ability to artistically blend turn of the 22nd century futuristic spacefaring aesthetics with the more grounded in contemporary familiarities through Cowboy Bebop's bounty hunter cast. Oh yeah, in the mean time he created one of the best animated stories and visuals to come out of...well, anywhere and wrote and illustrated the graphic novel for Cowboy Bebop after the 26 episode season.

Lead Writer - Joss Whedon

Firefly was, quite frankly, one of my favorite television shows to ever grace any network. It was sadly very short-lived and was canceled only after a 14 episode run. It had a universe that was rich with a fascinating culture and history and the narrative exuded intrigue with a brilliant mix of high-tech and rudimentary humane survival plot situations which were sprawled across that interesting universe and its planets.

The Game - Firefly

I'd love to see a game based off of Firefly's mythology with this team of creators who have had their hand in this type of sub-sub-genre before in some form or another. Quite simply a futuristic sci-fi western would be a genre nearly untouched by the gaming industry and with the developers of Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption behind the development you know that at the very least it would have a fantastic production value and be able to mix the best gaming has offered on both a science fiction and a wild west video game front. Cain Kuga's art styling brought forth some subtle excellence to the 'Cowboy Bebop' series and gave the show a feel that was aesthetically authentic. Finally, Joss Whedon's vision of an allied galactic space western which supported a cast of characters that were amazingly realized with a varying degree of noble, gray, and questionable ethics would make for an immersive gaming narrative that would feel fresh yet familiar to the gaming world. Taking these groups of proven sci-fi western artisans and meshing them up with one another would make for one hell of a gaming experience.

I'm fairly positive that these groups of people will not come together to create what could be an amazing new gaming franchise. But hey, I can dream can't I?

What's Your Dream Team and Game?

12 Comments

Game Scores: How Do You Prefer Them Evaluated?

I've been writing game reviews for a little over a year now and I have several video reviews under my belt now as well. What I am wondering has to do with what style in which the community of gamers here, at Giantbomb, prefer their games evaluated. I am sure that there are pros and cons to the many different ways people go about critiquing video games and displaying their evaluation, but I am interested in what gamers think. This doesn't mean I am going to change the way I evaluate games or display the score, all though I have been thinking about it, but I would just like to hear from alternate perspectives on the subject and try to understand why people like or dislike a specific evaluation style.

Which style do you prefer?

Scaled Scores

Scaled Scores are used in a multitude of different ways and different places, but what this is referring to is to evaluations like; 1-10, 1-100, percent, and so on.

Objective

Objective simply cuts to the chase and tries to explain the value of a game whether it be to own, spend time with, avoid, or situational to each individual's preference.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons quickly list several of the game's greatest and most forefront positive (if any) and negative (if any) features that a game has.

Multiple Evaluations In One

Or perhaps you like when a game is evaluated using several of these different aspects.

No Final Verdict

Lastly, possibly you don't like any of these methods and you believe that the written text and audio from a review should speak for itself.

Well?

Which gaming evaluation do you personally prefer?

1. Scaled Scores

2. Objective

3. Pros and Cons

4. Mixture of 1-3

5. No Scoring

39 Comments

Obsidian Inspired by Double FIne and Kickstart.

Obsidian wondering what players would have an interest in them making next.

Chris Avellone from Obsidian wrote this originally on the Obsidian forums.

"All of Double Fine’s success from Kickstarter has been inspiring.

I GUESS PEOPLE LOVE THOSE CLASSIC ADVENTURE GAMES AFTER ALL.*

The idea of player-supported funding is... well, it’s proof certain genres aren’t dead and sequels may have more legs than they seem. And the idea of not having to argue that with a publisher is appealing.

Out of curiosity, if Obsidian did Kickstart a project, what would you want to see funded? (You can respond in comments or to @ChrisAvellone on Twitter, whichever you prefer.)

* I only use all caps for sarcasm and shouting. And for the Think Tank in Old World Blues for comedy value."

Here's personally what I'd like to see

Planescape: Astral

The Astral Plane is the plane where gods go when they die or are forgotten (or, most likely, both).

This could be a fantastic premise for an amazing group-based Role-Playing Game. You could play as a dwindling deity, soon to be forgotten. With your future about to be undone the protagonist (or anti, depending on player choice) could set forth with the goal of becoming a newfound god. You would need to start off small with a task that an extraordinary human might be able to accomplish with a goal of making people not realize you were a god but allowing people to praise you along the way. Possibly you could begin by saving a town from a Mindflayer (whatever) and they would build a statue of you to commemorate the heroic deed; not knowing that it was actually paying homage to a deity. You could gain followers and devotees that you could, as you became more powerful, later bestow upon them their strengths to individualize your party and form a powerful group. Your journey to divinity could start as that simple statue in a town square and a few followers and then it could evolve into worshipers, sacrifices (if you’re evil), overseeing the construction of monuments larger than the pyramids of Giza paying tribute to you, and even usurping or allying with other aspiring gods.

