Thursday, April 30, 2015

X-Wing Rogue Squadron

I'm continuing down the path of re-exploring some of my favorite childhood novels in the Star Wars universe.  I'm finally to the part of the New Republic Era of books where it starts to get really good.  I just finished reading X-Wing Rogue Squadron and I'm surprised to find that it's still as good as I remembered it.

I was afraid this series wouldn't hold up.  I haven't read these books since I was a teenager or earlier.  It's still fantastic.

Rogue Squadron is the famous squadron of X-Wing pilots that developed out of Red Squadron from the first Star Wars movie.  Most of the well known pilots have either died or moved on when this series picks up.  Only a few veteran rogues are left to rebuild the squadron with new members.

It's a good primer on a few of my favorite characters from the Star Wars universe, Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn.

Wedge was one of Luke's friends and he is the current leader of Rogue Squadron.  He's the most veteran fighter pilot and he's been a huge part of the rebellion's success.  He's one of the pilots that took out the second Death Star.

Corran Horn is a CorSec officer turned Rogue Squadron Pilot.  He has the background of being a police officer for the Corellian system and an amazing pilot.  As Rogue Squadron diversifies and has more ground engagements he really starts to show his skills.  He eventually goes on to become a Jedi.

This is also a great series because characters are introduced, developed, and killed throughout the series.  We are now far enough away from the movies' main cast that most characters don't have plot immunity.  Bad things can happen to them and they can actually be put in real danger.  It makes the series so much better.

This particular book in the X-Wing series shows the reformation of Rogue Squadron with new pilots and the way the Squadron starts spearheading the New Republic push toward Imperial Center.  The Emperor is dead but the Empire lives on.  The New Republic is gaining the upper hand, but they haven't freed the galaxy yet.

I had so much fun reading this one that I'm excited to immediately jump into the next book in this X-Wing series!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Rithmatist

I love Brandon Sanderson.  Not the man... but his books.  They're so good.  With the exception of his very first novel, Elantris, I've loved every single book or novella of his that I've read.  I recommend them to people all the time.

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Rithmatist.  I've read the book a few times before, so the audiobook was a change of pace.  But, it was great!

The world of The Rithmatist is basically an alternative history version of the early 1900s in the U.S.  Some major event has shaken the world, changed the landscape, and created a new form of science/math called Rithmatics.  Those in the world who are Rithmatists can use chalk to do things that would be considered magic in other circumstance, but it conforms to a very precise set of laws and theories.  It's an interesting setting.

We learn throughout the book that wild creatures called chalklings may be on the loose.  They are animated chalk-like drawings that can interact with the world.

I don't know how much more to talk about the setting and the story, I'm afraid I could ruin it for anyone interested in reading the book.

If you're already a Brandon Sanderson fan you should definitely read this book.  If you haven't ever read a Sanderson book this is actually a great entry point into his work.  It's a quick read that will let you see his ability for amazing world building.  I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Marco Polo Impressions

Last week I wrote a little bit about my impressions of Daredevil after the first few episodes.  This week I checked out Marco Polo, another Netflix Original Series, and I'm reporting back after watching the same amount of episodes.

I like it so much more than Daredevil.

This is my kind of show.  There's intrigue and competing objectives.  It's epic in scope, yet based on real events of the past.  In some ways it reminds me of Game of Thrones.

Marco Polo is the son of a merchant who travels the world looking for new goods and trade routes.  He tags along while his father is visiting Kublai Khan and ends up unexpectedly getting placed as a servant in his court to save his father's merchant dealings.  It's the story of a westerner thrown into an eastern culture.

It's all set in the 1200s and based on historic facts.  I think that's so cool!

I love the characters and I'm already very invested in seeing what ends up happening.  This show immediately grabbed me in a way that Daredevil failed to.  This is why I keep giving Netflix Original Series a try.  Different shows appeal to different people and this one clicked with me.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Final Fantasy XIII-2

My first thoughts on started Final Fantasy XIII-2 were: I have no idea what's going on.

