Captain Marvel: A First Look   Leave a comment

So I have picked up and read the new “Captain Marvel #1” issue and I have mixed feelings about it.  I’m glad that they’ve changed her name and outfit to something different;  gone is the name Ms. Marvel and it seems that the name Captain Marvel is here to stay (at least in this ongoing series) with a more powerful and intimidating name.  I like that her title is now gender neutral showing that personality and not gender is more important to the character.  Hopefully we will see a strong female character this time around who doesn’t strike the unnecessary “boobs and butt” pose for no reason other than to titillate the male readers and other sexually suggestive poses that have been so common in the past.

The other thing I like is that the issue gives a nod to female aviators who were denied opportunities because of their gender despite their performances rivaling those of their male counterparts.  Captain Marvel’s outfit is another highlight,  she isn’t wearing ridiculous high heels and her outfit isn’t sporting any unnecessary holes, boob windows, or exposed thighs.  Her outfit is more practical then you’ll see on almost any other big name female super hero.

The story for this issue is interesting and deals with her coming to the decision regarding her new title.  It’s not an action heavy issue but there is a fun fight where she’s teamed up with Captain America in the beginning but don’t expect this through the whole issue or you’ll be disappointed; it’s largely exposition and characterization throughout the remainder of the book.  There is a really good piece at the end of the book that really embodies the spirit of Captain Marvel and strong women like her, it’s not overly wordy and it’s quite poignant.

The negative things I have to say about this issue mostly concern the art.  The cover seems bland and the art is rather poor even considering that it’s supposed to mimic old 1940’s style posters.  I don’t know what they did with her hair, it seems to be a mullet, cut short and sheared at the sides of her head but long in the back.  It’s not the hairstyle I would have chosen but it also doesn’t seem to be entirely consistent through the issue, it goes from mullet to long and hanging around her face in a later scene.  Either it’s actually been cut or Danvers just slicks it back with a huge amount of gel, I really can’t tell.  I’m also not a huge fan of her helmet/mask because if it’s a helmet having the top of your head uncovered defeats the purpose and if it’s a mask then why bother with one in the first place if you wear it inconsistently.  That, and I’m not a huge fan of the look of it in the first place.

All of that said this first issue was intriguing enough to warrant a subscription to see where it goes and how it handles Captain Marvel as a character.  I’m certainly hoping to see more of the sort of content I got a taste of in this issue in future ones.  So I wait for future issues with bated breath hoping that this series avoids the common pitfalls that the comic book industry has regarding the handling of female characters.

Captain Marvel’s new duds.

Is gravity defying boobs a super power too?

I’m pretty sure her spine is broken.

Posted July 22, 2012 by lunaravian in Uncategorized

Skylanders   Leave a comment

So I feel as if I have officially whored myself out to Activision by buying Skylanders, the game where you “Gotta buy ’em all.”  I’m a bit late to the party but I must admit that I’m enjoying the game while refusing to buy any more but a small handful of Skylanders, one of each elements is good enough for me.  My fiance, however, loves to drive around town on wild goose chases trying to find more.  I think he enjoys looking for the damn things more than he does playing the actual game.

The game itself isn’t ever really challenging but it is fun and reminds me a little of the old Gauntlet games which I thoroughly enjoyed growing up.  If you do want some challenge then there is a pvp mode and a heroic challenge mode to increase the stats of your skylander and some of those can be difficult.  The figures themselves are well modeled and decently painted and when you can buy them for actual retail price they’re a decent purchase.  The voice acting in the game is good and Richard Horvitz voices the villain, Kaos, so whenever he’s on screen I like to pretend that it’s Zim ranting and the game instantly becomes more entertaining.

Skylanders has a good replay value with all of the play styles of the various characters being different and enough goals to meet on levels for 100% completion to make a game of a decent duration.  It could be a little more challenging but considering that it’s a kid game that good enough for adults to enjoy I won’t complain too much.

Posted February 20, 2012 by lunaravian in Video Games

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Now for Skyrim’s flaws   Leave a comment

I’ve had more time to play Skyrim and now that I’m done marveling at how good it is I have found some flaws and bugs to discuss.   All of the good things I’ve said about the game are still true, but while familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt in this case, it certainly does annoyance.

