What a Year!

 Armchair Adventurers everyone is doing a list, checking it twice and getting ready to start a new year! With the Weekend Review skipping a week I thought I'd pop in here and give a short run down of some of my must play games of 2017. Those of you that have listened to the Weekend Review know that I have played a lot of games this year, but some of them haven't been from this year. On top of that some of them are more indie titles that might have slipped past the radar of some. So as you start 2018, and are wondering what games to try your hand at take a look at what I have to offer you.

9. Endless Space 2:

 This has been the year of the strategy game for me. With the release of Endless Space 2 it's just one more game that has that "just one more turn" mentality that really gets me. It's at the bottom of my list for one reason. I haven't played it hardly at all. With games like Stellaris, and Total War: Warhammer currently eating away my strategy hours Endless Space 2 has hit the backburner for a short while. The opening cinematic for each species is truly beautiful however, enough to draw me in and make me want to sit down to explore what each of them has to offer. I've played enough of the other "Endless" series to know that if you love strategy games like I do you're in for a treat.

8. Darkwood:

 In a year with Resident Evil 7, it feels like the horror genre in video games is making a bit of a comeback. Darkwood is no different. It combines survival mechanics in a non burdensome way along with a feeling of isolation and overall creepiness. You play as a man trapped in a forest. The game gives no clues as to how you got there, it gives vague hints as to what happened to the world outside of the forest but other than that you have to puzzle out what the game has to offer. Nighttime is deadly, the shadows come alive and rip you apart, when combined with a stamina mechanic has more than once forced me to step away from the controller for a moment to say "Hooooooly shit that was intense." Daytime is no slouch either. Rabid dogs, creepy cultists, and monsters alike plague the world from a top down perspective which drive you as the player to want to upgrade your safe house, and workbenches all the more. If you get this game, play it with a controller as I found keyboard and mouse are a clunky set up at the best.

7. Player Unknown's Battle Grounds:

 Holy crap this game took everyone by storm this year. It was a slow burn for me, I would play a round here and there, but it wasn't until Andrew and Travis and I started doing squad matches that the game really became something unique. When I first tried it, it was such an awesome experience. I knew what the premise of the game was and it drew me in, but since I am relatively new to the PC as a gaming platform, my skills are lackluster at best when it comes to X-person shooters. It's still a blast though, the game is nothing short of an adrenaline pump as you make your way across Murder Island trying to kill off the other denizens of it. The game itself is crafted in such a way as to make this loop really repeatable. 

6. The Shrouded Isle:

 Anyone that's listened to our AP's know that I am a sucker for Cthulhu mythos. The Shrouded Isle popped onto the scene during the summer months and I gave it a try and I adore this game. It's a management game where you play as the cult leader of a small village that sacrifices people to satisfy the old gods, and to help them stir from their 500 year slumber to reign darkness and terror upon the world. The game takes place over three years, but it's broken down into seasons. You have to select members from the five houses to serve as your "dark inquisition" to keep the population of the village zealous and stupid. During the course of doing so you find out flaws of these individuals. Too inquisitive? At the end of that season they are sacrificed to the old gods. It's a very entertaining game that can be played in a couple of hours, and encourages the player to go through time and time again.

5. Okami HD:

 I loved Okami when it was released the first time around. The fact that it's been upscaled and made available as a PC port makes it even better. It looks amazing, plays just like it used to, and I'm taking my time just absorbing the absolutely gorgeous artwork the game has to offer.

4. Unexplored:

 I really don't even know where to start with this. One of my favorite genres of games is roguelike. They offer a complexity by making each instance of your game a singular run, and even though you might try it again, it's an entirely different set up than it was before. Unexplored takes that concept, but applies it to dungeon delving. The thing is though that the game will give you clues about the world as you play it. Stumble across half machine, half monster creatures two floors down that take you out rather quick? The old man in the bar will drop a hint to try Dispel Magic potions on them. Small things like that that let you poke at the world, and the world is so easy to jump in and out of. It's everything I love about Dungeons and Dragons and being a Game Master written into a game.

3. Cuphead:

 Huge indie scene this year, and nothing was more exciting than Cuphead. Drawing from old animation style roots, combined with old school video game techniques, Cuphead is such a fantastic game. If you like challenge it has it. The first world is just a drop in the hat for difficulty in what is to come later. Jumps require you to be pixel perfect, and each of the "bosses" you go up against don't have health bars, they have different phases. You don't see how well you fare until you've died or finished the level. Combine that with such an amazing sound track and wonderful style this game is near the top for me.