Lightning is in Valhalla fighting a new enemy.   There's an epic battle that feels like it belongs at the end of a game, not the beginning.  It is given no context.  Then a random new character is transported there through time and/or space and told to go on a mission to bring Serah to Lightning.

Then we cut to Serah who has memories of the events of at the end of Final Fantasy XIII.  Unfortunately for her, most people don't remember it the same way.  They all say that Lightning was never there at the end of Final Fantasy XIII.

After playing for the first few hours of the game it becomes apparent that timelines are mixed up and there are paradoxes everywhere.  The game is structured around unlocking new timelines, traveling through time, and solving paradoxes.

It's not a bad premise, even though it's explained very poorly, but the gameplay doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from Final Fantasy XIII.  In fact, the combat is identical to Final Fantasy XIII and that makes me very sad.  I've already spent enough time with this Paradigm shift battle system.  I never need to see it again.

That's not the only negative either.  The game engine doesn't seem as smooth as Final Fantasy XIII.  I'm playing on a very high-end PC and I saw a ton of slow down in the game.  The cutscenes may be gorgeous, but the game engine stutters along.

So after playing for awhile I realized that this game just isn't going to hook me.  I thought that maybe I would be able to complete the Lightning Trilogy if I just sat down and started on Final Fantasy XIII-2, but I feel like this game isn't worth my time.  In the end I read a plot summary so that if I choose to try out Lightning Returns I have a little more context.  Based on the plot summary, the story in this game seems all over the place.

I don't think I'm missing much by skipping it.

While I love Final Fantasy, and I'm willing to play through any mainline game, I won't slog through a spin-off game just because it has Final Fantasy in the title.  Since I wasn't having fun with Final Fantasy XIII-2 it is time to move on.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Star Wars!

I love Star Wars.  I was super excited to see this topic come up as our community post topic today.  But now I don't even know where to start.

Here's the truth: Star Wars is my weakpoint.

If I were a boss in a videogame, Star Wars would be my giant blinking red section.... or something.

I consume everything Star Wars.  The movies, novels, ebooks, audiobooks, videogames, toys, board games, trailers, fan theories, whatever I can get my hands on.  I just love Star Wars.

I'm so happy to see it coming into the hands of a generation of creators who grew up with the original trilogy.  The Star Wars trailer last week gives me a ton of hope for the direction of the series.  I think JJ Abrams is going to knock it out of the park.  It seems like he has immense respect for the original trilogy but he also understands what needs to be done to bring the films into a modern age.

And he's just the first creator at the reigns.  I honestly expect to see new Star Wars movies every year, much like we're seeing with Marvel.  Now that Disney is in charge of the IP we should see a huge expansion of all things Star Wars.  And it will be consistent!  That's something that was never very well controlled in the old expanded universe.  From this point forward, all Star Wars shows, games, movies, books, comics, and everything else will be canon.  And that's super exciting!

How do you guys feel about Star Wars these days?  Drop a comment below.

And since it's Friday, drop a link from your favorite content in the past week into the linkup!  Give a link, take a link, share the love, all that!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a gamerpunk book set in a dystopian future.  Everyone spends all their free time in The Oasis, a fantastic virtual reality world, because the real world sucks.

It's a look at the possible future of virtual reality, but Ready Player One is also a celebration of pop culture.

The creator of The Oasis has died and he has left an Easter Egg in the virtual world.  Whoever can solve the puzzle and find the egg will receive control of The Oasis and be able to do with it as they see fit.  Since the original creator grew up in the 70s and 80s... all of that pop culture has become relevant to a new generation.  It's awesome.

It's a book filled with movie, music, and videogame reference and they're amazingly well done.  It's obvious that the author knows his stuff when he's writing about it.

This is a book that I can easily recommend to every gamer out there.  It's fantastic!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Daredevil Impressions

I love Netflix original series.  It's fantastic that one of the modern streaming media services is getting so much into content creation.  I've been hooked on House of Cards since it first came out and it's given me interest in every project they've done since then.