You would shape your omnipotence based on decisions and those choices would manifest in the type of play style and “class” build you would become. For example, if you had a silver tongue you could be a god of truces and resolve outcomes peacefully or if you were a more nefarious type you could use your word of mouth to manipulate others to have situations unfold in such a way that parties would pit against one another to do your killing for you. Or perhaps you want to be wrathful for a visceral warrior stylization or be the god of the night to blend into shadows for stealthy approaches. Maybe your deity would be so inclined to begin paying their own tribute to the Inner Planes which represents Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and positive and negative energies to give your deity a feeling like that of a Mage.

Since you are starting off essentially as a forgotten deity you would begin your journey as basically a human-like entity. This could be a fantastic way to feel the progression of your character as they grew stronger and found new worshipers to grow your ever-evolving powers. This would actually make sense when early-on you are simply slitting throats with a weak dagger, but then latter are able to turn into mist, force push, or make something implode with a simple snap of the fingers.

As far as gameplay goes I would like it to be along the lines of KotoR 2, NWN2, or something with TACTICAL turn-based RPG with a group that I am able to customize and is extremely flexible. I wrote a large blog on how to help DA3 with constructive criticism, not just criticism, and I think that a lot of my ideas to make it a better tactical turn-based group RPG were some really good ideas and some of them have never been seen before in the sub-genre.

Anyone else like this at all? Planescape universe but not a continuation of “the nameless one’s” tale. I know I would pitch-up my 15$ toward kickstarting it if Obsidian was behind it.

What do you think? What should Obsidian make next?

97 Comments

Skyrim could learn quite a bit from Dead Island.

Quite a bit might be an overstatement. Well, at least Skyrim could learn a lot from one aspect of Dead Island which is its melee combat. Although Elder Scrolls tries to cover many more gameplay aspects like; stealth, bow'n arrow, melee, magic, and so on, I can understand then why a game like Dead Island was able to do such a better job with its melee seeing as how it basically only focused on a single area. But, ultimately I would like to see Elder Scrolls in the future take some additional tactical approaches to its hand-to-hand combat in later installments. I thought a more tactical and RPG-esque game mechanic may have been foreshadowed by Bethesda's Fallout games because of how you can target limbs, which is also another feature of why I though Dead Island's melee was vastly superior to Elder Scrolls'.

In Dead Island you can target not only a limb but also a specific section of a limb and then chop it off. Some Zombies (thugs) have devastating melee attacks when they flail their arms around and will send you soaring through the air if you're not careful. The best tactic for dealing with a Thug zombie is to first remove both arms so you can finally get within weapon's reach of their neck and finish the job. Besides the tactical applications of limb-removal I also found the analog setting to be extremely innovative when it comes to melee combat in a first-person game. Lastly, in the Elder Scrolls franchise melee definitely does not feel weighted and instead tends to feel (mostly) like you're swinging through air and when you strike someone in melee combat usually only a stream of blood will jet-off in the direction according to the way your arm was swinging at your foe. Dead Island's melee nearly never feels like that. Every swing hits with the right "umph" and every clank feels as though it is connecting with just the right impact to spin or topple your enemy.

Jump to 5:18 in my review to see an example of some of the contact sensitivity and weighted combat feel of Dead Island.

It's just too bad that so much more of Dead Island's aspects were completely shallow when compared to it's melee combat.

What do you think? Would you like to see contact information like this in future Elder Scrolls installments? Possibly enemy types that require tactical dismemberment to defeat? I know I would.

34 Comments

Bastion Video and Writen Review: Developing Excellence

Developing Excellence

How did such a small development team pull of such an amazing game? Not only is it extremely polished, it is also really fun.

If anything, Bastion proves that you don't need GTA's 100 million dollar budget or even need to stuff names like R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlene, and Ken Rolston behind a title to make an outstanding RPG experience. Apparently all you need is a game that is fun to play. It might also help out if all of the elements of the developing process seem to mesh in such a way that make it feel like they're brilliantly integrated into one another.

