You may recall, humans, that I had recently mentioned some changes that were possibly in the works here at the Ominous Dark Tower (TM) and that details would be forthcoming. Well, that day has come! After consulting with my hordes of darkness (Editor’s Note: meaning me, which probably doesn’t count, his sons, and Malevolent Moogle) HORDES OF DARKNESS, I have decided that you all have not been graced with enough of me only posting here. As such, I have decided to expand my empire: in addition to getting back to posting more Game Night videos, I will be live streaming more on Twitch and posting some Let’s Play videos on YouTube. I’m also in the early planning stages, along with my boys, of writing and recording a periodic podcast focused primarily on gaming, comedy, and wrestling (although they rejected my naming it “GCW” and doing a loop of wrestling fans chanting “G-C-DUB! G-C-DUB”) with the occasional tangent when I feel the need to rant off-topic.
Further details and links will be coming soon, but to give you an idea how excited I am to do this, I cancelled my Netflix and subscribed to Game Pass just to give me more material to work with and fewer excuses not to work on it. I hope you enjoy what we have coming soon as much as you’ve enjoyed my ramblings here thus far. Because I’m going to need help and input to make this work…as I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Talk to you more soon, mortals! – EWE
Hello once again, mortals! A very happy Memorial Day to all of you in the US, and for those not in the US…uh, I hope your Monday was not awful? (Editor’s Note: …smooth, very smooth…) Whatever – anyway, the point is that you’re here now, and that makes everything better, doesn’t it? (Editor’s Note: I mean-) Shut up, you! So, what have I been up to on this lovely extended weekend? Well, let’s just see, shall we?
So the big question as we left EWE and Co. last time in PoE was whether or not I would attempt to help the Lord of Gilded Vale see the error of his ways and become a better ruler for his people…or whether I would just slaughter him and make way for someone else to take a shot at it. After not really thinking about it all that much, I massacred everyone in the throne room and left their looted corpses for the next monarch to clean up before taking the throne. With that, I was off to see what exactly the deal is with my visions of people’s past lives – only to meet a sentient chair and a lunatic, which wound up with me inheriting a haunted castle. Nice! I knew I had always liked PoE, and this is reminding me of why. But that’s not the only CRPG I’ve been diving into as of late…
I’ll admit it – I’ve always, always had a soft spot for classic Forgotten Realms RPGS. Baldur’s Gate (all of them, I, II, EE, Dark Alliance I & II, ALL OF THEM), Icewind Dale, and of course, NWN. Now I will also say that going into NWN back in the day, I was simultaneously excited about the upgrade from the classic Infinity Engine to the Aurora Engine, but also hesitant about the idea of only having one hireling along with me as opposed to a full party of adventurers as I did in the Baldur’s Gate titles. This time around, however, what first leaped out at me was that the jump to 1080p resolution has NOT helped this game at all. Seriously, this was never the most attractive game, even in its day, but the “Enhanced Edition” is not visually enhanced at all. Still though, it didn’t diminish the longstanding crush I’ve had on Aribeth de Tylmarande.
I’m not too terribly far into the game yet – my paladin (Editor’s Note: HA!) ahem, has just begun looking for the cure to the Wailing Death and is currently infiltrating the Prison District. The gameplay is still the fantastic pause-and-play real-time combat I remember, and once you accept how far graphics have come since NWN was released, it’s still a fantastic RPG. And finally…
My sons and I pre-ordered the Elsweyr expansion to ESO and thus received early access to it. Now, it’s no secret that we are HUGE fans of ESO, enough to sub to it when it’s optional. That being said, while I have almost nothing but positive remarks for it, I have to say that I didn’t realize that the Elsweyr content would consist of one, and only one, zone. I mean, it’s a zone with quite a bit to do, and all of it is very well executed, but still…one? Hopefully the regular content updates will possibly expand on this, but that’s pretty much my only disappointment so far. The new Necromancer class is fantastic – and still fairly OP and in need of some balancing in PVP – and I’ve had a blast with leveling It’s Me Skeletor and Evil Wizard Esq along with my boys.
And with that, we come to the end of another trip through the backlog. Will I continue to terrorize the masses in Pillars of Eternity? Will I be the worst paladin in all of Faerun in NWN EE? Will my progeny and I carve a path of death and destruction across Tamriel in ESO? As always…signs point to yes. – EWE
Good evening, humans! How fare you this night? What’s that – me, you ask?
