Movies, News

The Magnificent Seven Has A Solid Opening

The numbers are in and The Magnificent Seven did well overall. It managed to take the number one spot and bring in $35 million. That is a fairly large number, though a bit on the low side considering it’s budget. However, given the movie’s content and genre this is right where it needs to be. A solid opening weekend followed by consistent numbers is what will make this movie a success, and it seems well on it’s way to pulling that off. Sully dropped down to third place though it still performing admirably. Blair Witch made a massive drop down to number six, falling just shy of the $4 million mark.

1: The Magnificent Seven

2: Storks

3: Sully

4: Bridget Jones’s Baby

5: Snowden

6: Blair Witch

7: Don’t Breathe

8: Suicide Squad

9: When the Bough Breaks

10: Kubo and the Two Strings

Mini Reviews, Uncategorized, Video Games

World of Warcraft: Legion Review

*This post contains some minor spoilers relating the Legion quest experience.*

It’s been almost 3 weeks since World of Warcraft’s latest expanion, Legion, was released. In that time I have logged 5 days, 2 hours and 6 minutes of max level play time. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Legion gets a lot right. It clears the sour taste from the mouths of those who found Warlords of Draenor unsatisfying. It offers a plethora of choice from practically the moment you log in.

Having completed all of the pre-patch content offered, I began Legion’s launch in Dalaran, the revamped capital of the expansion, waiting with the crowd for the expansion to go live. I had braced myself for the crashes, the disconnects, the lag… and none of that came. Launches, launch week, notorious for all the issues players experience, seem to be a thing of the past with Blizzard compensating for the amount of pressure the servers would be under and devising a clever strategy to funnel players to various parts of the world. More on that in a bit.

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Players begin with a call from Khadgar to move Dalaran – an impressive feat – and are then funneled immediately into their class artifact questline. This is based on what specialisation you’d like to play, with each spec getting it’s own weapon and thus a (relatively) unique questline to achieve this. As I did not play in the beta, I chose my tanking weapons first unsure of how the actual artifact power system worked. My questline sent me to retrieve the claws of the bear god, Ursoc, with the blessing of his brother, Ursol. Without saying much more, I was thoroughly impressed and admittedly very moved with the entire experience. It was something unique, very personal (for someone attached to their class) and a lot of fun. Having done a few other artifact questlines since then, it’s a fun little system that tests you at the specialisation you’d like the weapon for but this feels less like a test and more like something you would innately do because you play that spec.

Additionally, each questline that I completed (and certainly with my initial “launch” decision) sent me off into the older parts of World of Warcraft, lessening the load on the servers and certainly smoothing out the questing experience by implementing a lot of new phasing tech and using single player scenarios to their advantage. Once you’ve acquired your new weapon, the questing experience begins.

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Blizzard chose to take leveling in a new direction with Legion. Normally, players begin new content in a pretty typical way – you’re given a new quest, go to the new area, and begin in the first zone – usually good for a couple levels, then on to the next one. This time, the zones scale with your level – and while this didn’t seem like a huge deal when it was first announced, playing the game with this new system was awesome. Being able to pick one of four leveling zones immediately worked to dissipate even more of the usual traffic. In addition, questlines were phased into stages – you’re not entirely cut off, but there’s not a huge amount of competition. Solving another typical launch day problem, mob “tapping”, Blizzard introduced a faction-tag system for everything on the Broken Isles. If your faction tagged it, you’re eligible for loot and kill confirmations.

While these things don’t necessarily seem like they’re a huge difference, it’s the little things and changes that are really making Legion stand apart from the previous expansions.  Removing the typical launch day woes was a great start in hooking people, the questlines in each zones were amazing, well thought, and peppered with cutscenes that tug at the heartstrings (looking at you, Val’Sharah).

The fun doesn’t end there, though. Hitting 110 (the new level cap) introduces a new zone, Suramar. Here we meet the Nightborne and their ancient city, Suramar (yes, zone Suramar & city Suramar). This gorgeous, twilight-ridden city is plagued by the Legion, let in by their Grand Magistrix. The Nightborne elite are living a life of luxury, while their civilian counterparts are suffering under their new regime. Did I mention they’re all addicted to mana? We ally up with a renegade faction of Nightborne determined to take their city back from the Legion and free up the ancient mana supplies they’re all craving, lest they succumb to the “withering”, becoming mindless, zombie-like withered without much shred of humanity (elfanity?) left.