Daredevil is the first Netflix original series created in partnership with Marvel.  I really like what Marvel has been doing with movies lately, so the show intrigued me.  I remember watching the first Daredevil movie with Ben Afleck, so the bar is set pretty low for this show.  I thought I would give it a try.

I watched the first few episodes and they're ok.  I've been hearing friends rave about how amazing this show is, but maybe it's just not for me.  That's not to say I can't see the positives in it.

Daredevil is an interesting take on a gritty world.  He's a hero without the typical superpowers.  When he gets into a fight he actually has to expend effort.  He gets tired, and beat up, and bloodied.  It really shows the tole that the body takes in fighting.  It's a fascinating change of pace from the typical superhero.

My problem with the show is that the characters failed to connect with me.  They're not very deep.  Also, everything is extremely predictable.  I didn't care about the characters after watching the first few episodes, so I stopped watching.

Maybe the series gets better.  I could see that being the case.  But, I don't know if I want to spend any more of my time finding that out.  Time is precious to me these days as my free time is limited.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Final Fantasy XIV: Everything to 15... and Beyond!

I leveled all the classes in Final Fantasy XIV to 15 or higher!  My Bard is still my main class at level 50 and pretty well geared, but I wanted to branch out.  The run from 1-15 gets a little grindy in the 10-15 range so I buckled down and just got it done for all the classes.  The best part about hitting 15 is getting access to the dungeon finder.

As soon as a class hit level 15 I started taking it through low level dungeon finder and getting a feel for it.  I've found I'm really enjoying tanking and healing.  A big part of this might be the super fast queue times.  They're amazing!

When I was leveling my main Bard class it would take 30-45 minutes to queue for a dungeon since I was DPS.  When playing a healer or tank it has never taken more than 5 minutes in the dungeon queue.  It's great!  As soon as I want to run a dungeon... I just do.

Out of all the remaining classes I latched onto Gladiator and Conjurer.  These are the two classes that lead to the Paladin and White Mage jobs.  I'm having so much fun with them in dungeons that I almost didn't realize how much they were leveling up.  I got both of them to 30 and got their advanced jobs already.  I actually have my White Mage in the low 40s, with endgame level 50 in sight.

It's going to be awesome to have a couple different classes with different roles at endgame.  It'll give me options to play around with, and I'm really excited for it.  I'm thinking of maybe trying to get one class for each role up to level 50 before the expansion hits.  The main takeaway for me has been that I'm still having fun with Final Fantasy XIV, and that's what matters.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Star Wars Hype!

The Star Wars The Force Awakens teaser trailer 2 launched at the end of last week and it's amazing.  I'm such a huge Star Wars fanboy.  Star Wars is my weakpoint.  I'll see any movie they put out.  I'll buy all the books and get into the games.  I can't resist.

But it's amazing to see such promise for the new direction Star Wars is taking.  I know my own judgement on Star Wars is skewed, but it seems like most people are allowing themselves to get excited for this one.  Not to mention the new information on Star Wars Battlefront and Star Wars Rogue One!  The hype is real!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Current Feelings on MMOs

MMOs are cool!  Right?  Well, I love the idea of MMOs but in the past few years I seem to have fallen out of love with them.  There has been so much sameness in new releases in the genre.  Not to mention the subscription fees or F2P models that just don't feel worth it.

That's how I felt until I picked up Final Fantasy XIV as part of my Final Fantasy Project.  It has brought me back to the world of MMOs.  It's designed in a way to incentivize playing through lots of content and helping out new players.  It's easily the most friendly community I've ever encountered in a MMO.  I'm consistently playing it and I'm super excited for the expansion in June.  I'm constantly amazed by how much new content and features the FFXIV team patches into the game.

The future of MMOs will be interesting.  I wonder if developers will continue to refine the same old systems or if there will be a truly breakout hit in a new direction for the genre.  I suppose only time will tell.