I was really caught off guard by Bastion. I picked it up on Steams holiday sale for the thieving price of 5$ and I as of yet have to be more satisfied with a downloadable purchase. I seriously just think that video games as a medium may never be passed in bang for your buck when it comes to money spent to hours of entertained ratio. So Bastion only took me around nine hours to beat, who cares. That is only something like fifty cents per hour of engrossing entertainment. Bastion seems to transcend simple entertainment though and reaches the next level of what a video game tries to deliver. You can feel a deeper meaning in the shattered world around you and the way it was made sound by level design and how it interacts with you as you progress onward. Also, the way the music was worked into narrative was done quite well. I really thought it was a great aspect when in "Red Dead Redemption" the developers made the fantastic decision to have that original song while crossing from America to Mexico, but Bastion took the music an even more organic state within the game itself by mixing it directly into the story and lore of the game.

Anyway, check out my review. I cover the game much better. If you see the game for sale on XBL or Steam you shouldn't hesitate to pick it up if you're interested in it at all from the footage you've seen.

BASTION - Video Review

Bastion is exclusively a downloadable game which was first released as an Xbox Arcade title and then made the transition to the PC a short time later. Bastion’s style is second to none through its beauty and amazing sound track. Bastion can also be seen grabbing inspirations from old classics like “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” and other games of the middle to late 90’s era. Fantastic gameplay and a deeper (yet extremely simply) RPG experience than Zelda has ever had come together in such a harmonistic way that I can only see a bright future for this brand-new amazing Intellectual Property.

The simple score breakdown of “Bastion” is like so…

Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 10/10

Fun Factor – 9/10

Story – 7/10

Controls- 9/10

User Interfacing – 10/10

Learning Curve – So simple that you can intuitively pick-up and play with complete ease

Sound – 10/10

Value – 7/10

Total – 8.8 / 10

PRESENTATION

Before you ever take a step, before the game fades from black, before anything – you’ll hear the narration. Although Bastion is an RPG it doesn’t use traditional methods of conveying the game world’s persona through person-to-person conversations or through tomes found lying around. Nearly every tidbit of information you’ll learn – from the unique aspects of a specific animal’s behaviors to the sorrowful past of the main protagonist – is spoken to you from the disembodied voice commenting on nearly every action and reaction you’ll have on your surroundings. The somber spoken voice of the narrator is calming and will help lead you along your journey.

In this journey you take control of the silent protagonist dubbed “The Kid” by Rucks the narrator. You’ll soon learn that your loved homeland has undergone devastation through the apocalyptic event known only as “the calamity”. The world itself seems to have lost the fabric of space that holds it together and sections of the planet are drifting aimlessly away from one another. Most games involve the player trying to prevent a world-destroying event, but Bastion instead begins its’ tale after the planet is literally crumbling into fragments. As The Kid you’ll search for “cores” and harness these cores’ power to attempt putting the pieces of your shattered existence back together.

By a stroke of luck or preparation The Kid is able to find the Bastion. The Bastion is a rendezvous point and landmass seemingly immune to the calamity’s anti-matter effects. The Kid wears a piece of the Bastion strapped to his back. This story element is what connects the dots between the beautiful level-design and why the world acts the way it does in response to the Kid. Because the Bastion fragment is on Kid’s back he is able to reconstruct the world at his feet as you venture in directions that would otherwise lead to nothingness. The way the beautifully hand painted world comes together is mesmerizing and immerses you in a water colored fantasy realm. Every movement in each direction literally gets you one step closer to making the world whole once again as it forms under your feet with the power of Bastion.

The overall presentation of Bastion is simply stunning. Everything from the way each artistic element is incorporated into the next makes the game feel as though it is seamless and came from a single person’s mind. The intimate connection of the narration and the way the music was blended with the story feels organic and harmonizes with the vibrant colored tones of the world surrounding you. All of the artistic avenues of Bastion come together to make the different facets of the audio and visual experience of Bastion a delight throughout the game’s entirety and a unique one at that.

GAMEPLAY

The Kid’s main on-screen meters of import are his health bar, ammo capacity (if you’re toting a weapon with rounds), and the amount of flasks you have for restoring health and executing special abilities. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your number of potions to restore your total health. To regain maximum HP you can either hit your flask button to take a swig or walk over a potion when you’re potion carrying capacity is maxed-out. If your potions are at max and you walk over one of the many potions enemies will drop when they’re killed you can recover from some battle wounds.

The enemies of the Bastion don’t only drop potions for your health. Enemies also drop flasks to give you more pulls off your special ability talent and also crystals. Crystals are like the currency of Bastion. The crystals are small core fragments that can be used to help rebuild your safe haven, the Bastion, and crystals are also used to up-grade many different aspects of The Kid’s arsenal and augmentations.

The augmentations the kid can undergo are when you visit your distillery to partake in some “spirits”. Drinking these distilled beverages has different beneficial effects like; increasing your health potion carrying capacity, increasing the rate of critical strikes by a large amount when your health is below 33%, or even saving you from the brink of death when an attack would have otherwise killed you. You’ll open an additional pocket to carry more distilled spirits with you each level. Besides a small health increase the additional space to carry more spirits is the only benefit to increasing in level.