World quests replace the typical dailies, going with the “pick your own adventure” feel of the expansion. These are quests activated by entering the area they’re in, rewarding anything from gold, to gear, order hall resources, or raw materials for your professions. They also award a small amount of rep toward their assigned faction. You’re given an emissary quest each day asking you to complete 4 world quests for the faction RNG gives you that day. If you wanted to complete all your world quests that day, you’d be there for a long while.

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With the plethora of content to work on – be it questlines, professions, PvP, or PvE progression, Legion looks incredibly promising in it’s early days. Patch 7.1 has been announced and while it also looks like it will deliver some really great content, I am happily sinking my teeth into all Legion currently has to offer with no signs of slowing down.

-Tenneiyl

Video Games

The Importance of Debate

There have been a lot of articles/videos/opinion pieces, etc put out discussing some of the problematic areas in the gaming industry. Discussing things from sexism, racism, and violence. In response to this there have been a lot of groups that have come out in full force demanding that these opinion pieces need not be shared and are bad for the industry.

I have two things I would like to state to the reader before moving on. One, I disagree with polarizing opinions of any kind (something I will discuss more further down). Two, that I don’t want to make another article discussing the specific problems. Rather I want this to be about why I think discussing these problems is good, why the debate is needed.

The truth is there are troubling aspects of the game industry. They range from the content in games, the hiring practices of companies, to the behavior of gamers themselves. Are the people writing about games truly unbiased? Is it right to raise money via Kickstarter to make videos about the gaming industry? Are game companies not hiring enough women, or is it more a problem with education and girls not pursuing these jobs? Are video games sexist? Racist? Do intentions matter when making something sexist or racist? These are valid and important questions, and these are valid and important questions that are going to be asked regardless of who is asking them.

In the 1990s there were massive debates over the video game industry, and specifically violence in the industry. Notably absent from these debates were gamers. Politicians and people with little to no connection to gaming controlled the conversation. They controlled it so well and so effectively that the industry created the ESRB in order to avoid massive censorship of video games. It was a rating system put in place quickly and comprehensively in order to stop politicians from ultimately killing games. The discussion was happening, it just wasn’t open for gamers to really control the way it went.

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That is the important difference now. All forms of media, from art to video games, have these massive discussions about content and the viewer. The great debate over what is art is still waged. And what does it say about the consumers of art when they have certain reactions. Books went through government bans and are still facing bans in schools based on content. Movies and TVs will never escape the discussion of their role in American lives. All of this media also has many discussions about racism and sexism. The important part is that those creating this media, and those consuming it, have an active part in the discussion. It is not controlled by those that want to silence them.

Gamers are finally in a position where they can directly control the debate. The debates will happen, most of the population of America plays games in some capacity. The likelihood that games will be the only popular media that some how escapes question is pretty much slim to none. Even if we could, why would we want to? Don’t we want to talk about these issues and make sure that games, those writing about them, those playing them, and those designing them continue to improve and bring positive changes to the industry?

The debates will happen though. Games have moved to rival the most popular forms of entertainment and media so there is no escaping them. So isn’t it better that the debates are happening with gamers? That the questions are being raised by gamers? That gamers have a chance to answer and a chance to guide and direct the conversation, if not the answers themselves. We are no longer sitting on the sidelines while politicians threaten mass censorship, we are front and center. In fact when outsiders get too far into the debates they are usually turned away or at least told to take a back seat to those in the know.

Yes, part of opening the debate does come with a negative. It opens the debate to those that want to take a polarizing viewpoint in order to cause drama and gain money from it. They are the ones that demand that the industry is only problematic without discussion, or that people need to just shut up because there is nothing wrong. Make no mistake these people are two sides to the same coin. They exist in a realm of controversial statements without any real discussion. These people don’t need to control the debate though, in fact they don’t need to be invited to it.