Yeah…the mind and body weren’t very cooperative today. Since my normal response to lack of cooperation (Editor’s Note: …i.e., setting the offending party on fire…) yes, that, didn’t seem appropriate seeing as how it was MY mind and body, I just had to grin and bear it. Well, bear it – grinning being decidedly not my thing and, frankly, very disturbing the few times I’ve attempted it. I’m fairly sure it has something to do with the horrific, Lovecraftian monstrosity that I call my face. Regardless, despite the mental and physical fog, a particular piece of lunacy leaped out to pierce the shroud and assault my mind, common sense, and sense of basic decency (Editor’s Note: and you know that’s really a low bar coming from EWE!) exactl- hey, watch it!
Orrin Hatch, saying if Dr. Ford's accusation of Brett Kavanaugh is true: "If that were true, I think it would be hard for senators not to consider who he is today.''
Upon seeing this, my immediate, gut reaction was something like:
Upon further time to process the Senator’s comments and stance, however, my calmer, more nuanced response was:
You know, this is going to sound selfish and petty, but…why do I have to do this? Why? For fuck’s sake, it is 2018 – why in the hell do I need to waste a single iota of my time and energy explaining why it would NOT, in fact, “be hard for senators not to consider who he is today” if Kavanaugh, a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States, sexually assaulted a woman in high school. And is lying about to this very day, displaying no remorse or recognition that his conduct was improper. Why do we even have to fucking HAVE this discussion? What in the actual FUCK is wrong with you miserable sacks of watered-down carbon that this is something that even needs to be addressed whatsoever? (Editor’s Note: Sorry – he’s a little cranky tonight.)
Listen, what a lot of people may not know (although you’d sure think a goddamn sitting Senator would know it) is that Supreme Court Justices are open to impeachment and removal for “high crimes and misdemeanors” much the same way as a President. And that, short of the Justice retiring voluntarily or dying, is the only way they come off the bench. With that kind of job security comes a high standard of behavior that we hold our Justices to. This means that if Bill Clinton can be impeached over a white stain on his intern’s dress, while Kavanaugh is alleged to have teamed up with a fellow classmate to sexually assault and attempt to rape a young woman, then that should damn well disqualify him from even being considered for placement on the Court in the first place.
Which brings me to Orrin Hatch. You pathetic, sniveling, arrogant, senile son-of-a-bitch. You actually said, to national media, with a straight face, that even if Kavanaugh’s accuser is telling the truth, he should still be given serious consideration for the Supreme Court based upon “who he is now?” Well, Orrin, let me give you a little insight into that point of view. If you assume that his accuser is telling the truth, then Kavanaugh is someone who committed sexual assault, and possibly rape, in his late teens. When confronted with this fact, his response has not been to acknowledge his wrongdoings, admit them, illustrate how he has changed and grown, express remorse, or otherwise demonstrate anything in the way of character development. His response has been to deny any wrongdoing on his part, deny even being present, and call his accuser a liar. So, Orrin, if under your scenario his accuser is telling the truth, and Kavanaugh continues to deny any responsibility, that not only makes him a sex offender but a liar. And that doesn’t sound even remotely like someone that should be placed on the highest court in the country, even to a feeble-minded simpleton like you, does it, Orrin? Because if it does, then not only should Kavanaugh be swept out of Washington and back under whatever dark hole he crawled out from under, but maybe you and your fellow slime that place party line over good of the nation should join him there. – EWE
That’s right, mortals! Your vacation, my vacation, EVERYONE’S vacation is done! For the first time in CENTURIES (Editor’s Note: well, years, but still…a long time) yes, A LONG TIME, I decided it was time to give myself a break. An actual, honest-to-evilness break – from work, from writing, from everything but relaxing. And you know what? IT…WAS…GLORIOUS!!!
I spent an entire week waking up when I wanted, hanging out with my sons, reading, gaming, finally playing laser tag for the first time in my life (it is just as fun as I always figured it was), and oh did I mention, NOT WORKING. It was, quite frankly, the single best week for my mental health that I’ve had in recent memory. So yes – I’ve been away. You’ve all been free to rebuild your little villages and prosper and whatnot. But guess what, kiddos? DADDY’S HOME!
