Kevin Kennedy

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The Banner Saga

With so much news surrounding Kickstarter seemingly dedicated to pointing out the grubby, scumbag projects around there, it’s so refreshing to see a game come out and be pretty awesome. Enter The Banner Saga.

The Banner Saga is a turn based strategy game set in a fictional Viking mythology inspired world, filled with horns, death and bleakness. The Sun is dead, creating an eternal day time with no night. The populace have to contend with this as well as an invading army of armored warriors known as the Dredge are ransacking villages and killing any in their path.

This description doesn’t do the tale much justice, as the world created here is dripping with detail, perhaps a touch too much for what is (until more episodes arrive) a fairly short tale. The tale is told from multiple viewpoints (mostly 2) is different sets of characters try to deal with the world’s problems in their own way.

What was surprising about The Banner Saga is the attention to detail when it comes to the world, story and characters. There is very little in the way of cut-scenes; most of the dialogue is told through talking portraits, with each character lovingly drawn to reflect their personality. From the look in their eyes, the way the hold their weapons and their posture, you can tell a lot about a character just by looking at them.

Despite this, there are some tests that the game has trouble passing. For example, if all the Varl (the near immortal giants of the game) were to stand in a line, you’d have trouble picking them out. You may confuse one character for another in the middle of combat as well. As great as the presentation is, I can’t help but feel that just a little more work would go a long way. I’ve been playing a lot of Fire Emblem: Awakening recently and at first I found the little noises that characters make while dialogue rolls by a little weird and annoying, but at least in that game I have less trouble remembering certain characters.

The gameplay is mostly standard, players take turn to hit each other in the head with axes. One major difference however, is the relationship between strength and health. In most games, a character on low health can still cause trouble, but here, a low health bar means that you can only do a certain amount of damage, if the number is lower than your opponents shields, then you’ll have to adapt your strategy. It’s a slight difference, but one that changes how you play the game, and for the better. It can result in some “cheap” tactics, as I would usually get enemies to low health without giving the killing blow, which essentially leads to them wasting turns on weak attacks. Once you figure out this tactic, the game actually becomes a little too easy.

Anyhow, loving the Don Bluth style animations, loving the music and backgrounds. Bring on the next ep.

Sep 7

The Walking Dead Season 2

Seen a lot of very conflicting, and interesting, articles about season 2 of The Walking Dead, so figured I’d throw my opinion out there. A lot of people seem to be somewhat disappointed when all was said and done, and I only partially agree.

Alex Navarro of Giant Bomb wrote about how the lack of real relationships in season 2 was a problem, which I agree with. The opening episode, which still had it’s moments, threw aside the chance of building on relationships with previous characters just so we can group up with a bunch of other survivors who, fine in their own right, never come close to forming the sort of bond that Clem and Lee had. They simply felt like people you had to put up with for the time-being.

Then episode 2 happened. Seeing Kenny again was amazing, and I immediately started pushing the options to go with him whenever I could. While Kenny and Clem were hardly that close in season 1, there was something about seeing him that made everything click. Maybe it was his relationship with Lee. Maybe it was seeing a familiar face again. Maybe it’s that Kenny feels more like a fully realised character compared to the ones in season 2 who, so far, I couldn’t really give a shit about.

Lets focus on that for a second. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the characters in season 2, some of them I even like. But why do I have trouble even remembering their names? I think it might have something to do with what I’m going to refer to as “The Hobbit problem”. In The Lord of the Rings (yes, Kevin is talking about LOTR again), the fellowship is introduced to the adventure gradually, first Frodo, then Sam, then Merry and Pippen join in, then the rest join in Rivendell. You get enough time with each character, to know and even like them, before more get introduced. In the Hobbit, 13 fucking Dwarves show up one day and we’re expected to care about them in the same way.

In season 1 of The Walking Dead, we have Lee, then Clementine, then while their relationship builds, we are gradually introduced to more and more characters. In season 2, we meet about 6 at once and it’s hard to care about any of them.

A major squandered opportunity is Carver. When he showed up in episode 2 and was the main villain of 3, it cheered me up immensely. It felt as if the arc of the season had finally become clear; an intimidating enemy introduced and a common goal for your group to work towards. Episode 3 truly was great, tense, scary, with an extra dolloping of tense. The major problem however, is that at the end of the episode, it ended. Carver is dead and the group is effectively moving on. While I’m not above the occasional Zombie attack, they don’t make very good villains. They’re dumb and slow. The effect they have on people and the world at large is more interesting than they are. A potential season arc was relegated to being a story of the week, and the whole season, even the whole series, felt like it was moving into a standard episode by episode narrative as opposed to season contained narratives, yet having now played the finale, I’m not even sure of that.