Let’s let those that talk about the need for more representation in games but acknowledge the progress the industry has made control it. Let those who talk about the lack of women in the industry but have real solutions and don’t just blame the industry itself control the debate. Let the vast majority of gamers who see the problems, still enjoy games, and have no wish to drive other gamers out control it.

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The debate is important because it’s going to happen. These issues won’t just go away because people don’t want to discuss them. Video games have made it, it is popular entertainment now. Part of making it means that these issues will be looked at under a microscope. Not every gamer has to participate, if you don’t want to then don’t, simple as that. But don’t try to argue that we need to silence those bringing it up. Race, sexism, who is playing games, who is making games, what influence games have on people, all of these things won’t go away. The difference is now we as gamers have the chance to control the tone. We don’t have to sit by, we don’t have to desperately create something like the ESRB in order to stop people from stealing it from us. Keep the debate going, and decide who gets to be involved. Silence the polarizing people, and instead support those calmly discussing the issues with an open mind and solutions. Support the developers that want to see the industry move forward. Question those writing about games to keep them honest about what they are doing.

Embrace and enjoy the debate. Enjoy that gamers are no longer looked down on or subject to losing our voice should we choose not to. Acknowledge the problems, but still enjoy your games. And if you want to then involve yourself in the discussion.

TV

Animated Shows You Should Be Watching

I am a huge fan of animated shows (for adults), and often times they get written off as just being another Family Guy or South Park. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I don’t like Family Guy and South Park, but that is just scratching the surface of what you can watch. At times it can be easy to believe that they are the only options out there, both of them having a fairly large claim over the genre.

Note: I am not including anime, it’s kind of category all it’s own

Rick and Morty

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The most basic description of this show is that it’s a sci-fi dark comedy. Truly that only scratches the surface of Rick and Morty. It’s a comedy, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, slice of life show that seems to tap into just a bit of everything. Some episodes stay more on the surface of things, making you laugh, while giving sci-fi fans easter eggs to enjoy. Other episodes will hit you hard with interesting (often depressing) messages about the nature of relationships and the universe. It’s does a great job at balancing all these different themes, and is one of the most memorable shows you will see. It’s made me laugh, cry, cringe, and even want to turn it off at times. I love Rick and Morty, and you really need to catch up before the third season airs.

Archer

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I often live in a world where everyone already knows and loves Archer, only to find out the show is dismissed by some. If you have blown this off as just another copy and paste adult animated series you are missing out. Archer honors many classic spy shows and movies while following the ridiculous, yet lovable, cast of characters. It stays more on the surface of things, bringing laughs and entertainment, but every once in awhile it goes into deeper character development and stories. The cast is where the show shines, they are easy to love and easy to hate all at the same time. If you love action and dark humor you need to be watching Archer.

The Boondocks

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This show is one of the best for taking on issues of racism, culture, class, and stereotypes. Not one of the best animated shows to do so, one of the best, period. It can be an extremely challenging show to watch, but still more than worth it. It’s funny, but holds no punches when it has a point to make. The show sadly ended a few short year ago, but is on Netflix, with rumors of more services picking it up soon. If you haven’t seen this you need to.

Bob’s Burgers

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I think this show gets easily dismissed because people assume it has the same formula as Family Guy. It really and truly is nothing like those shows. Bob is not a lovable idiot, he is a hard working amazing father. None of the children have a slightly hateful relationship with their parents, in fact the entire family is pretty close. Louise is not a Stewie replacement. The only thing it has in common with Family Guy is it can be ridiculous at times. Don’t dismiss this show. It’s a funny and pretty heartwarming look at family life. It is hilarious, but it’s comedy comes from a completely different place and is rarely on the dark side. Watch. This. Show.

The Venture Brothers

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I am not entirely in love with some of the direction this show has taken, but it still holds a special place in my heart. The show has many themes, and spoofs many different genres and characters. At the heart of the show is looking at what would happen to a character like Johnny Quest when he grows up. Dr Venture was a boy wonder (like you would see on an old tv show) and it’s completely destroyed his life. He is unable to live up to expectations set for him, is incapable of making real connections, and is to an extent a failure. Being a boy wonder has shaped his life, and not in a good way. Those around him are also highly impacted by the way Venture was raised. His friends and enemies have at various points been sucked into the vortex that was his life, and almost exclusively negatively impacted by it. It’s strange, dark, and entertaining.