2. Heat Signature:

 Those of you that have listened to the Weekend Review have heard me gush about Heat Signature. It's so hard not to. I said earlier that one of my favorite genre of games was roguelikes, and Heat Signature is that. You get to play as Malcom Reynolds in almost every sense of the word. You start the game taking back an asteroid space station for the purposes of fighting against the galactic cartels that have carved up your area of space. Each instance of character that you play as has a personal mission to achieve, and if you complete it you reach such a level of fame that you get paid less and less for each job you take. Missions can be mundane such as, take over this ship that has four people on it, to most difficult such as, rescue this person but don't kill or knock anyone unconscious and don't be seen. It's such a wonderful game that is so repeatable, but it does lack in overall story, there's no main focus for the story to really push against so that's why I had to rate it at number 2.

1. Nier: Automata:

 This game...after I finished it I sat down to start writing about it. I scrapped what I had wrote, but the memory of that feeling is still with me. Nier: Automata goes for it. It goes for anime ass anime story, it goes for psychology, it goes for philosophy as well, and it mostly nails it. It is such a shitty thing to say in 2017 and beyond that to really understand this game you have to put 20 hours into it. The truth of the matter is though, that you do! You entirely have to, otherwise the first playthrough of the game is not strong enough to stand alone on it's own. The best I can do for something so short here is that the game asks you indirectly as the player "What does it mean to be human?" even "What is humanity?" and by the ending (i.e. true ending) of the game it lets you slip right back into what it means to be human without fully realizing it until after the fact.

 So that's my list of 2017, some honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut due to time played or didn't come out this year. Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator (very good dad jokes, and a good story so far), Night in the Woods (I can start to feel the emotional impact that this game should be having on me, but I haven't sunk enough time into it yet) and Heroes of the Storm 2.0 (it's my list I can do what I want! Seriously though, if you were hesitant about HotS before, 2.0 has made this game turn around in such a way that I fell in love with it all over again.)

 Feel free to let yourselves be heard in the comments, hope you enjoyed the list


A frightful list indeed...

Travis’s 5 Horror Movies

Here is my list of 5 necessary horror movies for Halloween in reverse order:

5. The Last Exorcism: To be honest, most of the movie felt pretty generic. It’s a found footage take on an exorcism story. The characters are pretty stereotyped, the southern family, the pastor that doesn’t quite believe in what he’s doing, the documentary crew, etc. The ending makes this whole movie though. It left me feeling slightly disturbed (it’s pretty hard for a movie to have an effect on me like that).

4. Cabin in the Woods: This is a really cool take on horror movies. In an attempt to keep this spoiler-free, they explain how all horror movie tropes are a necessary part of existence. This movie also has the most searched for image from a movie (a chalkboard). Smart, funny and scary in a very unique way.

3. Halloween (the original): This movie deserves its title. The story really encapsulates what makes modern Halloween so scary. The idea that someone in a mask is coming for you and can’t be stopped has been copied way too many times, even if they do take the unnatural aspect of the monster out of it. John Carpenter created the slasher genre that gets added to each year. The first sequel is also worth your time, the rest are ok if you’re just looking for a decent horror movie.

2. Shaun of the Dead: This is a great zombie movie and a great comedy. Simon Pegg does a great job of sticking to Romero zombie lore (the master of the genre) while poking fun at how ridiculous the premise is. The best part of the movie is when Shaun explains his plan to an old friend who just shrugs and wishes him luck, a great way to parody how bad characters’ plans are in horror movies. The production company does a great job with the makeup effects, the jokes are pointed in the parallel between zombies and how some people live their lives.


1. Night of the Living Dead (the original): The zombie movie that created the genre as we know it. There were zombie movies before George Romero created this one, but they were way different in tone. This is a deep movie that touches on a lot of social issues we still deal with. Ignoring the social commentary in the movie, this is a solid horror movie. The effects are amazing. Filming in black and white allows the gore to be more realistic without being torture porn. The main character is completely believable and acts how someone that is able to keep their head on their shoulders would in this situation. Year-after-year of rewatching this movie hasn’t made the movie old or boring, it holds up well even with the advent of handheld internet devices.

Extra: I had to get 28 Days Later in the list. This is the most believable take on the idea of zombies. Rather than reanimating dead tissue, it’s more like ultra-rabies. The acting is great, the story is really good. The ideas the characters have make sense (an important aspect to make a movie believable).

Allow myself to introduce...myself.

 So, there's been a couple of threads going around twitter regarding how to describe yourself to others (significant or otherwise) in the form of movies or games. Rather than talking about lootboxes and my personal feelings on them (pretty sure it's something Travis and myself will discuss on the Weekend Review), I thought I'd tackle this more heartfelt topic instead. For one, this allows me to put into words why these movies and games describe me as a person, and for two, it allows you the reader to come to understand the person that I am when you listen to me.