Like I said before, the crystal fragments are used to improve the Kid’s arsenal. You’ll have a variety of eleven different weapons to accompany you when you journey out into the hostile crumbling landscapes outside the confines of Bastion. The weapons have a variety of different uses and capabilities. For example, the dual pistols are fast and can eventually ricochet bullets around, the machete is extremely fast and can cause bleeding for damage over time, or the mortar can launch over obstacles to hit a group for massive area of effect damage. Each weapon has its purpose and most of their strengths to weaknesses feel balanced. The Kid can only carry two weapons at any given time when venturing out or after visiting an arsenal out in the fragmented wastes of Bastion. My only gripe with the weapons of Bastion is that only three of the eleven are melee and the other eight are ranged weapons.

Combat in Bastion is a blast. I enjoyed testing each of the eleven different weapons and finding what suited my play style best. There are also a TON of different special abilities to accompany weapons like; the whirlwind for your hammer, projecting a specter of yourself to eviscerate enemies with the machete’s ghost blade, or even general specials that don’t require a specific weapon-type like a shield wall or hucking a grenade. No matter what different special ability, weapons, or spirits you bring along with you to customize your Kid, combat will always have the same core basics. You’ll always have your evasive roll for squandering enemy attacks and your best friend – the shield. The shield plays a very important part to Bastion’s combat because there is simply a lot happening on-screen at any given moment and thankfully your shield can protect you from most assaults. Also, if you tap the block button a second before something is about to strike you then you can reflect a projectile back at the foe or even stagger a melee attacker which will stun them for a moment leaving them vulnerable.

After you get to a fairly high level, have some weapons maxed with enhancements, and are supporting some of the best distilled spirits the game’s encounters and foes can feel like they’re getting a bit too easy. Thank goodness for “God Alters”. By paying homage to these different god tributes from within the temple you’ll be able to make the game more rewarding. The God Alters might do different beneficial effects to the enemies you encounter. Alters are essentially like adding a hard, super hard, and rip your hair out hard mode to the game depending on how many alters you have activated simultaneously and the more you activate then the more experience points and crystals you get per kill. God Alters might do things like make an enemy drop a tiny grenade after each one dies, randomly reflect your attack, take less damage, or even have fast health regeneration. If you’re up for the challenge Bastion is there to answer.

All of these different in-game items like God Alters, weapon enhancements, spirits, and special abilities can be gathered by finding items out in the hostile landmasses or by doing game challenges. Game challenges are very small platform levels where you go to test your prowess with a specific weapon. One challenge might ask of you to protect some statues with your calamity launcher for a given period of time, shot “X” amount of floating spores as the pathway beneath your feet crumbles away, or even flamethrow hundreds of birds while they try to overwhelm you.

All of these different elements of varied enemies, weapons, special abilities, weapon enhancements, God alters, and spirits come together to create a surprisingly deep Action-RPG experience. Bastion’s combat is fantastic and filled with momentum and the RPG aspects of the game are very satisfactory. And, because all of bastion’s aspects are so entertaining with combat, visuals, music, storytelling, and a challenge, you’ll be more than happy to spend an additional six hours to play through the game again when the ‘new game plus’ unlocks after your first playthrough. New game plus allows everything you earned in your previous game to be carried over and further improve The Kid’s arsenal, unlock all of the spirit slots, and find all of the God Shrines…I know I didn’t get 100% on all of those on my first time through Bastion. Bastion was definitely intended to be played through more than once; even the narrator might mention something feels a bit like Deja’ Vu.

TROUBLESOME ISSUES

Although I believe Bastion is the best exclusively downloadable game I may have ever played, it still has some irksome fumbles here and there.

Frustratingly Bastion has an extremely limited game save space. I’m talking VERY limited. You can only save one game per copy. There is absolutely not more than one space for an extra person to play through or even a space for you to play through on a fresh adventure without erasing your only other saved game’s progress.

There are some hiccups with the shield blocking mechanic and auto-targeting with the shield, but it isn’t really worth getting into.

My single biggest gripe with Bastion was its anticlimactic ending. Not only did the game not really support too many encounters that you could really consider “bosses”, but even the last stage was fairly weak. Instead of an intense final stage with overwhelming odds and a magnitude of enemy forces baring down on the Kid you end up getting the slowest and most unchallenging act of the entire game. The final stage is separated into several sections, but the last one is tedium at its finest. The Kid is tasked with carrying a large log-like totem-thing and it makes him walk very slowly. You can’t use the weapons you’ve been enjoying throughout the entire game and instead are forced to use the totem’s ridiculously overpowered attacks. Each attack will kill any foe instantly in one attack and if that wasn’t literally overkill enough you can left-click for an area of effect ground explosion or even hit your special ability button to unleash a firestorm from the heavens. Sounds kind of cool, but every button felt like an “I win” button and I never even came close to feeling like at any point I was in danger or at the end of a game that had previously been getting exponentially harder as I went on. It was sadly a sour bite to end an otherwise extremely delicious meal.