We’ve got lots and lots to talk about and get caught up on! The Game Night! streams will of course be coming back – Beefer, Dracollia and Special Buddy in particular are itching to grace your eyes and ears again (Monkey is a little more meh on the whole stream thing). I’ve watched and read and played so, so many things to share with you all. In particular – if you have Netflix, consider if any of the following apply to you: Did you grow up during the 80s? Were you a Voltron fan? An anime fan? An action cartoon fan in general? A mecha fan? Just a fan of well done animated series? If any of these apply to you, and you have Netflix, stop what you are doing, and binge every minute of Voltron: Legendary Defender. If you don’t have Netflix…subscribe to Netflix, and then binge every minute of Voltron: Legendary Defender.
This is a modern reboot/retelling of the Voltron saga, but for those of us that watched the classic show when we were young (Editor’s Note: well…younger, anyway)…ahem, fear not, because the producers at Dreamworks did as well, and while Legendary Defender serves as an homage to that tale, it is not slavishly beholden to it, and the modern characterizations of the familiar characters both ring true and yet are fresh and avoid being dull retreads of a bygone era. After a couple of full season releases, the show opted for the growing “half-season” method of release, with each season consisting of a single-digit number of episodes that comprise approximately half of an entire season’s story arc. Season Six just released on Netflix and having watched the entire series twice now, it stands as a fantastic example of a licensed Netflix Original Series done right. Even the occasional filler episodes include a bit of plot advancement, as well as lighthearted character moments that don’t feel like a chore to slog through just to get to the next “important” episode. While some of the plot twists may feel like they are telegraphed at first, in reality the writers, animators and voice actors do an absolutely amazing job breathing such life into the different characters that you truly will be second guessing yourself and your predictions over and over again as the series progresses – and that’s a sign of a job well done. To say much more would risk giving away twists that you deserve to experience for yourself – now go form Voltron!
There will be more from here, boys and girls – so many games, good (Dragon’s Crown Pro) and…less my cup of tea (Prey). There will be books – including my finally, inevitably crumbling to the siren song of the audiobook in the car…which has seen me basically consuming a new non-fiction book every few days, not counting what I read with my eyes, and that’s all just my pleasure reading, not my work-related legal research and writing, to say nothing of black magic, blood magic and curses (Editor’s Note: Uh, just ignore those last few…). There will be wrestling talk – for what it’s worth, currently NJPW is the best wrestling on the planet and the only thing WWE has coming close as a whole is NXT. On the main roster, they’ve got Styles, Bryan, and Rollins – and you give Vince and his “creative” time and they will goddamn find a way to fuck those guys up too, no matter how much talent they have. Don’t believe me? Go talk to Shinsuke Nakamura…or Asuka…or Sami Zayn…or Finn Balor…or literally any tag team.
And there will be legal and political talk of course! Like for example, I hear some citrus-fruit-based life form and his helper monkey/former-NYC-mayor have somehow formed the theory that, in a society that is literally founded on, among other things, the concept of nobody, NOBODY being above the law, the living orange can pardon himself. That he’s incapable of committing a crime, and that even if he did, he can somehow pardon himself from that crime. Now, I will engage in a more in-depth look at this at a later date, but for brevity and blood-pressure’s sake, let me just sum up briefly this way: no, no he cannot pardon himself, and anyone that tells him that he can, or that goes on television and advocates that he can, should not only be bounced out of the practice of law immediately, but should – and I honest to cats can’t believe I’m saying this – be liable to the poor orange bastard for damages, because he’s not a lawyer, and if he relies on advice so incredibly, recklessly, shit-stormingly stupid as being possibly true, then they should go down for it every bit as hard as he does for not having the goddamn spine to tell him the fucking truth. – EWE
(Editor’s Note: While the following will contain spoilers for the previous games in the God of War series, there will be NO SPOILERS of anything not previously made public about the newest entry just released for PS4.)