"Top five movies that you'd want someone to watch to understand who you are." When I first encountered this question, I brushed it off as a kind of "shitty social media" thing (i.e. this buzzfeed quiz reveals what superhero you really are! etc.). Then it started to worm it's way into my brain, and I started thinking about it more and more. How could five movies describe you as a person to someone else? Wouldn't you need more? After a lot of thought I did come up with five that I think cover several aspects of my personality, and who I am as a person.

 Alien: I am a fan of science-fiction, horror, and I am a feminist. I realize that feminist is a loaded word in today's climate, but there it is out in the open. Alien is such a fantastic film though, it has in the beginning a space trucker mentality. They're there to do the job, and get paid, and this government side contract pops up which can get them more, so they take it. It then quickly becomes a film about female empowerment. Ripley...kicks...ass, and Sigourney Weaver does such a masterful job of not giving a shit for the first part of the movie to overcoming terror, a very real terror in the latter half. Aliens, is my favorite movie in the franchise, the allegory for the Vietnam War, and sleazy corporate power plays mixed with 80's machismo is delightful, but it had to have a start and Alien is where it's at. It's the set up and basis for one of the strongest female leads in film history.

 The Last Samurai: "Dances with Wolves in Japan." Yes it is an almost one for one of that movie, but as a child of the 90's I grew up with the Japanese pop culture invasion. Power Rangers, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z were mainstays and mainstreamed to everyone that was around ten years old in the 90's. So when Japanese influenced/based films made their way stateside when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I gobbled them up. I'm not a weeabo by any stretch. It was just that the Japanese culture was something that I had absorbed by proxy via kids shows, and anime that was on Toonami in the afternoon. A culture of honor and tradition, and beauty, all of these were expressed in The Last Samurai. This is one of Tom Cruise's better acting performances, he's believable and revolting for two-thirds of the movie. That is until he starts to realize that the industrial revolution and British/American involvement in the island nation is corrupting the very soul of the country. I feel for the Japanese people (to a point, believe me I've read my history), and I am pleased to see such a unique culture hold onto it's values and customs and for those to influence people who are not even born of that country.

 Rocky Horror Picture Show: How can I even describe this and how it best describes me as a person? Well...I'll try. It's just a step to the left! ...sorry. I do like musicals, I'm not in love with them, but the really good ones catch me and hold me (Les Miserables, Rent, Chicago, etc.) so the Rocky Horror Picture Show to me is one of the really good ones. The songs are fantastic, and quirky which is appeals to my musical and quirky nature. You are reading the words of a 6'5" 250 lbs man that sang Vanessa Carlton's 1000 miles, recorded it, and sent it to his friends. You're also reading the words of a man that doesn't know the lyrics of Wrecking Ball, but improved them and put the video up on Facebook for friends and family to "enjoy." So the Rocky Horror Picture show falls right into that "weird" category of who I am. It is of such a time, and it is a tradition in our home to watch it every year on Halloween. For me it also reinforces the film's main message. To be accepting to things that are different from you, and to not force people into roles they're not suited for.

 Big Fish:  Hooooo boy, this is such a loaded one for me for several reasons. I write this knowing that there is a possibility that family members will read it. So to that I throw caution to the wind, and put this out here for everyone. This movie is powerful and moving to me in so many ways due to the main focus of the movie. A man's relationship with his father. As many of you reading this can surmise, I have an extremely conflicted relationship with my father, and this movie prowls at all of the edges of that. It's a story about loss, and understanding the people in your life are rarely the people you understand them to be. It's a movie of whimsy and downright magic in the way that even in the darkest parts of the movie, the father is still something of a legend to the main character. As many of you reading this have listened to our shows know, I am a father as well. There is always a voice of insecurity in the back of my mind yelling at me that I will fail my son. That I will just repeat the same cycle that was handed down to me of a damaged relationship between father and son, and that my son will look at me and wonder if I love him and why I'm not there when he needs me. This movie speaks to me more so now than it did before, due to the responsibility of being a father. It's a movie that I've seen twice, and I know going forward that if I see it again I cannot watch the end. It is too raw, and too hard for me to see it knowing that what I'm watching will be a reflection of something that I will go through in the future.