As always, drop your favorite links from the week below and share them with the community!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


I picked up Bloodborne.

I don't really know why I did.  Well... yes I do.  I needed another game that I can work at a little each day while I'm on my exercise bike.  But what I meant is that I typically wouldn't pick it up since it's not my kind of game.

Bloodborne is brutally hard and I didn't enjoy the last two games from the same creator.  But, I watched some gameplay videos and could tell that this game controlled much better than those.  Bad controls were my major hurdle getting into the predecessors to this, so I thought I would give Bloodborne a try.

I'm really bad at the game.  I die a lot.  When I start to think I'm getting better I am constantly proven wrong.  But I keep coming back.  It's kind of mindless exploration and slowly getting better at the game.  At least I think I'm getting better.  It's really hard to tell.

I don't know if I like the game or not.  I keep playing it because it's something to do while I'm on my exercise bike, but I don't know if I could really recommend it.  It's not a game I would ever sit down with for a night and just play.  It's best experienced in short bursts for me.  It's filling a weird little niche in my gaming library, and I'm ok with that.

I'm playing Bloodborne consistently each day but I don't have strong opinions on it one way or another.  This is strange because typically I can get my head around a game very quickly.  I feel like very soon I'm either going to give up on the game entirely or it's going to finally click with me and I'll love it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Legion and Legion: Skin Deep

Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  His book vary in quality, but I like all of them on some level.  But his novellas are always amazing.  He takes all his worldbuilding ability and focuses it into the perfect little package.

Legion and Legion: Skin Deep are two of his novellas that I recently re-read and loved.

These are more modern than most of his other novels.  It's not sci-fi or fantasy.  The main character in Legion has an interesting psychological disorder where his skills manifest to him as imaginary people.  He doesn't have typical multiple personality disorder, he actually sees and interacts with his various aspects all the while knowing that they are imaginary.  He's found a balance that works for him and his aspects let me retain a ton of skills and abilities.

They great novellas and fantastic in audio book form since each aspect gets their own voice.  It truly adds a level of depth to the story when listening to it.

The two books in the series are available right now and I read them back-to-back.  I would highly recommend them to anyone.  I especially recommend the audiobook version of these.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Final Fantasy Record Keeper

Final Fantasy Record Keeper launched last week on iOS and Android.  I dug into it for a few days to see what it had to offer.  I was trying to see if there was much long term appeal in the game or if it was something I could let go of relatively quickly.

Like I said, it only lasted for a few days.  Then I had experienced enough to delete the game and move on with my life.

It's a free-to-play Final Fantasy nostalgia game.  The hook is that you get to relive many of the famous Final Fantasy scenes from across the whole Final Fantasy series.  You get to collect your favorite characters and make your dream party to fight battles with.  Find characters, collect gear, acquire new abilities, and level up.  It sounds great on paper.

Unfortunately, Final Fantasy Record Keeper is there to prey on your nostalgia... not to celebrate it.  It's much more forgiving than most free-to-play games.  I never felt like I had to buy anything.  And the wait times for energy to recharge weren't that bad either.  That doesn't make it a good game.

It's still free-to-play.  The production values are low and the gameplay is much too simple.  It doesn't take long to see all the mechanics the game has to offer.  After that you're just grinding through levels to try to unlock your favorite Final Fantasy scenes.  Honestly, a better use of your time would be to just look them up on YouTube.  Or you could always replay the original games.

Record Keeper becomes a time suck without much reward.  Even for someone like me who has played almost every Final Fantasy game... it felt hollow.

I keep holding out hope that Square Enix will make a mobile Final Fantasy game with high production values that doesn't have any free-to-play mechanics.  I love playing games on my phone, as long as they're not there to take advantage of me.  We'll see if that ever happens with Final Fantasy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae

This is an interesting situation.  I can continue my mainline Final Fantasy project... in demo form.  With the release of Final Fantasy Type-0 I was able to pick up the Final Fantasy XV demo.  It has it's very own title, Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae.  I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, but that's ok.  It's about three or four hours of content and gives a taste for the systems and characters in the game.

