Tag Archives: Fantasy

Girl Genius (Omnibus Vol. 1)

5 Apr , 2012,
Crimson
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Girl Genius Omnibus Vol. 1 - Cover Art.

Steampunk lovers will be no strangers to Girl Genius, the seminal, award winning comic series created by the amazing Foglios.

Since its inception in 2001, Phil and Kaja’s amazing world of gaslamp fantasy has captured the hearts and minds of readers around the world, introducing them to a spunky heroine whose coming of age story propels her across a continent of conspiracy, conflict and MAD SCIENCE!

Girl Genius is a great read (I’ve been a fan for the past five years),  and if you’re looking to start, then there’s no better place than this Omnibus Edition, which collects Books 1 to 3 of the series.

The 319-page hardcover charts Agatha Clay’s growth as a Spark (that’s Genius-speak for super powered inventor types), when she awakens to her power following a rash of unfortunate events.

It’s a journey that has her traipsing through the interior of an airship city, dodging deadly bugs from another dimension, and evading pursuit from people who either want to use her, or want her dead, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Foglios sure know how to tell a story.

The art’s drawn and colored in the Foglio’s exaggerated and vibrant style – an eclectic brand of cartooning and coloring that complement to the fantastical nature of the story, and the script’s pretty sweet, so readers who’re in it for the meat won’t be disappointed.

Check this omnibus out at Harris Planerds. You can also keep track of Agatha’s adventures at the official Girl Genius site

Wrath of the Titans

29 Mar , 2012,
Crimson
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Wrath of the Titans - Poster Art.

I was practically cringing when Sam Worthington played Perseus in the 2010 Clash of the Titans, but after his recent outing in the surprisingly good Man on a Ledge, I was half-expecting a decent showing.

Sadly, Wrath of the Titans, which plays fast and loose with Greek mythology, proved utterly disappointing thanks to Jonathan Liebesman’s treatment, a garbled script, and visual effects overkill.

Wrath picks up 10 years after Clash, with Perseus living an innocuous fisherman’s life in a remote village with his son Helius.

Of course, as all Hellenic myths (or in this case, a far-fetched one) goes, Perseus is visited by Zeus (Liam Neeson, though I’ll always remember him as Qui-Gon Jin),  who discloses that the walls of Tartarus are shaking because the gods’ powers are on the wane, and that a catastrophe is coming.

The hero, naturally, refuses the call to action, and only seriously gets off his ass when a monster plonks itself right smack in the center of his backyard and starts nomming on his neighbors.

What follows is a formulaic tale that’s incredibly insipid, though it’s got it’s humorous bits thanks to Toby Kebbell’s performance as the roguish Agenor.

Of course, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the folks behind the scenes had played a bit too much World of Warcraft. I mean come on. Major evil imprisoned deep beneath the earth, a world shattering disaster, and a manifestation that’s spouting fire and oozing lava? Sounds a lot like Cataclysm, ain’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. The visuals aren’t bad, and they must have spent a fortune on getting the 3-D to work the way it did (which was better than the previous film).

Yet ultimately, there’s very little going on beyond the visuals. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes’ (who plays Hades) were the two biggest names on the set, and they practically carried the show. Bill Nighy (he was Viktor in Underworld, and Davy Jones in POTC) was exceptional too, but he had all of 15 minutes of screen time. The rest of the cast pretty much played second fiddle, with Worthington’s performance being the least impressive of the lot.

Now that I’ve stepped out of the cinema and ditched my 3-D glasses, I’m wondering if this film should be renamed Wrath of the Critics. It’s a miracle the film’s passed muster at all.

Watch ONLY if you must.

John Carter (of Mars)

8 Mar , 2012,
Crimson
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Disney's John Carter - Poster Art

Disney’s been pumping out big budget hits for awhile now, so it comes as no surprise that the company would fund the gloriously pulpy romp that is John Carter.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (who helmed several Pixar projects including Wall-E), this big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs turn-of-the-century interplanetary opera casts Taylor Kitsch (Gambit in the Wolverine movie) as the titular loincloth-clad Virginian cavalry man turned swordsman, whose incredible feats on the planet Barsoom earn him the title “Warlord of Mars”.

I have to admit that as a big science fiction fan, I was rather skeptical when I sat down for the screening.†After all, the series was a seminal work, and while Carter’s many adventures were the subject of multiple comic book and small screen adaptations, few had come close to capturing the grandeur of Barsoom and it’s diverse cultures, or the tone of the original.