Many reviews have stated that episode 4 onwards, things become less interesting as the group most of whom we’ve yet to build a meaningful relationship with, just seems to be wandering about now, moving from one troublesome issue to the next. I’ll add that there was still one element of tension and characterisation than kept me interested, Kenny.

He goes to some dark places throughout this season, and his character arc makes complete sense to me. That man has been through some shit and he sounds more suicidal by the day. I didn’t want to lose him. The rest of the group could disappear for all I care, all I wanted was to make Kenny better. The idea of turning Kenny into a potential villain, with certain comparisons made to Carver, was also a great idea. I felt as if the game was manipulating me personally, as despite everything Kenny did or said, I still believed in him and wanted him to pull through. Now, is this because I liked Kenny so much, or because with him gone, I’d have little to care about anymore? Maybe a bit of both, but Kenny’s fall into darkness still rung true and if he were to kill someone in that final episode for simply disagreeing with him, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I didn’t begrudge those people leaving (still can’t remember their names, one was Bonnie right?) as they don’t have the relationship with Kenny that I do. Now that I really think about it, I was totally fine with them leaving, I simply wasn’t going to let them take the car and supplies, they could piss off all they want.

Something that was both strange yet touching, was the flashback scene. Suddenly we meet up with Lee again. Other than pulling heartstrings, what purpose did this scene have? Was there something about that RV journey that compared to our current situation? Where connections between Lee and Kenny being made? Was the reminder of Duck meant to tell us something about Kenny? Or do we all just miss Lee? I don’t know.

Then we come to the big final fight of the episode, I just wished they earned it first. For me, the only real choice was between which character I liked more, Kenny or Jane (Kenny, no question). If they wanted there to be more to it, then maybe the characters should’ve been a bit more different. The argument in the car just before the fight felt more like a (very aggressive) domestic abuse, like Clem’s parents were arguing. If they had completely conflicting ideologies, perhaps the choice would have more weight, but they were both coming off as quite selfish people, Kenny wanted control while Jane only really cared about herself (and possibly Clem), other than that I didn’t see any real issue that couldn’t be resolved.

But then Jane had to risk a baby’s life to “prove a point”. What point? That if you pretend to kill a baby you might make someone mad? No shit Sherlock. While I suspected that the game wouldn’t quite kill off the baby, I had no reason to care about Jane whatsoever. For all I know she did just kill a baby, reinforcing her “out for herself” attitude. So fuck her, I let her die. When the baby turned out to be “fine” I felt vindicated in my decision. I understood why Kenny reacted his way but also pointed out that he’s been a bit of a jackass lately. While I doubt that would solve the issue, I still felt fine walking off into the sunset with him.

Then we arrived at Wellington. In narratives like this, if something feels too good to be true, there’s usually a reason for that. I half expected some Carver looking motherfucker to show up with armed guards and mug us, but instead of more fight scenes, we got some closure of Kenny and Clem’s relationship, which in retrospect I’m glad for. We also got to make one final choice, leave Kenny, at his behest, and join the supposed safety of Wellington, or leave with him, onto pastures new. There was also a baby to think about, so it wasn’t all that simple. In the end however, I chose to leave with Kenny. After everything, I still loved that guy, and while he would like nothing more than to see Clem and AJ safe, I also felt that without Clem, Kenny wouldn’t last 2 days, more for emotional than physical reasons. So we left together. Was it right for AJ? Maybe not, but who knows what was going on behind that massive metal wall.

And that’s about it, Kenny and Clem leave, and the game ended. Given the number of alternative endings, It’s clear that if this isn’t the end of the series, then it’s defiantly the end of Clem’s story. While it could have been better, I still like how her character has grown over all this time, she ain’t that little girl anymore.

Till next time.

Sep 6
bryankonietzko:

korranation:

GET READY.

SOON

bryankonietzko:

korranation:

GET READY.

SOON

Sep 4

I find the repeated statement of "No Politics" when people talk about what they want from ideal serious ethical games journalism fairly troubling. How can video games be a serious entertainment medium, or even art without some kind of genuine, academic criticism? Shouldn't an important medium be able to withstand rigorous examination? The idea that gaming coverage can be high quality, professional work so long as it avoids a set of nebulous "political" topics seems kind of.. ridiculous.

patrickklepek:

DING DING DING.