The developers have said it's only part of the middle of the game and it's not taken directly from the story, it's been modified to become a demo.  It's also obvious that a bunch of things are missing since the game isn't done yet.

But, there's enough game here to get a feel for it.

I've played enough that I'm excited to see what the final game is like.  It's a reinvention of the series, just like every mainline game before it.  I've seen plenty of complaints online about the setting, characters, mechanics, you name it.  But in my four or five hours with the game I had a lot of fun.

The combat has some classic elements, like hp, mp, and abilities.  But, it's mostly action based combat.  I played the demo immediately after beating Type-0 and I liked it much more than the Type-0 system.  It definitely needs some refining, but they still have plenty of time before release.

I'm super impressed with the scale of this game.  The open world lends itself to huge enemies that you can organically encounter.  Not to mention the summon that you get in the demo.  It's one of the most epic things I've ever seen in a video game.

I'm not going to nitpick on any of the little stuff.  This is still a work in progress.  Things will get changed and refined before the launch of the final product.  This demo has me more excited for Final Fantasy XV than any other piece of promotional information I've seen about the game.

I have high hopes that it'll be great when it releases!  Now we just need to wait for it...

Friday, April 10, 2015


I know negativity is rampant in the online community.  I don't know how much I have to say about it, but it's our topic of the week so let's see what I can come up with.

Generally, if people are being negative online I simply refuse to interact with them.  I don't waste time being angry with people on the internet.  I just shrug to myself and move on with my day.  They aren't worth my time.

I try not to be negative on this blog.  If I ever come off that way it's not because I'm trying to rip apart the media I'm interacting with.  It's because I process a lot of my media thoughts through writing about them here.  If I don't like something I usually write about it to find out why I don't like it, not to just bash it.  I hope my thought process and my interactions with media help you make good decisions with your time.  I write for me, but it's nice to be a useful resource too.

How do you guys deal with online negativity?  Ignore it?  Try to correct it?  Interact with it?  I'm curious.

And, it's Friday once again!  That means it's time for another link-up.  If you came across any interesting posts in the last week, or wrote any, drop them in the link-up below (You'll have to click through if you're reading via RSS)!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ongoing Fun

I was sick the other weekend and I got a chance to just sit down and consume some media I've been meaning to get to.  I finished up the latest episodes for two Telltale games.  Both Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands.  I also caught up on the two Star Wars comics series that I've been keeping up with.  That would be the Leia and Vader series.

I thought about writing posts for each of these things, but I realized I'm just generally having fun with them.  I don't actually have any new insights or interesting thoughts about them.  They're all still good and I'm going to keep up with them until they're complete.

Do you have anything that you keep up with as it releases?  Anything that you just enjoy and plan on continuing to enjoy as more of it becomes available?  I know TV shows are this way, but it's interesting to see some video games moving to this format too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mario Party 10

The Wii U in my house has become a family console.  It started as mine, but now it's definitely ours as a family.  My kids play it more than I do, and I'm fine with that.  It's really cool to see my 2 year old and 4 year old playing Mario together.

Because my daughter uses the Wii U often, she sees all the ads Nintendo distributes to the console.  She just had her first game that she was excited to wait for the release date.  If you couldn't already guess, it was Mario Party 10!

As a parent, it was really fun for me to watch her get excited for a game release.  I know the feeling of being the one excited for the game, but it's really fun getting that enthusiasm by proxy through her excitement.

We've been playing it almost every day.  Every member of the family has gotten involved.  Sometimes my kids sit on the couch and play together, sometimes it's one of them and one adult, sometimes it's all four of us.  It's so much fun to have a game that we can all get invested in!

My wife and I have even discovered a new level of difficulty in Mario Party.  It's called, "Try to make the 4 year old win despite her erratic play style and the unforgiving computers"  Granted... we could work on shortening the name of that difficulty level, but I find it fairly descriptive.