 Ghostbusters: It must've been some cockroach that worked it's way into my life and the lives of so many others, but here it is. I dressed up as a ghostbuster for Halloween when I was four or five. I had the proton pack, I had several of the toys. Ghostbusters was a movie that was fantastic. It captured my imagination from an early age, and it's never let go. When it made it's way back into theaters I had to go. I went by myself (something that I am a champion of. It's not awkward, and it's sometimes the best way to see a movie.) and the experience left me with a big grin on my face when I left the theater. Ghostbusters is whimsy, it's magic, it's paranormal. It's why I can watch a paranormal show, and still feel that twinge run down my spine when I see something creepy through the night vision lens. Ghostbusters for me is such a pivotal part of my childhood, it is right up there with Back to the Future, but it edges it out ever so slightly. It's my fascination with technology, and the paranormal, it's my heroes story, it's the underdog getting ahead. It's all of these that makes its way into my heart, and it's the off the cuff comedy that for anyone that has talked with me and gotten to know me can tell that the seed of it was planted here by this film.

 I'm going to work on the games list for the next installment. There a lot of games that in actuality match up with what I've written here already. I hope you all enjoyed this, and I hope that it gives you a little bit more of an insight as to me as one of the armchair adventurers.


Discovering a problem with myself.

  For starters let me say that I don't know how long this will go on. The scheduling will be erratic, and these posts might be sparse. I truly enjoy writing, creating worlds, characters, villains, and intricacies that can only live in imagination. It is one of the reasons why I drifted to Star Trek from a young age.

 I was introduced to Star Trek, when I was eight years old by my mother's boyfriend at the time. For him it was an episode to remember, it was filmed in Deadwood, SD, our home state. So I watched it, and was immediately drawn into this strange world where pale men with gold eyes talked with a southern drawl. Where a man and son with forehead ridges, represented justice and honor in a society where that was a precious commodity. Where this all took place inside of a fake world inside of a ship sailing the stars.

 Star Trek means something to me. It's incredibly difficult to put a finger on just what that is though. Yes, I will be the first to admit that it can be hokey, and layered with cheese. Looking past that though is the core of what Star Trek is, at least to me, which is the ability to overcome humanity's fundamental flaw, itself. As people age they realize, and whether they admit to it or not is a different issue, that humanity is flawed. Personal politics often interfere and override the collective good for society as a whole, because quite simply we don't know what's good for ourselves.

  Star Trek grapples with this core concept in a different way though. Being set so many hundreds of years in the future allows the writers to say that humanity as a whole has moved past their collective bullshit and started working together for intellectual pursuits. Long gone are the days where people do things for profit in Star Trek land. Instead that falls to Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, and so on. Those other species have problems that are reflected even fifty years after the original series aired.

 So after my long, long set up which I apologize for let me get to my thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery. It aired September 24, the first time a "syndicated" Star Trek has been on television in twelve years. So everyone that was hyped for it, waited with baited breath. The reactions, were mixed to say the least. From everything I had seen if I were to rate the collective consensus on it, I would say it would be at 65% roughly positive. That's not a bad thing, Star Trek is not everyone's cup of tea.

 It might have been higher had CBS not chosen to go the streaming service route with their "all access" app. A "service" that Discovery will make it's home on for the low cost of $6 a month with commercials. Yes the CBS line up is on all-access, but I frankly don't care about 1700 episodes of the Bold and the Beautiful, or the Big Bang Theory. I have to fork over $6 a month if I want to watch a Star Trek television series, and in a time where there are streaming apps everywhere it leaves me scratching my head as to why I should throw down another $6, inching my closer to what I was paying for full cable, for one show.

 Let me get to why I should even ask this question though. It is Star Trek. It is back. At least it is for two seasons, and who knows if it will be around after that. I'm questioning that because so far Star Trek hasn't led with it's best foot, at least to me. Star Trek has been off the air for twelve years, and "The Vulcan Hello" along with "Battle at the Binary Stars" don't feel like the right foot to me.

 This might be nitpicky to some people, and you might be right. Star Trek is a series in all of it's formats that adheres to a continuity. It might be flexible, but there is a core to that. The show runners go out of their way to make sure that you the viewer know that this all takes place in the same universe. When the Klingons wage war against the Federation in Deep Space 9, they arrive at the station with ships from the Kirk era of the show (D-7 battlecruisers for those of you nerdy enough to know). Which is one of my largest hangups for Star Trek: Discovery. It fails to adhere to that Star Trek continuity, no matter how flexible it is, it cannot be broken.