Sep 3

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Holy-shit-god-dam how amazing is this game!? I realise I am a few years out of the loop on this one but my god! I went into this expecting a puzzle/adventure type lawyer game with over the top scenarios and that’s pretty much what I got. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to care for pretty much every character by the end of the game and to find myself laughing and fist pumping every 15 minutes (If something can make me fist pump then it’s all good, I love a good fist pump).

As the fabulously haired, rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright, you must go about solving cases ranging from the simple to the bizarre. The cases are usually personal, even if they don’t begin that way and are always entertaining. I was very impressed by how they kept managing to raise the stakes without it all coming off as one-note. After the opening case, which is more a tutorial than anything else, we are hurtled into a story filled with corruption and back room shenanigans. The opposition seemed so powerful that I was convinced that the rest of the game would revolve around this case, yet the case is soon solved and Wright and co. soon move onto another case while still keeping me invested and interested. It’s an impressive feat and not one to be glossed over.

Even when the case doesn’t involve any personal drama or powerful enemies, you’ll soon find reasons to care for character driven reasons. As silly as everything is, the characters are remarkably well drawn and feel like real people, all things considered.

As much fun as the story is, there are some quibbles. The need to give Phoenix a young attractive Brunette gets a little obnoxious after a while as there seems to be a revolving door of them, eager to help. Also, while I’m aware realism isn’t the order of the day here, Phoenix seems a little too willing to help people who are either outright lying or clearly withholding information from him.

That last point only bothers me a little bit though, as the ridiculous over-the-top drama that ensues in the courtroom as a result of misinformation is the best part of the game. Pointing out contradictions in witness testimonies, pressing for more information and making people squirm is too much fun.

It’s almost a shame that there isn’t more of it, as a large chunk of the game consists of investigating crime scenes and looking for evidence. These segments are fine but are rarely (if ever) as much fun as the trials as you mostly feel as if you are simply ridding them out as opposed to solving puzzles.

All that said, this is still a very awesome game. It has style and character bursting out of the seems. The trials feel more like anime battles, complete with sound effects, and the characters act accordingly, reacting to contradictory evidence with squirms of pain. The Judge is a personal favorite of mine, with his magnificent beard and gullible persona.

Eh, so yeah, play the thing if you haven’t. Check that shit!

Sep 3

http://femfreq.tumblr.com/post/96510902230/here-is-something-for-those-interested-in-how-our

femfreq:

Here is something for those interested in how our arguments about Objectification Theory in Women as Background Decorations Part 1 have been widely distorted, misrepresented and strawmanned. This long-form video by YouTuber L0G1C B0MB deconstructs some of the many logical fallacies…

Oh boy, that last line though.

mattfractionblog:

this isn’t even the meanest thing john said as a beatle

Yay! My turn to be the know it all. John Lennon never said this, it was a joke made by some comedian in the 80’s (1981 I believe, I would doube check but as soon as I finish this i gotta poo). Go me!

mattfractionblog:

this isn’t even the meanest thing john said as a beatle

Yay! My turn to be the know it all. John Lennon never said this, it was a joke made by some comedian in the 80’s (1981 I believe, I would doube check but as soon as I finish this i gotta poo). Go me!

(Source: suicidewatch)

My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare. My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there’s minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least it’s a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.

To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too…

Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I’ve ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.

- My only statement. My brothers’ are also online. Thank you for all your kindness, and goodbye for awhile guys. xo (via zeldawilliams)

Aug 8
elodieunderglass:

gimmeagoodcoldbeer:

ronin134:

revengeofthemudbutt:

armedplatypus:

whiskey-weather:

stonerdoomandbeagles:

shoothikedrinkfuck:

blazepress:

This three-legged decorated war hero had one leg lost to surgery after taking four rounds from an AK-47.

Bad. Mother. Fucker.

 Those eyes say “Pretend to throw the tennis ball. I dare you to only pretend.”

I think those eyes say a lot more than that. He’s seen more than I ever will, done more than I’ll ever do, and his war will never be over.

He’s got Ranger scrolls on his collar. That dog is a god damn hero.

I just noticed the Purple Heart and that Scroll.Wow. Just wow. The picture alone, in all it’s detail says a lot of things. god damn.