Honorable Mention: Gravity Falls

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I debated whether or not to include this show for the simple reason that it’s not for adults. Gravity Falls is a Disney animated series about a brother and sister sent to live in Gravity Falls. Not long after being there they discover that there is something strange (or rather a number of somethings) about the town. It brings in a great deal of supernatural with it’s comedy. Despite not being for adults it is a show that adults can easily enjoy. I don’t say this lightly. While I like a number of animated shows for kids I am hard pressed to say that it’s something many adults could like. Gravity Falls is smart, and not in the “we are going to hide sex jokes in Loony Tunes” smart. Rather it focuses on clever humor that both adults and children will enjoy. Many of the jokes in the show that might go over kids heads won’t do so because they are dirty but rather because they are truly intelligent, or easter eggs for things that kids probably haven’t come into contact with. It only gets an honorable mention because it’s still at it’s core a kids show. A few of the episodes, while entertaining, are not as impressive. The main story, and clever nature of this show made me feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it.

Interviews, Streaming/YouTube

magikthegamer: Streamer Highlight

For the last few years streaming has found it’s place in the video game world. Fans of games have turned to Twitch and Beam as a new way to experience gaming, and interacting with other games. As a casual streamer, and viewer myself I have had the great pleasure of meeting some wonderful streamers. I would like to take the time to introduce you to some of the great streamers out there.

magikthegamer is an Australian based streamer on Beam. He is one of the most friendly streamers you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, and wants everyone in his community to feel like they can express themselves. He is open and works hard to over come the challenges that come with streaming from AUS. He plays a variety of games, and features horror games on Friday nights.

Name/Channel Name:

magikthegamer

How did the name come about?

Growing up and to this day I have always had a fascination and love for the fantasy genre. Knights, Elves, Dwarves, and my two favorite things Dragons and Magic.

This translated to the type of PC games I preferred to play and the type of characters I would play. In short, anytime I am able to play a character that has magical abilities I played it- Wizards, Warlocks, Healers, etc etc.

As I was thinking about coming up with a name, just made sense as I was a Magic based character player and a “gamer”- just put the two together 😀

I changed Magic to Magik to use an older spelling of the word to stand out as a user name.

Theme of Channel/Types of Games you play:

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Initially I started out as a World of Warcraft streamer, because that was my main game I played. But after time, I have evolved the stream to a variety cast streamer. Including playing games in genres I would have normally never played. I’m now playing games lik ARK Survival Evolved, Rebel Galaxy, The Darksiders Franchise, and every Friday night I have theme night called Friday Fright Night where I play a Horror/Jump scare game – Outlast, Dead Space 1 and 2, Slender Man just to name a couple.

Lastly, the channel is designed for people to feel like they are a mate to the channel and treated like one. Like with Aussie, all mates like to get together and just have a good time – that is what I try to build for the Magik Realm community.

What drew you to Beam/Streaming? What makes you use Beam more than say YouTube?

Being a full time worker and father of two – I really do not have much time to spend capturing and editing videos. But the main issues is uploading the final result to YouTube with my upload speed – it would probably take just as long to upload a video to the capturing, editing process (ok a bitch of a stretch but, yea its pretty shocking).

My down time to game is actually spent live streaming and I find this more satisfying because I get the reactions there and then, as the stream is live.

What drew me to Beam was via a friend who made the transition to Beam from Twitch, whom I modded for on Twitch, and still do to this day on Beam.

I spent about 2 months on Beam with said friend just to see what it was all about and to see what it could offer that other platforms could not. I also spent that time networking, going into all types of channels, but particularly ones that were on around the times I would stream – just to get my name out there in the event I ended up deciding to try my hand streaming on the Beam site.

The selling point for me on the platform was 2-3 second delay, on my test stream to Beam I felt I was able to keep a conversation following, no having to wait to see if people reply back or not.

Transcoding was another one, I was able to provide stream quality options right off the bat. So I could already tailor my stream quality for mobile users and the like.

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The real interesting one was the interactive side of things, where you could setup a soundboard on your profile for viewers/followers to use but also be able to create interactive gaming. For example, if you play Minecraft, you can setup interactive feature where you can have people control your movement or spawn creatures or events.