ALL IN ALL

All in all, Bastion is an extremely entertaining and magnificent game in every facet that a video game can entertain. Sight, sound, story, and gameplay are all topnotch and Bastion delivers on the aspects a game claiming to be an action-RPG should deliver on. Bastion puts most of its eggs in the action basket, but it’s got great character customization through augmenting the Kid with “spirits”, the weapon enhancements will make RPG gamers feel at home, and a nice variety in weapons, special abilities, and enemy-types to keep the game feeling fresh throughout its entirety. Although Bastion has these different deep gaming elements, the RPG features and combat are still so simply implemented and easy to understand that anyone could get a handle on it. Bastion feels like it wants to remind everyone of some classic games, but ultimately Bastion separates itself from the games that may have inspired some of its aspects by carving its’ own place amongst the hierarchy of games that will stand the test of time with this superb entry into the gaming industry.

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THE REVIEW YOU HAVEN'T BEEN WAITING FOR: Monster Hunter Tri 3

“Monster Hunter Tri” is an action oriented RPG from developers CAPCOM made exclusively for the Nintendo Wii. The Monster Hunter franchise is supposedly bigger than hop-scotch and heroin in Asia. So, I decided to see what all the hubbub was about. Some pretty unique RPG elements and fun action is weakened by flubs which make Monster Hunter Tri a fairly great triumph coupled with some flaws that could’ve otherwise easily been rectified to make an overall tighter gaming experience. In spite Monster Hunter’s gaming elements that are subpar the game is still quite entertaining. Let’s look at all the characteristics of Monster Hunter Tri that make the game somewhat monotonous yet still fun, involving, and addictive.

The simple score breakdown of “Monster Hunter Tri (3)” is like so…

Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 8.5/10

Fun Factor – 8.5/10

Story – 6/10

Controls- 7/10

User Interfacing – 7/10

Learning Curve – SLOW, unavoidable (offline), and very lengthy, but also very informative

Sound – 10/10

Value - 7/10

Total – 7.7 / 10

Monster Hunter Tri really has that Asian RPG feel. You know what I mean. Things like little creature-mascot-like characters, two-handed weapons that would really require four hands to wield, exacerbated cartoony character emotions, and really dry hokey humor and dialogue are what give the game that all-too familiar Japanese feeling.

I have to hand it to Capcom though because they’ve made a visually stunning game for the Nintendo Wii. You’ve all probably heard this saying before; “for a Wii game” it looks really great. Well that would be directly true to how I feel about Monster Hunter Tri, but it just simply looks great period. The fact that it is on the Wii just makes it all the more impressive.

If only some of the HUD could be toggled on/off.

It is too bad though that the game’s heads-up display is cluttered with too much information and it is unalterable. The health and stamina bars go all the way across the top and when you’re in a party with others their names and status go down the left side of the screen. Also, when you're in an online group chat will show in the bottom left. Thankfully though the chat box will fade after roughly 20 seconds of inactivity. Your inventory is down at the bottom right and the game’s map for the environments feels like it takes up WAY too much room in the top right-hand of the screen. I really only felt as though 1/3 of the screen was not obscured by some sort of HUD. The stuffed-full HUD can take away from the game’s otherwise fantastic visuals and environments.

If the HUD could be toggled then none of this would be obscured.

The environments look fantastic and take you all over the land to find monsters to hunt. You might go to the glacier ridden rivers of the frozen tundra, the sunny peaks of a grassy valley, the feeding grounds of a bone-lair in a pitch black cave, or visit some lava fissures with a scalding atmosphere of a newly forming volcanic island. All of these environments are lively, feel organic, and feel true to life with detail of which you can tell each one was given great care. The attention to detail and sense of sincerity in each landscape’s crafting can be seen through elements like the cascading water streams that fall from above you at the entrance of the flooded jungle map or in the way some underwater segments feel true-to-life with misty effects obscuring your screen and a waterbed filled with lifelike seaweeds, underwater creatures, and decrepit old wood that has fallen into their depths. Every different landscape is simply easy on the eyes and a pleasure to gaze upon. To depart for these different landscapes you will need to first familiarize yourself with the game’s main hub – the fishing village. This village acts as your means of storage, save and sleeping quarters, a meeting place for quest givers, and a way to get supplies via farming, vendors, or through a smith.