I can’t not reblog this dog… his youEyes say so much

I’ve never seen a dog with such a face like that. Like an old man who went to war and if you ask him about he just stiffens up and face turns to stone. 

Layka is a lady dog. Let’s remember that.
Now, it’s an understandable problem - our socialization instantly encourages us to see this rugged, sleek, military animal as a male. Three-legged hero dog with military decorations and stern-appearing eyes? TOTALLY A DUDE DOG, JUST LOOK AT HIM. It’s a programmed response, and nothing to be ashamed of - let’s just be accurate and note that Layka’s a female.
I’ve highlighted all the reblogs above where Layka is described as a hero, an old man, with male pronouns - rather than the fierce, charming heroine she is. It’s kind of a teachable moment: how does an image of an animal, displaying absolutely no secondary sex characteristics, instantly give us these fictional headcanons about its gender and gender performance? It’s an impressive demonstration of our ability to translate body language.
The photographer who took this compelling shot noted that Layka’s playful, bouncy energy made it nearly impossible for him to get a shot with her mouth closed! He ended up having to stop using the tennis ball he was using to get her attention, because it made her too excited and smiley. Based on the photos below, I think she’d have quite a sense of humor about the “where’s the tennis ball?” game!

Of course, the photographer did end up connecting with a fundamental aspect of Layka’s nature in the cover photo; her serious, soldier side. But that’s not all the animal is. Does the dog in the unused shots still resemble an “old man?” Is the dog in the unused shots male or female? Is it still a hero with its tongue out? Is it still admirable without a “face like stone?”
This is what I mean when I say that we have to examine the lenses of culture and society that we are always, always looking through when we talk about science biology.

A simple “It’s a girl!" would have sufficed.

elodieunderglass:

gimmeagoodcoldbeer:

ronin134:

revengeofthemudbutt:

armedplatypus:

whiskey-weather:

stonerdoomandbeagles:

shoothikedrinkfuck:

blazepress:

This three-legged decorated war hero had one leg lost to surgery after taking four rounds from an AK-47.

Bad. Mother. Fucker.


Those eyes say “Pretend to throw the tennis ball. I dare you to only pretend.”

I think those eyes say a lot more than that. He’s seen more than I ever will, done more than I’ll ever do, and his war will never be over.

He’s got Ranger scrolls on his collar. That dog is a god damn hero.

I just noticed the Purple Heart and that Scroll.
Wow. Just wow. 
The picture alone, in all it’s detail says a lot of things. god damn.

I can’t not reblog this dog… his you
Eyes say so much

I’ve never seen a dog with such a face like that. Like an old man who went to war and if you ask him about he just stiffens up and face turns to stone. 

Layka is a lady dog. Let’s remember that.

Now, it’s an understandable problem - our socialization instantly encourages us to see this rugged, sleek, military animal as a male. Three-legged hero dog with military decorations and stern-appearing eyes? TOTALLY A DUDE DOG, JUST LOOK AT HIM. It’s a programmed response, and nothing to be ashamed of - let’s just be accurate and note that Layka’s a female.

I’ve highlighted all the reblogs above where Layka is described as a hero, an old man, with male pronouns - rather than the fierce, charming heroine she is. It’s kind of a teachable moment: how does an image of an animal, displaying absolutely no secondary sex characteristics, instantly give us these fictional headcanons about its gender and gender performance? It’s an impressive demonstration of our ability to translate body language.

The photographer who took this compelling shot noted that Layka’s playful, bouncy energy made it nearly impossible for him to get a shot with her mouth closed! He ended up having to stop using the tennis ball he was using to get her attention, because it made her too excited and smiley. Based on the photos below, I think she’d have quite a sense of humor about the “where’s the tennis ball?” game!

Layka is so smiley in person that the photographer struggled to get her to pose "seriously."

Of course, the photographer did end up connecting with a fundamental aspect of Layka’s nature in the cover photo; her serious, soldier side. But that’s not all the animal is. Does the dog in the unused shots still resemble an “old man?” Is the dog in the unused shots male or female? Is it still a hero with its tongue out? Is it still admirable without a “face like stone?”

This is what I mean when I say that we have to examine the lenses of culture and society that we are always, always looking through when we talk about science biology.

A simple “It’s a girl!" would have sufficed.

Aug 2
hobolunchbox:

Video: Legolas vs. Justin Bieber

hobolunchbox:

Video: Legolas vs. Justin Bieber