Early on in God of War, there is a moment when Kratos’s son, Atreus, is despondent and unresponsive after a brutal battle. “You’re in your head, boy,” remarks Kratos, “Close your heart to it.” Atreus doesn’t respond, and so Kratos gruffly states “Then we return home,” before slyly adding, “A shame…to quit the journey so soon after we began…” Atreus immediately snaps out of his shell shock, exclaiming, “What?! No! I’m fine! See, here…I’m dropping the chain! I’m fine now!” It was a moment that made me, and would make any father or parent, smile.
I am still early on in my journey through the Norse lands in God of War, but Sony Santa Monica has already taken a character in Kratos, who was once the poster child for one-note characters – literally just an anthropomorphic personification of rage – and transformed him into one of my favorite nuanced characters, and fathers, in all of fiction. This isn’t an exaggeration. I am a father of two sons myself, and perhaps that is part and parcel of why I find myself relating so, so much to the struggles and the strengths of Kratos in this adventure in these latter days of the demi-god’s life.
It isn’t a spoiler to say that Kratos and Atreus are on a journey following the death of Kratos’s wife and Atreus’s mother – that much was made obvious from the prerelease trailers and campaign from Sony. And yet, despite sharing this deeply personal loss, it is obvious in the early hours that Kratos struggles with the emotional bonds of fatherhood. There have been several times where Atreus has appeared in need of comfort, while Kratos reaches an unseen hand toward his back, only to hesitate at the last moment and then drop the hand away. Many have speculated that this is indicative of Kratos’s struggles with “adjusting to fatherhood,” but for me this misses the mark and overlooks a huge chunk of the character’s history. He’s already been a father – and it came to a brutal, tragic end at his own, albeit unwitting, hands. So it isn’t that the bonds and emotions of fatherhood are foreign to Kratos – instead, he is all too familiar with them, and knows the pain of having them ripped away, and thus has been torn between nurturing them with his new family or keeping them at arm’s distance to avoid the risk of repeating his tragic and violent past.
While much has been made of how this game represented a “fresh start” and would not necessarily be tied to the prior games, but would still “honor” them, for me personally, the ties to Kratos’s journey through the previous games have been pervasive through the early hours of his new quest. From multiple characters referencing Kratos’s past, to Kratos’s starting equipment referencing that it covers a “dark secret,” to a mysterious illness that Atreus suffered from as a child that Kratos seems to know more about than he is telling…and then there is the growth of Kratos himself. Gone is the blind rage of Kratos rampaging through the Greek pantheon. In its place is an older, wiser man, still capable of tremendous violence when challenged, but more focused on imparting reason and wisdom to his son than in engaging in the slaughter of all who oppose him. He is a deeper, nuanced character that can be related to much more easily than in past installments in the franchise.
These changes to the God of War formula are immediately apparent in the gameplay itself. Gone are the days of the zoomed out, fixed camera angles – instead we now have a controllable camera that is zoomed in over the shoulder of Kratos, making combat much more visceral, brutal, and tactical. Every encounter, even on normal difficulty, has the potential to end your game if you just mash an attack button and don’t pay attention to your surroundings. Enemies are brutal and intelligent, engaging in flanking tactics, adapting to your battle maneuvers, and attacking in well-balanced packs that require employing varying battle tactics to succeed against.
But this isn’t to say that combat is in any way unfair – if you plan well, you’ll succeed. Time your blocks, look for openings, call for Atreus to send in arrow strikes at opportune moments, and unleash hell, and you’ll be rending enemies limb from limb in short order. Boss fights, however, are still tense affairs requiring you to observe and identify patterns and weaknesses. Rushing in without knowing what you’re doing is going to get you quickly killed – and honestly, that feels right in a game set amongst gods and monsters.
I spent all weekend and as much time this week as I could playing God of War and I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface – and that thrills me. I don’t ever want it to end. Everything about this game has amazed me, and it has been one of my favorite gaming experiences that I have had in a long, long time. More thoughts will assuredly come as I continue my journey alongside Kratos and Atreus, but for now, all I can say is that if you haven’t begun your own journey at their side, you should. This isn’t just a game – it is a piece of art, it is a timeless story that should be told and listened to and experienced. Do not miss it. – EWE
Humans! How long it has been! Well, more for you than for me – I’m the timeless personification of darkness, so really, a couple of months is a catnap for me. Though I suppose I’ve perhaps somewhat missed imparting my wisdom/seething misanthropy onto you, the select group of mortal meatbags that I don’t abjectly abhor. So…I guess…maybe…it’s nice to see you again. There! I’m not repeating myself! (Editor’s Note: Aww, you missed-) I swear, I will set your entire BLOODLINE on fire if you finish that thought (Editor’s Note: …nothing, nevermind.) Damn skippy.