 I've had this discussion with my wife a few times already, that I just wish they would have set Discovery within the Kelvin universe. Had they made that conscious decision, and stuck with it, I would have been far more forgiving of the series than I have been. From off the bat they show Klingons with forehead ridges They show a ship that looks reminiscent of the Vor'cha class battleship, which wouldn't exist for another hundred years. For me, as a fan that has had this rule hammered into them since they were eight years old is that continuity couldn't be broken. The show runners went out of their way to have a reason why Klingons didn't have their notorious head ridges in the Kirk years (TOS). They used a throwaway line in Deep Space 9, and actually described it in Enterprise. Enterprise, a show which canonically takes place roughly one hundred years before Kirk. Yet in Discovery, every Klingon has forehead ridges, and they're cruising around space in vessels which look very very fascinating, and very later aged Klingon, but not Kirk era Klingon.

 They mishandled Vulcans as well, showing them to be far more emotional and less immersed in logic than we had been previously shown. Sarek shares with Michael why the Klingons have a ceasefire with them. After the first encounter with the Klingons, the Vulcan ship was destroyed. After that instance, every time a Vulcan ship would happen upon a Klingon ship they would fire first and hard, letting the Klingons know not to be trifled with. Logic would dictate a pattern be established rather than base your entire instance off of one encounter, but that seems to not be the Vulcan way. Sarek, famed throughout The Next Generation for having a troubled relationship with his son Spock seemed to have a more emotionally open relationship with Michael. The human that attended the Vulcan academy after her parents had been murdered at the hands of Klingons. Michael, the female lead of Discovery, who other than flashbacks would be difficult to tell that her childhood was spent at the Vulcan Academy of Science. There is a distinct lack of cold logic that should pervade this character, yet she is full of emotion for every step of the way.

 This doesn't fall entirely at the hands of Michael Burnham however. The other crew members have some writing done for them that falls flat on several levels. Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca has a certain hard edge to him as a captain. He has an almost nihilistic tendency toward his crew so long as they get the project done, but he is easily being foreshadowed as an example of a future "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Doug Jones as Saru has charm associated with him, yet he continues to be a one note character. "You bring death with you Michael Burnham." "You're bad for this ship Michael Burnham." It is my sincerest hope that as the show goes on he becomes more than the mysterious carnival fortune teller.

 Yet for all of my gripes they did a lot right with Discovery. The ship designs look very Star Trek, and very alien in some instances. Klingon Bat'leths are wicked and cruel weapons, while Starfleet officers carry phasers and communicators that are seen in the Kirk era. Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham is a powerhouse performance of a strong lead character. She's smart, crafty, and genuine in the care she has for her fellow crew. Doug Jones as Saru plays such a performance that it makes me want to know more about his species (and why they are not in later shows [outside of makeup purposes, once again, continuity.]) The Klingons have always been a race about honor and battle, but as Star Trek has continued on they delve deeper into the religious aspects of the species. The fact that they have a kind of Valhalla for their fallen, or the fact that the first Klingon struck down the gods with his wife. Which is where Discovery has a hook, and what a strong hook that is.

 Klingons have deep traditions and religious ceremonies that we the viewer get to witness through Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager. In Discovery, we actually get to see what the zealots of the empire look like. They have a grave ship, where the hull is covered with the sarcophagi of their fallen warriors. They worship Kahless, and follow prophecies of old to bring about the start of the war with the Federation. For me, this is gravy. Let me know more about these races. Let me learn about their religions, their ways of life. Let them be flushed out more, and thank you Discovery for doing that, and for that I remain hopeful for Discovery.

 So at the end, let me do the traditional sum up. Star Trek: Discovery is both a boon and a disappointment. It's a show that is already mishandled by CBS by forcing it to be on their streaming app. It shows that CBS and Paramount do not have faith in the show or the property of Star Trek as a whole. It also shows that mismanagement by taking place ten years before the Kirk years. There is an ever narrowing gap of story that can be told the more they go back to this well, trying to capture the glory days of Star Trek of old. They have the goalpost of Star Trek: Enterprise along with Star Trek: First Contact as the series of events that lead up to the Kirk era, and on the other side they have a very narrow band of time with Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager. Series which all took place within roughly fourteen years of each other according to their stardates. They have so much time on the other side of Voyager, areas with which to introduce new alien species, new worlds, hell they could even go back to the Delta Quadrant and explore the rest of it that Voyager left untouched.

 It's a boon in that Star Trek is back in a way. It's leaving breadcrumbs all over the place, and I am eagerly picking them up in the hopes that I learn more about this time before Kirk. It's a boon that they have some very talented actors and actresses bringing Star Trek back to people. It's Star Trek, and they get the feel of Star Trek mostly right, which after twelve years isn't a bad thing. I hope that they keep going with it, and that it can draw in enough of an audience to justify keeping it going. Because, I think that we need Star Trek. In a time where television writing has never been better, Star Trek deserves some of that.

-A fan of boldly going where no one has gone before