The horse physics can be horrendous, if you bump into a tree while mounted you will quickly find yourself at the top of said tree, try to move and you will fall to your death.  The horse also constantly runs into combat and then runs for the hills when it’s over, leaving me to chase after it desperately before I reload in disgust.  The horse also seems to have weird health issues, it can take full on blasts from a dragon and brawl with a troll but if a bear or saber toothed cat so much as touches it, the damn thing keels over.  The same goes for traps, I rode over some small rocks that had fallen from a trap and were quite stationary by the time I approached them, my horse trod on one and then died.  Horse beats everything but bears, cats, stationary debris, and any drop over five feet.

The thing that irks me the most about this game is the UI.   I dislike how simplified and sparse the UI is for the PC version, it’s better than the mess the UI was in Oblivion but it’s so dumbed down that it can be frustrating. The game manual says you can hotkey different things but neglects to tell you how.  I know that consoles are easier to develop for because the hardware is the same in all of them whereas every PC is different, but a little extra effort to make the experience of playing on a PC more streamlined would have been nice. I also hate how slow the mouse is to respond as well as difficulty in selecting dialogue options without using arrow keys to move about.  Before I looked up how to hotkey different spells I constantly had to pause my game to bring up the favorites menu (which is all well and good for a controller with a limited amount of buttons), scroll through the various things on the list, and select whatever it was I needed.  Maybe I missed the discussion on how to assign number keys in the manual, but before then there was a lot of time grumbling as I scrolled through favorites or spell menus to select a single spell to use.

Another related gripe is the mouse sensitivity while using menus or in conversations in-game.  It’s fine while actually playing but there is a distinct lag in movement while on menu screens, not enough to be unbearable but enough to be noticeable and annoying.  The lack of accuracy while trying to click on different dialogue options was also a problem as I would mouse over an option, highlight it and click only to have the option above it selected instead.

Bugs in a Bethesda game at launch is nothing new and the ones I’ve encountered so far in the game haven’t lessened my enjoyment one bit.  The seemingly lazy port to the PC is the thing that detracts the most from the experience and keeps it from being better.  For now I’m waiting for either an official or unofficial patch to streamline the UI so it’s better adapted for all of the options a keyboard and mouse provide, but until then I’ll still be happy slaying dragons in the splendor that is Skyrim.

 

Posted November 17, 2011 by lunaravian in Video Games

My First Look at Skyrim   Leave a comment

I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for a good portion of the day and I want to give my opening thoughts on the game.

The computer I’m running it on currently is old and not very good but even with the game on the lowest settings you can still see the beauty beneath it.  Models are a lot better, so are movements and facial expressions.  The landscape is massive and majestic, I love nothing more than to come around  a mountain pass and see a windblown tundra below with a large keep sitting in front of an ancient, snow-capped mountain.  The buildings have a lot of character and the architecture is truly lovely.  The creatures look really impressive and clearly have a lot of detail in their texturing and design and some are quite intimidating (if you’ve pissed off a giant you know what I mean).

The music is interesting and varied, some is reused from Morrowind but that’s not necessarily a problem because Morrowind had very good music for the most part.  There is some music I’ve encountered that incorporates vocals and it is always epic and moving, making me want to be a hero and to smite evil wherever it may lie.  Jeremy Soule is the composer and his reputation for wonderous soundtracks is well-earned.

The gameplay is varied so if  you can think of a play style chances are you can manage it in the game.  The ability to wield a spell and a weapon at the same time is a very welcome change to the Elder Scrolls series and it allows for much more varied and interesting combats with a multitude of strategies possible.  I tend to smash things in the face and spam heals on myself after I lower an enemies health from afar with destruction spells.  I’m not much of a defensive character and I’m statting myself in such a way to maximize the effects of my spells while lowering their mana cost and still having a strong offense in melee combat.  You can duel wield the same spell to maximize the effect and with devastating results.  I haven’t mucked about much with archery or defensive builds and have almost completely forgone stealth in favor of a much more up front and aggressive play style.

The godawful lock picking mechanic from Oblivion has been removed and replaced with a more intuitive lock picking minigame.  Move your lock pick a few degrees at a time and if the lock gradually starts to turn with more fluidity then you can continue to move the lock pick until you successfully crack the lock open.  I’ve saved a lot of lock picks with that strategy compared to the rapid clicking of Oblivion (though I may have just been horrible at that aspect of Oblivion).