I didn’t have high hopes for Stanton either. He had a slew of animation experience, but Carter was his first live-action film, and directing real humans and directing a bunch of pixels were two different things altogether.

But surprise, surprise! Not only did the movie not didn’t disappoint, it was spectacular and then some.

I have to compliment Stanton’s clever juxtaposition of highs and lows. The story was a little formulaic at times, but overall, the pacing was just right. The action scenes were brilliantly lurid (with copious amounts of (blue) blood, gore and explosions), and thanks to his†grasp of dynamic camera angles and creative composition, proved generally entertaining.

The attention to fine detail was remarkable, and it showed through in the creation of pieces such as Zodanga’s crawling citadel, the sky ships, the alien creatures and elaborate costumes. †It was evident Stanton put in a 110% on this one.

In terms of acting, Kitsch’s performance was less kitschy than his last outing, while Lynn Collins (who also starred in the Wolverine movie) sizzled as not-quite-damsel-in-distress Dejah Thoris. The duo looked good together, and while their on-screen chemistry was a little lacking, there was potential there and that speaks volumes. Mark Strong’s performance as unapologetic Thern mastermind Matai Shang was also impressive, and it was a shame he didn’t get all that much screen time.

An awesome movie that’s sure to get your geek on. I’m hoping for a sequel already, and knowing Disney, it’s probably already in the works.

Underworld Awakening

2 Feb , 2012,
Crimson
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Underworld: Awakening - Poster Art.

You’d think that after 3 movies, the Underworld franchise would go to pot. After all, there’s only so much you can do with vampires, werewolves, and their perennial war in the shadows.

And then suddenly, humans come along, and you realize that hey, they’re really trying their damnedest to milk the franchise.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I appreciate Underworld’s latest iteration Awakening for all it’s juicy bits – the fluid choreography, the intense sequences, the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale as Death Dealer Selene – but like it’s earlier installments, this film remains mired in hackneyed World of Darkness tropes and a water-thin plot that only just manages to pass muster.

With the elders all but dead and all order crumbling, vampires and werewolves alike are hard pressed to fight against a new enemy – the humans they’ve herded and victimized for centuries.

The public has discovered the presence of the “Infected”, and their reaction is anything but friendly.

Selene and her hybrid beau Michael (played by a faceless extra this time) are caught in the resultant purges, and when the huntress wakes up from her cryogenic sleep, more than a decade had passed.

Breaking out from the medical facility where she’s held, she discovers that it’s a different world out there, that her erstwhile beau is dead, and that her only link to the past is Subject 2, the daughter she’d somehow conceived during her twelve-year torpor.

And get this, that’s just the setup. The next half of the story has, predictably, Selene doing what she does best – dealing death with twin guns blazing as she embarks on a quest for some answers.

Plot aside, the show manages to plod credibly forward thanks to Beckinsale’s powerful performance. It’s a shame Scott Speedman (who played Michael Corvin in Underworld 1 & 2) had to give this one a miss though.

Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein have to be commended for their aesthetic choices in the creation of this film. Awakening was decidedly gorier, darker, and more in keeping with the genre than it’s previous incarnations, and hopefully, that’s something we can expect in Underworld 5 (coming soon to a theater near you).

The way Selene tears through Antigen guards during her escape in the initial half of the show was bloody brilliant (pardon the pun), and it only gets better as the show progresses.

Ultimately, Awakening’s not all that bad if you watch it for what it is – a supernatural action thriller – and leave the grey matter at the door.

Old-school fangboys will also appreciate the fact that vampires and werewolves in this movie can actually kick-ass and kill stuff, and that’s always better than just looking pretty and sparkling in the sun, no?

DN101: Preparing for your Dragon Nest OBT Experience

13 Aug , 2011,
Crimson
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Dragon Nest - Login Screen.

This coming Tuesday (16 Aug), the gates of Lagendia will be thrown wide, and adventurers will flock once again to Prairie Town and Mana Ridge, where they’ll be thrust into the world of of adventure and excitement that is Dragon Nest.

The Open Beta Test begins at 2 pm (local time), and if you’re not already prepared, here are some quick tips to help get you ready to tussle with the goblins, minotaurs, dragons and everything in between the minute the OBT kicks off.

1. Download the Game Client

Getting started with the OBT is as easy as starting up your game client and patching it if you were in the CBT. If you’re a Dragon Nest virgin, though, you’d want to pop over to CherryCredits to download the game client. Check out the Dragon Nest official site for more details. Once you’ve got the game installed, you’re set to move on to the next part.

2. Choosing a class

Pick a class, any class.