So many things have contributed to my absence – physical, mental, emotional – and I’m sure over time some or all of them will bleed out into my writing, whether in bits or in their entirety. But if I’d had the right words to tell those stories, I’d have been back before now. So then, what finally made me able to pick up my pen – keyboard, whatever – again after being away? Well, that would be, of all things, a Twitter poll from my fellow wizards of the written word over at The Well-Red Mage. By the way – read them, listen to them, support them – they are each and every one an amazing writer and person.
Now, at first blush the only dilemma I had was that I felt torn between two decades, as the period from the mid-to-late 90s through the early-to-mid 00s was what I considered my perfect answer. But then I saw a tweet in response that really got my inner-philosophical-gamer juices working.
If I was totally objective, today would be best with variety, online AND retro revivals ala mini/classic/remastered editions. But nostalgia is not objective
Don't get me wrong, I love the games from my childhood, but I'm a firm believer that we've reached a golden age in video games. The level of variety and polish, the sheer amount of really amazing stories being told, make me lean toward the 2010s.
Ohohoho, now we had a full-blown bout of navel-gazing going on inside my head, minions! What was my Well-Red (and Read) friend actually asking – for an objective “best” era of gaming, or a subjective “favorite” era of gaming? What was the distinction between them? IS there a distinction between them – and even if such a distinction were to theoretically exist, can we ever truly grasp it, as we are inherently colored by our own perceptions of our own individual realities and experiences?
The first issue that occurs to me is that while I truly respect the opinions and thoughts of all the individuals involved in that particular Twitter discussion (Editor’s Note: This is no small thing for him to admit – he works daily around judges and magistrates that he considers barely worthy of continued intake of oxygen, let alone actual respect), I believe that the concept of an “objective best” is impossible. The term “best” is inherently and inescapably subjective – it is brewed from all manner of differing criteria depending upon the evaluator, steeped in one’s own personal preferences and pet peeves, and filtered through the time, place, manner, and setting in which we each experienced things for the first time. There are times when, under certain circumstances, we may attach a more objective modifier to “best” – such as associating “fastest” with “best” when discussing race cars – but even then, it presupposes this connection between the objective term (“fastest”) and the subjective “best.” As soon as someone decides that perhaps handling is a more important consideration than raw speed, suddenly the illusion of an objective “best” race car is shattered.
So then is “best” – without the attachment of some more objective modifier – simply synonymous with “favorite?” Not so fast – it isn’t that simple at all. You see, “best” may be inherently subjective, but it is still something that invites debate. Advocating for or against an interpretation of what is the “best” – trying to convince others as to why they should also adopt what you see as the “best.”
But “favorite” isn’t just a subjective concept – it is inherently, indelibly personal. It isn’t so much a debate or attempt to convince others as to the correctness of your point of view as to simply express your own opinion. You “favorite” can of course change – but the reasons will always be internal, personal – singular to you, not the product of debate and analysis by a wider audience. My “favorite” Final Fantasy is Final Fantasy Tactics. The Shameful Narcissist’s “favorite” is Final Fantasy VII. LightningEllen’s “favorite” is Final Fantasy XIII. The three of us can debate endlessly over which of the three – or perhaps even another – is the “best” Final Fantasy. But there is no debate over our “favorite” – because it is just that…ours.
I suppose this little tirade is in part a response to another point made by my feathered-hat-wearing compatriot.