I’m only a few hours into Skyrim but it’s been enough time to tell me that this game was worth the wait.  The gameplay is open-ended and scratches my itch for exploration and the slaughtering of many furry animals.  I’m having so much fun wandering around and completing mini quests that if I somehow complete the main quest in a timely manner I will be highly surprised.   Considering that this is a Bethesda game and that I am playing the PC version I have yet to encounter very many bugs at all.  There is the occasional hiccup in physics such as a wolf shooting fifty feet in the air after I kill it but that’s been pretty rare.  The other is that if you open the Steam community page while in a conversation with an NPC it tends to glitch after you shift-tab back to the game and wind up unable to end the conversation, having to reload the last save.  As I rack up more time exploring the nuances of the game I will write more on it, but for now this has been my opening thoughts on the game.

Posted November 11, 2011 by lunaravian in Video Games

A Little Short Story For Halloween   Leave a comment

A lone woman sat in a dark, dank room supporting the head of a man in her lap. Eyes half closed, she crooned softly to her companion as slight tremors passed through his body and beads of cold sweat clung to his forehead.

“It will be all right now, it will be all right.” She whispered.

The only response from the man was the sound of his labored breathing accompanied by the rhythmic dripping of water from some dark corner of the room. The woman began humming a once forgotten lullaby as she stroked his hair and brushed away several strands plastered to his face by sweat. She leaned over his body, pressing her lips to his throat, feeling the pulse and warmth just under the skin before pulling back and resuming the stroking of his cheek. He was growing paler, his pulse weaker. He did not have much time left.

Time passed by in what seemed both an eternity and an instant at once. The man began to convulse and the woman gently took one of his hands within her own, rubbing a thumb gently along the back. Her eyes were locked on to the gaping wound on his arm. He let out a single sigh and went still, his life extinguished. She watched him sadly for a few moments before steady hands slowly lifted his head from her lap and placed it upon the floor. The woman got up slowly and moved to one of the dark corners of the room, searching for and then wrenching a loose brick from the floor. She turned with purpose and strode back towards the man’s corpse with the brick held firmly in hand.

The body began to twitch as she watched and the man’s lips cracked apart as a low moan escaped his throat; he had saved her life and this was how he was rewarded.

The brick was lifted high above the woman’s head, her expression resolute, before being brought down with force on his skull. A sickening crunch and a few splatters of blood were all that marked his passing.

“Everything is all right now,” whispered the woman, “everything is all right.”

Posted October 28, 2011 by lunaravian in Uncategorized

Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2   Leave a comment

So I haven’t had a chance to post in a long while.  I’ve gone back to Florida until mid December for various reasons and so I’ve been removed largely from the nerd scene almost entirely.  I have a few things to talk about and I’ll work my way through them over the next several weeks and try to play catch up.

I’ve mentioned before that I love the hack and slash gameplay of Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance and that I’d managed to get my hands on a copy after several years of idle searching.  Well I was recently able to find a copy of the sequel and have been having fun forcibly removing creatures’ spines and showing it to them.  As much fun as the game is the best times are when you share your adventures with a second player.  I recruited a younger sister for this and there was much laughter to be heard from in front of the tv.

I ran around as the cleric, she as the elven necromancer.  Dark Alliance 2 has a much larger selection of characters to choose from compared to the three characters of the first game.  There’s a cleric, barbarian, monk, necromancer, and rogue to choose from as playable characters.  They all have a unique storyline that can be pursued in the city of Baldur’s Gate that leads to a special mission for the character at the end of their storyline.  The characters are interesting for the most part though I find the cleric, Allessia’s, story to be less interesting because it focuses largely on her helping her church.

The game’s music is as good as that in the first and the graphics are fairly unchanged.  It continues the story from the first game while having more interesting characters and ends in a rather cool confrontation.  The major gameplay elements are the same and  there are still tons of enemies to kill but a greater variety of creatures,  you can customize weapons you want at the store and have many different effects, and there is a greater selection of armor for the player to choose from.