Like most MMOs out there, you get the pick of one of several starter classes, loosely categorized into melee and ranged archetypes. The male sprites – Warrior and Cleric, tend to be close combatants, while the female sprite (predictably) – Archer and Sorceress wield long ranged attacks.

Do you like to get into the thick of things, racking up combos and kills, or do you prefer to hang back, cast spells into enemy ranks, and watch things explode?

Picking the kinda class that suits your preferred play style will go a long way towards making your experience a whole lot more enjoyable.

This is all the more relevant since Dragon Nest’s got a steep leveling curve and an EXP fatigue system, and the last thing you want is to scrap your character after making it all the way to a major milestone. Check out the roles and powers of your advanced job classes too, because those tend to vary.

3. Abilities & Skill Trees

In Dragon Nest, you pay for new abilities in gold and skill points once you hit the appropriate level. With so many abilities, both passive and otherwise available, it’s tempting to put points into every single one of them, just to see how cool they are. But with skill points being really, really limited (you get an average of 10 per level up), you’ll want to plan ahead, just so you don’t gimp yourself later.

Some abilities are just that much more effective than others, and with certain powers being prerequisites to higher tier skills in your advanced job class (which you attain after Level 15), planning ahead is an absolute must. This is especially pertinent since there aren’t any free or easily accessible skill reset mechanics in game.

A useful tool you’d probably want to bookmark is the Dragon Nest Skill Simulator. It’s been updated to the latest edition, and I’ve found it invaluable for planning Crimson the Cleric’s abilities.

Crimson's Skill Picks - Cleric Tree

Crimson's Skill Picks - Priest Tree.

4. Partying is Invaluable

Bring your friends to Lagendia. Convince them to join you in your quest to liberate the world from dark and corrupt forces, because rather than penalizing you  for partying up with your friends, you’re actually rewarded when you don’t go at things solo.

You actually get bonuses for doing instances with your friends, and these bonuses can stack as high as 60% so long as it’s a chap on your friend list. This can be invaluable when you’re exploring the Shadow Forest and Frost Hills early on, and can get you from Level 1 to 10 much, much quicker.

The Blessings Bar, a.k.a. EXP fatigue meter. You're gonna be bummed when you run out because the leveling curve's insane!

The rate at which you burn through EXP fatigue is also reduced when you do instances, so be sure to keep your friends close, especially when you’re grinding those hard modes!

And there you have it. Some simple tips to get you started on Dragon Nest.

When Tuesday rolls around, Crimson the Cleric will be at Mana Ridge, smacking goblins around with the best of ’em, so if you see me in game, don’t forget to drop me a whisper, or add me to your friend list!

Until then, folks. Cheerio!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

17 Jul , 2011,
Crimson
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Poster Art

I saw the latest Harry Potter movie pretty early on in the week, but didn’t exactly get a chance to write about it till now. Let’s just say that for a franchise that’s all about magic, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) proved, like it’s predecessor the year before, severely lacking in charm.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s probably a great movie for the fans, bringing much needed closure to more than a decade of Daniel Radcliffe pottering about, trying to defeat his deadly nemesis (with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in tow of course). As it stands, HP7-2 appears to be the top grossing film in movie history ever, and if that’s not money making magic, then I don’t know what is.

Still, for peeps who’ve gotten their magic fix off stronger and headier stuff like Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic, Dungeons & Dragons, or any variety of urban fantasy though, HP 7-2 is average, and dare I say run-of-the-mill. The storytelling hoodoo simply isn’t strong in this one.

Picking up where HP 7-1 left off, the evil lich… I mean Voldemort, has finally secured the elder wand (I bet you it’s a +6 wand of pew pewing), while Potter’s party is out at sea. Well, seashore, but you get the idea. They’ve still got a couple of horcruxes (they’re obviously phylacteries, as any self respecting fantasy fan will attest) to destroy before they can kill Voldemort, and they’re almost out of options.

Their only lead is Bellatrix’s vault at Gringotts, and that’s where the teen wizard trio heads off to in the first part of the movie. Suffice to say, Potter lovers will already know how things go from there, but considering how this is pretty much just another dramatized fetch-and-kill quest chain in the works, anybody with half a brain would soon figure things out.

I have to admit that Part 2’s marginally better than Part 1. Radcliffe’s cringeworthy performance in the first of this two-parter was horrendous, and Grint wasn’t much better with his deer-in-headlights stare. This time, it looks like they’ve actually gotten their act (hurhur) together. Still, it was the luminaries like Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, and the like who stole the show, proving that ultimately, having a few extra levels under their belt certainly made them better wizards, at least on screen.