If you look at the reviews for this game you'll see that it's derivative, with nothing new to offer, and not worth your time or money.  Those first two might be correct, but in our case it was definitely worth our money!  It's fun to get so much enjoyment out of a game that critics have already written off as "bad".

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Retail Therapy"

Sometimes my wife kids jokes around and says she needs some "retail therapy" when she's going out shopping.  It's a running gag for us.

The other week I was sick and I realized that I actually do some retail therapy by browsing Amazon.  I don't usually buy things without thinking about them for a really long time... but something about browsing Amazon is comforting.

And it's just browsing too.  I'm not actually buying anything.  I'm just clicking on related items and seeing if there's anything out there I haven't thought about.  Usually I'm browsing electronics, video games, and board games... but who knows where the related items will take me.  Often, I'll end up with a new set of board games in my wishlist.

Anyway, I didn't buy anything, but I browsed for awhile and had fun.  I never browse in stores so it's kind of strange that I'll browse on Amazon.  Does this happen to anyone else?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor

Continuing along the Star Wars Legends timeline, the next novel is Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.

It's actually kind of a weird book in the timeline, it was published in 2008 but all the other books that happen around this point in the timeline were written in the mid-1990s.  It's definitely shoe-horned into the timeline after the fact.  Because of this, it doesn't contain anything that has a large impact on the surrounding novels.

It's a decent book, but it's not great.  It's definitely doesn't contain key events in the overall Star Wars Legends timeline.  It's another story of Luke Skywalker's coming to grips with his Jedi powers in the New Republic.  He starts investigating an imperial remnant faction that is being controlled by someone with Force powers.  Slowly, all our other Star Wars heroes get involved until Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, R2D2, and C3PO are all there as well.

It's a fun little story, but it's also easily skippable.  This is one of the Legends books that I never read the first time around and I never felt like I missed anything of importance.  So, while I liked the book, I recommend steering clear of it unless you're a Star Wars die hard fan.  There are better Star Wars books out there... and we're almost to them in the timeline!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday Link-Up: Superheroes

Superheroes!  Link-up!  Superheroes Link-up!

Feel free to drop any of your favorite links from the last week into the link-up below.

But today, our theme for discussion is Superheroes!  I've never been a big comic book guy, so I don't have a huge encyclopedic knowledge of Superheros.  Most of my Superhero knowledge comes from the 90s Superhero TV shows I grew up with, videogames, and friends who know more about them than I do.

That being said, I love a good Superhero movie.  Marvel has been knocking it out of the park lately and I've been eating it up.  They've had some misses along with their hits, but movies like The Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier show that they're on the right path.  I'm super excited for the next Avengers movie and I'm really curious to see what they do with Ant Man.  The Marvel movies are helping me get a new appreciation for superheroes as a genre.

I've been less impressed with the DC movies, except for the latest Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.  Those were amazing.  I think I've watched all the other DC movies and none of them had a big impact on me.

What I would really like is a new twist on Superheros.  I loved the premise of the show Heroes that was on NBC a few years ago, but that show got hit brutally by the writers strike and never truly coalesced into what it could have been.

I think Superheroes as a genre is just waiting for someone to come along and reinvent it.  We'll see how things pan out.

As always, drop any of your favorite links from the last week below.  Whether it was something you found or something you wrote, we'd love to have it as part of our Link-up!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I might get flack for this... but I didn't enjoy this book.

I know it's classic.  I know a ton of people say this is their favorite book.  I know it's supposed to be hilarious.

I thought it was pretty dumb.


I read the entire thing.  I stuck with it.  I really did.  I wanted to like this book a lot but in the end I couldn't.

I don't want to try to analyze and pick it apart.  I just needed to get this little complain-fest out of my system so that I can move on.

I'd actually be really interested to hear what people like about this book.  Please, if you disagree with me, leave a comment and let me know why.  Does this series get better?  Is there a different book of his that I should try reading?

Seriously, help clue me in.  What's the deal with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?  Why is it so loved?