I loved the various boss fights in the game for being fun and varied but there seems to be a lot of “escape before something bad happens and you die” deals after finishing a fight.  The maps are huge so backtracking is still a hassle though I think I prefer wandering all over a large map than running down a corridor as in other games.  The best strength of the game as in the first is playing co-op with a friend and laughing at each other’s hijinks and untimely deaths.  I have the rather unfortunate habit of blundering into bottomless pits, forcing my sister to find a save point and resurrect me several times within a five-minute time span.  I found myself sticking to one or two spells out of the ones available to each character because once you put enough points into a certain one it’s overpowered and there’s little point in using anything else.  Taking the trouble to mash the melee button seemed useless when I could just flame strike enemies into the ground while occasionally downing a mana potion.  It’s a really good thing that I loved setting enemies on fire and watching them run about in a panic or it would have gotten pretty boring very quickly.

If you play in single player mode then the game has even more replay value than the first with the many characters to run through the story as.  Most have different responses to dialogue in the game and it’s fun to see how they think and react.  I really loved this series during middle school and high school and I’m glad to say that I still enjoy them just as much today as I did then.  It’s just a shame that there haven’t been any more and likely won’t be again.

Posted October 18, 2011 by lunaravian in Video Games

Nook 2 Review   Leave a comment

I was given a Nook Simple Touch from Barnes and Noble as an early birthday gift.  I’ve had it for about two weeks and feel that I can safely review the eReader now.  The exact stats for the device can be found on Barnes and Noble’s website, but it weighs less than eight ounces, has adjustable page and text sizing,  a six inch e-ink touch screen, and a battery life that is supposed to last two months.

I’m not sure about the battery life because it doesn’t state how much use of the device a day counts towards that two month charge.  I used the device heavily during the two weeks that I’ve owned it, reading at least two hours a day and deliberately attempting to run down the battery as fast as possible.  When the wi-fi feature is turned off the battery lasts a bit longer though the difference didn’t seem too marked unless you were actively browsing the web.  Even if the battery doesn’t last a full two months I was incredibly impressed with the longevity of the device from a single charge.  It’s a little misleading though because once you reach 5% the device will shut down and not power up until more fully charged.

The navigation system is incredibly simple, a tap of the nook ‘n’ below the screen brings up the navigation menu.  “Home” simply seems to give easy access to the store, showing books recommended by what you’ve recently bought or read, a quick link to your library, or the ability to jump back to the book you are currently reading.  “Library” is simply a listing of the books you are currently reading though it has the option to categorize your books however you see fit.  “Shop” is pretty self-explanatory giving an easy way to access the Barnes and Noble online e-book store.  “Search” just gives you the ability to find certain things on your device but also acts as a gateway to a simple web browser if you type in a web address.  “Settings” is the last and has controls for wi-fi, memory, screen saver displays, battery indicator, etc.

The web browser seems to be more of an odd easter egg than a full-fledged feature.  It’s not openly listed and has some major problems.  Things are slow to load, if they load at all, you can’t resize anything so you’ll likely be squinting at tiny pages and I found that it didn’t properly navigate at all.  It would get stuck on a single page and no matter what other address or link I would try to use, it would stay on that page and never budge.  Trying to scroll through page content is another issue.  Supposedly it works by sliding your finger along the direction you want to scroll but I found it usually didn’t work or moved in the opposite direction, would only move a little, and then move back in the opposite direction.  I really hope that this is patched and improved upon in the future because as of now it’s not really worth mentioning, which is why, I suppose, that they don’t.

As far as the most important feature of the eReader goes, book reading, it does very well.  It only reads epub and pdf files, though pdf’s can be a bit fussy and are not really resizable.  The epub only book format isn’t too much of a problem as some public libraries lend out ebooks using that format, and even if you buy a book in a different format, it’s easily fixed using a file conversion program like Calibre.  Reading itself is simple, turning the page requires a tap or swipe along the screen, or just a simple button tap on the sides of the touch screen.  There is no ghost text from previous pages, and page loading is fast unless using a pdf or large file, when it may take a little longer.

Overall I am really impressed with the Nook Simple Touch because it does what it is made for incredibly well.  It  is quite comfortable to use and hold, has a remarkable battery life, a simple user interface, decent memory storage that is expandable via a micro SD card slot, easy reading in bright outdoor sunlight, and a responsive touch screen with little to no lag.  Definitely worth the money if all you are interested in is a bare bones eReader that does what it is made for and very little else.

Posted August 8, 2011 by lunaravian in Technology