It’s the same with the  sets and special effects. Visuals are much better than the last movie, what with force shields, animated golem guards, fire elementals and all, but again not by much. More’s the pity, since you’d have expected the characters to have beefed up their repertoire  after so many years at Hogwarts, and that they’d be able to cast some real spells.

At least Yates (the director) didn’t botch the flow of the film this time. It was evenly paced, and sequences flowed better than the previous film. Still, there’s a whole lot of running around, trying to find stuff while the Battle of Hogwarts happens, and the parapets start raining down around Potter’s silly ears.

The Snape dying-flashback-plot exposition sequence wasn’t half bad, but as the good professor’s sympathizer, I could be biased. The climax, by comparison, appeared rather anticlimactic. When Potter and Voldemort finally squared off, the scene was rather underwhelming. Animated robe, lens flares, and bromance aside, pointing wands at each other and going “Pew pew!” does not a final showdown make.

Ultimately, I would have loved to see greater emphasis on the Hogwarts siege in general and spell slinging as a whole, but we can’t always have what we wish for.  Tsk.

So watch if you’re a HP fan, or if you’re a bandwagon kinda guy. Consider watching if you’re a fantasy fan. Otherwise, avoid.

The only reason why I’d even deigned to watch the movie in the first place was Alan Rickman, whose portrayal of Severus Snape probably deserves an Oscar. Now, the real magic’s if Rowling wises up, and Warner Bros. actually puts out a movie about Snape’s earlier adventures.

 

 

One flew over the Dragon Nest: Crimson's Dragon Nest CBT Experience, Part 2

15 Jul , 2011,
Crimson
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In my previous entry, I wrote about my initial impressions of Dragon Nest, the latest free-to-play fantasy themed MMORPG by Cherry Credits and Shanda.

Since them, Crimson the Cleric has traversed the snowy foothills and forests of Mana Ridge, braved the perils of Parelina’s Rest, raided the Silent Monastery, conquered Marian’s Shrine, and followed the mysterious Black Knight’s trail to Calderock Village.

After poking around in the surrounding areas a little bit and taking a gander at the lore of the game, I managed to make Level 15, which meant Specialization time. In Dragon Nest, when you hit 15, you are eligible for your first specialization (there’s presumably a second specialization later on). In the case of the cleric, you can either specialize as a stalwart tanking paladin, or the lightning bolt tossing, relic summoning priest.

Since I’ve always been a fan of casters, I decided to go the priest route.

The Path to Priesthood

1. Master Cleric Jermain, the class trainer in Calderock Village, wonders if Crimson the Cleric is experiencing a crisis of faith after the debacle at Mana Ridge, and suggests that he go soul searching.

Say hi to Master Cleric Jermain, who tells you about your Destiny.

Yep. It's exactly like he says.

2. In a series of flashbacks, our intrepid hero gets transported into his past, and he has a chat with his best friend Jake about happier times and the role a Templar plays in the grand scheme of things.

A blast from the past - Cleric Jake.

3. After this short scene, Crimson is transported back to Jermain, who invites him to enter the Chamber of Trials.

Let's go to the Chamber of Trials!

4. In the Chamber of Trials, he defends his faith – it’s a cute hound (the game’s mascot) – from other nasty hounds. Bash them hounds, and breaks down the walls inhibiting him from progress!

Protect your faith from the bad hounds! XD

Bust down the walls to progress.

5. In a final confrontation, he challenges Jake, and upon his defeat, is transported back to Jermain with greater clarity of purpose.

It's Jake, the Cultist!

With Jake's defeat, you've made peace. For now. XD

6. Next, Crimson advances to the Raider’s Ambush Point where he has to vanquish evil and once again meet with Jake. Making peace with Jake, our hero returns to town, where, with conviction, he tells Jermain that he intends to become a priest.

What secret does the Raider's Ambush Point hold?

Hello, ugly.

Defeat the hobgoblin, and rendezvous with Jake to complete your task.

Talk to Jake, and muster your conviction.

7. Class advancement get! There’s also a shiny new wand in it for you.

Return to Jermain to gain your reward.

 

 

 

Playtesting the Priest

The Priest class is pretty interesting, in the sense that it’s nothing like what you’d expect out of a traditional caster. You’ll still retain the bulk of your short ranged lightning attacks and kick attacks (the kick attacks are essential to keeping mobs off you), but you do get a big boost to your spell powers.