Is there anything specific about the Beam community that you really like?

I would like to say for the record that I am not here to bash any platform, nor am I here to act as a sales man for any platform either. We are all streamers and gamers and it should not matter what platform you stream on – just as it should not matter what gaming platform you game on.

What I am going to say here is to share my opinions of my experiences.

In my experience, the camaraderie and support shown by the Beam community has been most welcoming and supportive, especially when starting out. With the networking I mentioned above, a lot of the partnered streamers I went into wanted to know if I was a streamer and find out about myself.

It was a little strange, as it is a bit of a no no to speak about yourself or promote yourself as it could come across as a form of advertising. But still follow the rule, if you are not asked don’t say anything.

There are also forms which have very actives users, so whether you are a viewer or a streamer, you can pose questions and you get answers from other viewers, streamers, and down to the Community Manager, Beam Staff, or the Founders.

What do you like most about your own personal community? Is there anything you’d like to tell them?

What do I like most about my community? That is a very hard question to answer because each individual person that is apart of the Magik Realm brings in their own unique aspect of being a viewer.

But I would probably have to say, that despite my internet limitations and the time I start streaming at, everyone still shows up to the stream and we all have a blast together – does no matter what I am playing or rambling about.

We have all shared good and not so good moments of the stream together, and I feel that makes the community strong – as its all shared together, there is no real individualism.

How long have you been streaming?

I have been streaming since Sept/Oct 2014 and made the move to Beam in March 2016.

What do you feel your strengths and weaknesses are as a streamer?

I feel my strength is that I treat each one of my viewers and followers as mates. I talk to them, find out how things are going for them, engage in conversations and that I am some what entertaining 😀

My weakness(es) is that I am aware that sometimes I “focus face” too much on a certain type of games or if I really want to pass a certain areas. I don’t use as much eye contact as I feel I should. Both of these I am continually working on to improve stream.

Did I mention I have S*** internet? 😉

Do you have any advice for people new to streaming?

I firmly believe that if you are going to stream, stream for the fun and enjoyment of it all.

Do a bit of research before hand before starting streaming. When I started I had no idea what Twitch was, nor anything about streaming, etiquette, etc. I pretty much taught myself everything – as streaming has become bigger over the last couple of years I have been doing it – there is a heap of information out there. Forum posts, blogs, YouTube tutorials for new streamers to utilize.

Lastly and the big one I would recommend is to network – networking is key. Take some time before you start to stream.

You never know when one day when you are streaming, the people you have visited might have a night off and be looking for someone new to look at. If going through the list and they see your name, it will trigger them to say, “Oh… such and such is a regular viewer in my stream”. And from there who knows what can happen for you.

Do you have any events coming up on your channel you would like to shout out?

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I wouldn’t say I have events, but one new addition to my stream schedule I am currently in the process of doing is the Magik Challenge Mode.

The idea of this is to have people suggest a challenge for me to achieve on stream… it could be game related, such as complete x game in/on y difficulty, or finish game in z amount of deaths, or complete doing a pure melee run. Or stream challenges where for example I cannot swear for a whole stream, or achieve an amount of viewers for a week, amount of follows.

All of these can be submitted via an online form and as challenges are accepted – there will be a running chart of success vs fail.

What made you decide to switch to beam?

I was in a really bad rut on Twitch. On a daily basis I was struggling with everything regarding my stream. I was at the point of giving up, despite the awesome daily encouragement from my mod team to keep going.

I was also dealing with some pretty dark personal issues as well, which amplified how I was feeling about streaming and life in general.

Around the start of this year, a streaming and close friend of mine – decided to try this new platform based on a recommendation they received. As part of their mod team, I came over to show my support, but also to find out what this site could offer over where I was at the time.

After about 2 months being around the platform, I felt there was no harm in trying, worse case for me was if it didn’t work out, I still have a platform to stream on. I did a two week trail on Beam and decided to make the switch after a successful two weeks there.

What would you say is the biggest difference between the Beam community and Twitch?

I would not say there is a big difference between the two platforms and their community, each platform and its community is built around the culture of the streamer – I have heard the Beam people say things against Twitch, and Twitch people against Beam.