At first you may be intrigued by the game’s appealing look, the semi-active fishing village, and its inhabitance, but shortly thereafter you’ll realize that much of the story is bland and the villagers have nothing important to say and A LOT of it. Simply, NPC dialogue is “there” and it’s there too often with seldom importance.

The dialogue often reflects a strange and an inconsistent mentality. For example, the game more often than not gives off vibes that feels juvenile or simply aimed at younger people. From the sound played every time after each resource is gathered that chimes like a Jack-in-the-box to the goofy way your character MUST flex after ingesting a consumable or the cartoonish way they run when a large monster is near. The game frequently feels immature. This is also often displayed with that hokey, dry humor I mentioned through dialogue. An example of this is when you’re talking to one of those mascot-like cat characters and they repeatedly make wordings that are bad puns related to language and cats. One cat character might say things like “my culinary meowgic” or “Purrtake of my dishes” all the while giving off a seemingly childish mentality with very adolescent jokes. Shortly after though, the same cat might say thing like “ze” this and “ze” that or “ze world” and then you think “wait…is the cat supposed to be a French cat”? Sure enough seconds later the cat is saying “oui oui” (which sounds like “we we” phonetically in English and means “yes yes”) and only a sentence after that it is saying things like meowrci (French for “merci” or “thank you” in English). My point is that the mentality the game is often exuding (youthful, cartoonish, and silly) does not consistently come close to reflect their target audience because it is hard to decipher who that audience is. If the game gives a child-like vibe and persona through an NPC’s characteristics and dialogue then why does it suddenly begin to reference a completely different language that a young person will surely not understand the relation?

This also ties-in with a problem with the dialogue in general. NPCs more often than not have absolutely nothing important to say…and A LOT of it. One NPC might go through five or six paragraphs before anything relevant is said. This is not as noticeable in the beginning as you are semi interested in this new world and you may want to learn about the NPCs and the characters that inhabit it, but after you’ve talked to that person before and reviled the game’s far too often anti-climactic dialogue all you want to do is get to the damn merchant’s shop interface to sell or buy goods, but the game may continually make you go through the same pointless set of six paragraphs over and over each time you want to talk to a specific NPC.

The uninspiring narrative is a reflection of these fumbled persona hitches and tedium found within the dialogue itself.

Moga Village

The overarching narrative of Monster Hunter Tri is simple and is basically just a bland vehicle to blindly drive the game’s good action. A sea monster called the Lagiacrus seems to be correlated to or causing devastating earthquakes affecting a quaint harbor fishing village. You’re a newly arriving adventurer and you’re interested in joining a guild that heirs professionals to hunt and kill, or sometimes capture monsters. After proving some of your worth by gathering a little resources and fixing up the fishing village a bit you’re underway to becoming a full-fledged hunter of monsters. That’s about it. You won’t find out plot points along the way, interesting characters, or any sort of story structure. Monster Hunter Tri is NOT a game to be played because of story.

The game’s quests and missions are even more-so of a mediocre experience and they feel like one huge series of side quests. Too much time is spent gathering resources and doing other mundane quest of the sort. You might need to gather mushrooms and bring them to a chest, carry a heavy fire rocks to a chest, gather monster guts and bring them to a chest, gather ore and bring it to a chest, or they might even get so creative as to take the delivery chest out of a quest and simply end the mission once you’ve killed “X” amount of whatever animal they want dead. The icing on the cake of awful side-quests is a series of quests where you simply sit around for 5 minutes and wait for a note to show up in one chest then walk it 5 feet to a differently colored chest to deliver it. The random miscellaneous quests that are not about hunting monsters are mind numbingly cliché and never bring anything new to the RPG quest table you have not seen one thousand times before if you’ve ever set foot in an online massive multiplayer RPG.

My conclusion of the overall presentation of that game is that it has strangely familiar Japanese RPG oddities mixed with bad dialogue, the same run-of-the-mill fetch quests used over and over and over, a shallow and weak main narrative, and the game’s vacant sense in its’ consistent targeted audience-type all come together to make the storyline and goings-on of the world of Monster Hunter Tri’s character and NPC interactions a juggling act of disappointments, enjoyments, fumbles, and a simple lack of care or sense of motivation to continue your journey. Your only true incentive to continue killing monsters is the allure of new gear and weapons and pretty damn good combat, but I’ll get to the gear and combat in a minute.

So, that is mostly why the game’s score for the story suffered a lot and the repetitive and bland nature of the side-quests dragged down the value of the overall game which in turn can weigh on a game’s fun factor.