This statement, made far too often in gaming journalism, is part of the conflation between “favorite” and “best.” I in no way am suggesting that reviews cannot be subject to the personal interpretations of the reviewer – that’s impossible. Any critique, no matter how much the reviewer strives for objectivity, is going to be influenced to some degree by their subjective views. But an analysis that is supported by sound reasoning (“the ATB battle system is the best RPG battle system because it balances the tension of quick thinking and decision making with the strategy and planning of traditional turn-based systems”) is completely different from a blanket qualitative statement based upon nothing but a vague, unspecified dislike (“the combat in this game just doesn’t work”). The only time the phrase “just doesn’t work” should be used is when the aspect of the game to which it refers LITERALLY DOES NOT FUNCTION. As in, every time a battle is triggered and the combat engine tries to load, the entire game crashes. Otherwise, it is just a lazy cop-out to substitute “I just don’t like this” for a critical analysis of a game’s virtues and vices. Does this mean a reviewer can’t simply express dislike? Not at all – but they need to add two very crucial words: “This just doesn’t work FOR ME.” Suddenly, as in the difference between “best” and “favorite,” the expression is clearly personal – not right or wrong, just a statement of opinion individual to the reviewer. It isn’t an argument for or against the overall merits or flaws of the game – those can be made but must be supported with reasoning.
Whew – quite a winding trail of babbling, wasn’t that? If I were one to ask for understanding, I might point out that it has been a while, and I’ve had some pent-up literary expression brewing…but I’m not, so I won’t! Regardless, I must say that it is quite agreeable to be conversing with you mortals again…I think I shall try to do so with greater frequency. Until then, my friends! – EWE
Greets, humans! It’s been a bit of a whirlwind this past week or so, so let’s get right to it, shall we?
First thing’s first, good ol’ (and by that I mean REALLY FUCKING OLD) EWE had himself a birthday last week. Yeah, don’t worry – it kinda sucked. It was a horrifically awful work day, and most of the small group of people I’d have most like to have celebrated with actually DIDN’T REMEMBER IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY. On the plus side though, it did manage to reaffirm my long held, but sometimes shaken belief in the human species. Even when I meet folks like Malevolent Moogle or all of you fine blogging folk out there, and begin to think that your species has some potential, water always finds its level, and the balance of humanity always manages to sink well below any bar that might be set for it, no matter how low. But hey – I’m still alive, so there’s always time!
As a present for not being dead yet, the universe decided to present me with the question “how the hell aren’t you dead yet?” You see, hypertension runs in my veins (HA! I slay me) having reared it’s ugly head in a number of my ancestors. Diet, exercise, protection spells, ritual blood sacrifices – nothing seems to help. So after a year on a blood pressure med, my cardiologist called me in for a checkup. After first asking me such inane questions as “any stresses in your personal life?” and having me scowl silently at him for several moments before awkwardly moving on, he determined that my blood pressure…was still too high. So he prescribed a second med to go with the first, and said to call in with my blood pressure numbers after one month. And so I did – I reported that after one month of taking his second med as directed, my blood pressure had managed to actually go up further. I’m awaiting word on what the hell I am supposed to do now. And while I wait, I was sitting at work when I received the following phone call.
“Hi, it’s Mom! Are you busy?”
“No, it’s ok – is everything alright?”
“Now, I don’t want you to panic or anything – ” (Editor’s Note: This is never a good lead.) ” – but I was just at my doctor, and they are saying I recently had a heart attack.”
“They aren’t sure, probably within the last couple of weeks – but don’t worry! I’m fine, I’m even driving to physical therapy!”
“…YOU HAD A HEART ATTACK, AND NOW YOU’RE DRIVING BY YOURSELF, AND THAT’S SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER?!?!”
First off, Evil Mom is fine. She’s home, and she’s being closely watched. But everything about that conversation is a sample of why when the cardiologist asks “any personal stress?” I just stare at him in abject fury.
But all is not doom and gloom! Yes, it is my favorite season of the year – fall! Autumn! 92 fucking degrees and humid! Wait, that’s not right…anyway, in celebration of the season, let me share with you my favorite fall morning fix, and save you a trip to Starbucks every day. Here is EWE’s Fall Coffee!
So here is what you will need: a standard drip coffeemaker, a coffee bean grinder, your favorite cinnamon coffee beans, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, ginger, ground clove, vanilla extract, and Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice Creamer. Grind the beans based upon how much coffee you want, place in the filter, then add just a dash of each of the spices above. Be particularly careful with the ginger, clove, and vanilla – just a bit of each is powerful and can quickly overpower the other flavors. Brew the coffee, pour, and add just a touch of the pumpkin spice creamer. Voila – with minimal effort, you have the best fall coffee on the face of the earth.
Now go make some and enjoy what are looking like the last days of my body’s functional lifespan! – EWE