What I have noticed, at the present, that there is less toxicity and trolls at Beam vs Twitch. It does make streaming more enjoyable – but knowledge of Beam will eventually bring in this aspect of the internet and streaming.

I have also found it is a little bit easier to get the starting up and support you need as a streamer. Sure that is available on other platform, but in my experience you have to stumble on it.

Do you think you will return to twitch or just stick with beam?

At the present moment, I am happy where I am. If there is a time where I have to decide where my streaming future lies, I will look at my options then. For now I am enjoying what I am doing and where I am and that is my main focus for streaming. I hope my viewers and followers can see that – especially those who have been with me for a long time.

How do you handle the challenges of AUS internet and streaming? Does it strongly effect game choice?

Basically my internet is out of my control – I’ve gone from 500-600 Kbps to 384 Kbps and yes that affects the game choices.

At lower upload speeds, you need to remember that high motion games like a FPS or MMO will make your screen look pixelated – so at the time I moved to games like Final Fantasy 7 and while there was still some blurry screen every now and then, people could actually watch.

But no only does it affect the games, it affects other streaming aspects. For me I could only have OBS and Ankbot open – I could not have any voice com program running for multiplayer games.

Now I am running with a 4G mobile broadband device which allows me to stream pretty much what I want now and have voice coms and other things open to make streaming a bit easier to manage – this also has some challenges such as sudden drop outs or speed being sucked to dial up speeds for no reason – as this is mobile wireless technology.

Do you have advice for other AUS streamers specifically?

I have a catch phrase I use in my stream – “Hi I’m magik, I’m Australian, and I have S*** internet”

I don’t let my limitations stop me. I focused on the things I was able to control and no focus too heavily about the things I could not.

One of my originals goals was to prove to people – not specifically Australians, but they were the main target – that you can stream with limitations. Also to be aware of what you can and cannot do streaming wise before you start.

You just need to find something that connects you to your viewers. Build and feed off that and you will form a core group of people who will return no matter what. It might take awhile for you to find that, but when you do – the sky is the limit for your streaming career.

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Everyone you can find magikthegamer at: https://beam.pro/magikthegamer

Also follow his twitter for more updates: https://twitter.com/magikthegamer

Thank you magik for the great interview and we wish you the best going forward. Everyone make sure to check him out, you won’t be disappointed.

Horror, Mini Reviews

Mini Review: Scream 4

I had pretty low expectations when I first watched this movie. I love Scream and Wes Craven in general. However, I felt the series took a very clear downturn after the first movie. Scream 2 was ok, but lost a lot of it’s intelligence to fit more into a standard slasher flick. Scream 3, while funny, went off the rails. Much to my surprise Scream 4 not only went beyond my low expectations, but to me was nearly as good as Scream.

I think what makes this movie such a success is it goes back to it’s roots in a sort. It manages to embrace the modern shape of horror, with remakes and reboots to horror series. However it does so by taking on the tone of the first movie. The blend of new and old shapes the entire movie, but instead of clashing they come together perfectly. You have the adult Sidney (it is after all her story) but the movie also goes “back to school” with her cousin in high school. It brings back in the idea of “the rules” and the victims being aware of them while being hunted. This worked well in Scream, however started to feel forced with 2 and 3. In 4 it once again feels more fresh, largely because of the new rules for the new generation.

In the end it is a welcome addiction to the series. It’s smart and clever like the first and retains that interesting blend of horror and dark comedy that Wes Craven seemed to do so well. It is still gory, even commenting on the fact that modern horror has to be more than it’s old school counter parts. The story is well built, and pacing is solid. It manages to be more suspenseful than a lot of modern horror instead of just depending on the shock factor. It is hardly the best in the entire horror genre, but it is one of the top in the slasher sub-genre. If forced to pick my heart still belongs to the original Scream. But Scream 4 puts up a solid fight, and is a welcome inclusion in the series.

Impressions, Video Games

Impressions: Valley

Valley is the newest game from Blue Isle Studios. They are a rather untested company, with Slender: The Arrival, being their only other major release. After hearing little about it I found myself being drawn to Valley based on a trailer that launched close to release. The marketing for the game was, almost completely non existent, which shows in the many people asking, “What game is this?”. I hate to call myself an easy sale, but I truly am. One good trailer is usually enough to sell me on something, and Valley had that.