Let’s put aside Monster Hunter’s shortcomings from its’ storytelling aspect, inconsistent theme and mentality, and it’s uninteresting side-quests and focus on what actually makes the game’s score jump much farther up in rank – the combat, gameplay, and hunting monsters. Let’s face it, it is much easier to get by in the video game world with a game that has great gameplay and a weak story compared to the other way around. Thankfully Monster Hunter’s best personalities are its monsters and the way you go about tracking and combating them is great fun and pretty fantastic, and in a game called “Monster Hunter” hunting monsters sounds like the most important part to me. So, it is a great quality that CAPCOM obviously made their best efforts in these areas.

Monsters are huge and a delight to track and fight and their behaviors seem very realistic. From the way a Qurupeco echoes like a siren to call for aid to the way an herbivore will cower in a corner when a large predator is near, the game really captures a sense in authenticity from the way these strange surreal creatures act, react, and interact with one another and you. A monster’s behaviors may vary from encounter to encounter depending on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual monster and you have to adapt to those strengths and weaknesses as well and exploit them to topple these great monstrosities. Some examples, one creature might be covered in hardened lava rock and it can shake rocks off its’ skin which it can then slam its’ chin down to make the rocks explode. For an encounter like this you’ll need some good fire-resistant gear and probably a large hammer because slashing weapons won’t feel as effective against it. Another example of a different creature-type is a wyvern called the “Rathian” which flies about and slams to the ground, has poisonous talons, breathes fire, roars in a shockwave to stun, and does a lot of deadly tail swiping. I’ve found that a large, far reaching lance coupled with the blocking power of its shield works best as you can block any attack I just mentioned and the lance reaches far and high to hit the great winged beast. Now, to take down these monsters and get these suitable weapons and armor-types for each fight you’re going to need to kill monsters and craft equipment and weapons after defeating them by skinning them for materials unique to each individual monster.

The equipment that will define your character is spread across 7 different items slots; weapon, head, chest, gloves, leggings, belt, and a talisman. The gear system can get pretty in-depth because later on you will have gear with open sockets which you can then craft and fill your armor with decorations (works like gems going in armor in most RPGs). So, decorations and an armor’s bonuses and weaknesses are ultimately what define your character because your actual character themselves will NEVER level up as in traditional RPG and get health increments, stat boosts, and talent tree points. In Monster Hunter only gear and weapons get better over time which makes your character more powerful as you progress.

The weapons of Monster Hunter are varied in capability and their strengths and weaknesses also help define your combat style each time you venture out. There are 7 different weapon types to fill your weapon slot and each with its’ own set of attacks and methods of engagement; like the Sword’n Shield, Two-handed Sword, Hammer, Lance and Tower Shield, Switch-Axe, Long Sword, and a Bow Gun. Each weapon has features that make it ideal for different situations like, the hammer is surprisingly mobile and has great damage output but cannot block, the Lance is medium-high damage and has the best blocking abilities but is slow moving, and the switch-axe can easily be toggled between an axe and a two-handed great sword but unlike the normal two-handed sword the button to switch between the two weapon forms is where the blocking capability is for the two-handed sword so it cannot block but has a larger and more powerful move-set.

The combination of a variety in monsters and the different weapons and gear help keep the game’s combat fresh and entertaining for a long time. Combat is a series of different circumstances that lead to some interesting combat situations and keep you on your feet. There is a learning curve here (especially when learning a new weapon) as it may take some time to weigh the benefits of a new weapon’s attack animations and choosing when is a good time to manage your hunter and their equipment during combat is extremely important to victory. You need to decide when is the best time to safely go through the game’s frequent, absurdly long, and necessary animations to be a long-living and useful part of combat. Very often you’ll need to sharpen your weapon to maximize its potency, drink health potions to restore hit-points, eat food to restore your stamina gauge, and use other items and abilities of the sort to be an effective hunter. Besides combat’s situational measurement of weighing benefit to risk ratio it has some faults in its handling apart from the wildly long attack and recovery animations.

Perplexing controls and attack animations can hinder the overall combat experience. The absence of a lock-on mechanic is strongly noticed and the ability to only attack in a straight line is simply ridiculous. One may argue that the game being void of a lock-on mechanic can make it more realistic. Okay, say I give that to you and say no lock-on function makes it more realistic. The simple fact is that the ability to only attack in a straight line is EXTREMELY unrealistic. I will give you an example of this combat misstep. With the sword and shield once you start hitting your attack button you go straight and move forward with your attacks and it can take an insanely long time to finish your attack combo’s animations. You might simply pass by what you intended to hit because you can’t turn during an attack and maybe your aim was off by a bit or you may hit the first two times but the third and fourth parts of the combo make you miss the creature by full body lengths and you’re simply waiting for your character to finish their attack animation so they can stop wildly swinging at air and face the monster once again. You’ll find yourself trying to spam your evasive roll button just with the hopes that it will end your attack animation because sometimes it can. The game being void of a lock-on mechanic is fine over time once you get a better handle on different weapons and their attack animations, but the inability to alter your attack combo’s route is simply silly. If I was in combat with a monster and I hit it quickly and the creature began to move I would surely turn toward it and swing in its direction…I doubt I would feel absolutely compelled to finish my current attack and be unable to deviate from my current path. This makes combat, at times, feel robotic and not nearly as organic and realistic as many of the game’s other features tend to get right.

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The game's maps not supporting a seamless world can also make combat take a few hits on the fun. The game’s map is broken into usually 10-12 sections and you hunt monsters across these sections. Well, when you are on the verge of a section and enter the next portion of the map a frequent and sometimes lengthy load time will be seen. These don’t break game immersion too badly, but sometimes they can be infuriating because as soon as you’re finished loading to the next section the monster you were in pursuit of maybe slamming into you or nailing you with a fireball before you’ve even regained control of your character making it impossible at times to avoid taking what would have possibly been unnecessary damage. If the game was seamless at least I would get the chance to try and avoid the creature’s attack and if I was hit it would be my fault and not a faulty game mechanic.

Overall though, combat is pretty great. It just needs a bit of fine tuning.

Co-op: No Local multi-player, but online adds a lot to the monster hunting experience. The game surprisingly feels very similar to a paid MMO. With things like hunting events that change every other day and the game supports Wii speak and keyboard chat which make communication between players easy. Chatting with people online is as easy as plugging in a USB keyboard into the back of your Wii and typing and most people seem to opt for the typed communication route as well. Joining with friends is not quite as easy, but after familiarizing yourself with the system it is not so construed. Oh yeah, and it’s FREE to play online. So take everything I just said about how great some aspects of the game are and forget all of the aspects I said were bad because online doesn’t even really attempt a story so those short comings are vacant and playing with friend makes this game a blast. Also, the online monster hunting adds three monsters that cannot be found anywhere else in the single-player game, whereas the single-player game only has one monster not found in the online mode. Monster Hunter is obviously trying to put an emphasis on the online co-op and they should because it is simply a ton of fun.

Value: a lot of content and online can be extremely fun, but with the lack of a narrative and with all of the activities feeling a bit meaningless or fruitless with little-to-no sense of impact on the world around you the game can feel a bit hollow. A plentiful amount of potential content is not a telltale sign of a rich experience.

On the other hand, this value is increased if you have online and especially if you have some friends that can get online. Though the online’s side-quest are still the exact same boring time-filler, it is a great time taking on towering monsters with a buddy.

============================ALL IN ALL===============================

Broken down, Monster Hunter Tri is a “glass cannon” of RPGs. Some of the qualities the game exhibits ring true very loudly in the tone of what an RPG should have like; gear from head to toe, unique weapons, crafting, TONS of materials, and thought provoking combat situations that can keep you on your feet from one encounter to the next, but some RPG elements the game tries to attempt are shattered or extremely unsatisfactory. Some of these unsatisfactory elements are a shallow and weak story, mundane, uneventful, and repetitive side-quests, and hiccups in an otherwise consistently good combat system. And this is the tale of Monster Hunter Tri in general because it has strangely deep combat and gear systems that emphasize great RPG qualities, but ultimately falls flat in other aspects that make role-playing games what they are.

All in all, Capcom’s Monster Hunter Tri swings and misses on some key elements that make an RPG an RPG, but also, moving aside those issues, the aspects that make this an ACTION role-playing game really shine through. The game’s story is extremely weak and the overall structure of missions can make the game feel as though it is one large series of side-quests culminating in nothing truly important, but a fantastic loot and gear system instead of a meaningful story use a “carrot on a stick” method of gameplay to keep gamers interested if the shallow story can’t. Dangling gear and weapons in front of the player is a fairly good incentive to continue on because thankfully the combat is very satisfying and bringing down great beasts is ultimately great fun (even more-so online with friends).

In the end, Monster Hunter 3 is a fantastic game that has some awesome action and fairy tight and precise combat. Hunting a strange creature can really make you feel like you’re a stalker of great monstrosities and felling a beast and wearing them as armor is oh-so satisfying. Online is where it is at, playing with friends is a blast, and a classic controller feels like an absolute necessity. If you can’t get online with your Wii you might just want to give the game a rent first. This game is something like 15$ now at most retailers and is a must-own for anyone who thinks they can get into some challenging combat and gearing-out a hunter in the latest creature hide with some friends online. This could honestly be the first time in a VERY long time I was truly sincere in saying I was happy I own a Wii.

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