It promised a game with a beautiful Valley, open exploration, and a story that challenged technology vs nature, and how far is too far. For the most part Valley lives up to those promises, almost entirely in fact. The game offered something pretty simply yet beautiful, so with managing to live up to that why did I still struggle to enjoy it?

Valley starts rather plainly, you listen to a voicemail your character received. Your “friend” explains that you are crazy to go to Colorado in search of the life seed, because after all it doesn’t exist. He then compliments your bravery and sense of adventure. Flash and your character has gotten in a wreck and is stranded in the Rockies. It is not the most convincing opening, in fact it feels a little lazy, however that is quickly forgotten when you actually get into “The Valley”. It is a beautiful place, and consistently the thing this game does right. Your setting is filled with atmosphere. The music matches perfectly with everything you do. Calm and serene when you are simply looking at the beautiful landscape. Fast and joyful when you are jumping around and exploring. Dark and foreboding when things get dark and foreboding. It’s easy to forgive the lack of explanation as to why your character or anyone else has ever come to this valley because it’s such an easy place to enjoy.

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As you explore you discover a L.E.A.F. suit. This grants you many abilities, including running faster, jumping higher, and the ability to come back to life. The suit was part of a government experiment that was apparently taking place in the valley during WW2. As you progress forward looking for the life seed that brought you there, you listen to a number of recordings that help uncover the secrets of the valley and what happened there.

You also are taught that everything about the valley is a balance. You die and can come back only because something else dies for you. You need energy, but getting it can cost of the lives of the trees and animals around you. This theme is there from start to finish. When you die you see a life meter for the valley itself be affected. It makes a rather large impact, dying only to return and see more death around you lingers. The consequences for failing in this game feel so much worse because it is not your characters life that is really changed by this.

The rest of the story unfolds with less than perfect pacing. You are sometimes given an overload of information, and sometimes given far too little. The recordings often leave more questions than answers. Beyond just that, a few of them feel forced in to quickly give explanation to something that might otherwise not fit at all in the context of the game. For instance it will be fairly far into the game before you see your first real “enemy”, all explanation for them is rushed and most of it makes little sense. On the reverse of that you are overwhelmed with papers, recordings, and thoughts of your main character asking the question of whether or not the army’s presence is killing the valley. You will stumble on the answer to that question and then still be hit over the head with it. This awkward pacing kind of undercuts what is otherwise a really well thought out story. It’s something we’ve seen before, a fight for a place and one man’s obsession with power. It might be a cliché, but it is because it’s something we can enjoy.

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The other major issue is the gameplay itself. Valley has such a good idea. Put you in the suit, give you powers, then let you explore a beautiful location. The problem is the controls are clunky, and sometimes just outright don’t work. You spend more time fighting your character than actually enjoying the fast, free form, experience you are supposed to have. You will be presented with areas where you are simply supposed to run, you build speed and it’s pretty impressive. The problem being every time you turn with the course your character will completely run off track, slowing these moments down. There are also slingshots which when they work are a true moment of high flying and movement, the problem is they almost never work. Major sections of exploration are dependent on these slingshots and they become frustrating and annoying. Beyond that even just walking can feel like you are fighting your character.

What’s the problem you might ask? I’ve been known to like games with questionable gameplay before. The problem is that exploring the valley is a central part of the game. Being in this beautiful setting, discovering it at your own pace, and really immersing yourself in the experience is what is supposed to make this game what it is. Failure to do so leaves you feeling disconnected and unable to truly enjoy what is offered.

In spite of all my complaints I really want to love this game. It’s beautiful soundtrack, solid story, and the beauty of the valley itself. All of this pulls me to really want to enjoy this experience, which makes the disappointments only stand out more.

Bottomline:

Valley is not a bad game. However, what easily could have been something truly amazing knocks itself down to simply good because of it’s issues. The pacing in the story could have even been ignored if the controls and gameplay had only been tightened up. It is unfortunate that I cannot praise the game more, and simply say look for it to be on sale at some point.