The first tier spells include Lightning Bolt, which hits multiple targets in a straight line, and the Lightning Relic, which summons a stationary totem that spews electricity.

The Priest's skill tree.

Long cooldowns, however, meant that chaining spell attacks together was considerably tougher, and that I had to include routine wand strikes and kicks into my combos, as well as fall back on Charged Bolt and Lightning Strike. Luckily, I had those jacked up pretty high, because they’re the prerequisites for the majority of Priest skills.

The Lightning Relic - full of zappy goodness.

Busting out a lightning bolt for lots of combos!

As a test of Crimson the Cleric’s newfound powers, I decided to try soloing Abyss Mode, the hardest dungeon mode in the game. It’s scaled for 4 players, features twice the usual amount of monsters and bosses, and monsters tend to have a plethora of ridiculous powers such as regeneration and enhanced damage.

Thanks to the awesomeness of Lightning Relic, and lots of kiting and hiding from mobs, I just barely made it. XD

Priest rocks. I guess when the game goes live, I’ll definitely be playing one.

Skill Points – Careful does it

While you do gain a fair amount of skill points (10) at each level up, I’ve yet to discover any in-game mechanic that allows you to re-spec or reset your skill points. Maybe there will be an in-game item available via the cash shop at a later time, but until then, it’s probably a good idea to hoard some of your skill points.

I made the mistake of putting points in attacks I hardly use, such as Divine Combo, Counter Blow and Sliding Knee Kick, and these meant I gained access to my Priest powers significantly later since I didn’t have enough skill points to activate them right off the bat.

Also, from the looks of it, there’s a limit to how many skill points you can allocate to a single tier, and if you go over the cap, you’ll not be able to put points in later skills.

A handy reference I’ve discovered is the Skill Simulator, available here. Check it out, and it might help you plan ahead.

Something special just for CBT Testers?

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the Dragon Nest SEA forums, CBT Testers are in for a special treat. If you manage to make Level 24 by the end of CBT, you’re eligible for a special title which grants you and your future characters (it’s one per account) a +2 bonus to all stats in OBT and beyond.

It’s like a badge of honor, and the stat buff isn’t shabby either, so if you’re a CBT tester, time’s ticking! I’m currently only Level 16, so hey, that’s 8 more levels for me. Guess I know where my weekend’s going.

Cheerio! XD

Enter the Dragon: Crimson's Dragon Nest CBT Experience

13 Jul , 2011,
Crimson
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Dragon Nest - Login Screen

I’ve been excited about Dragon Nest since I first saw the demo at Comifest 2.

Today, Cherry Credits kicked off the Dragon Nest SEA Closed Beta Test (CBT), and as one of the lucky peeps with a beta key, I’ve been running around since mid afternoon, bopping goblins and other nasties with wild abandon.

Published by Shanda, Dragon Nest is a free-to-play MMORPG taking place on the mythical continent of Lagendia.

You take on the role of a hero prophesied to save the world, uncovering a world spanning plot rife with fell magics, betrayals and skulking cultists as you traverse a series of instanced dungeons, level up, and unlock new pieces of the puzzle along the way.

1. Character Creation

Behold - Crimson the Cleric. XD

Creating a character didn’t take more than a couple minutes.

There were only four classes to choose from – the cleric and warrior, both melee combatants, and the archer and sorcerer, who possessed long range attacks.

After selecting a class, you’d have a few options to customize your facial features, hair styles, colors, and the look of your starting gear.

It was a shame that genders were fixed (which meant no male sorcerer for me), so I settled for the next best thing – the cleric.

A few mouse clicks later, and I was off.

2. Action Packed

Unlike traditional MMORPGs, Dragon Nest evokes the feel of an arcade game. You move with the WASD keys, turn with your mouse, and mash buttons to deliver your attacks, racking up combo points while you’re at it. Space bar lets you jump,  and you can pull off attacks even while you’re in mid-air.

Using a wand is pretty zappy.

Casting Charged Bolt!

I quickly discovered that each class could equip a variety of weapons, and these weapons affected their mode of play. The cleric, for example, could equip either the mace, the flail or the wand.

The mace had a short range and light damage, but could dish out the most hits quickly, allowing for multiple combos, while the wand was slow, but capable of zapping people with lightning at range, sometimes paralyzing them.The flail was somewhere in between (and probably my favorite), allowing for greater versatility.

The right mouse button, which could fire off a special attack (in this case, the cleric could deliver a roundhouse kick that knocked targets back), could also be pressed multiple times at higher levels to execute additional attacks. This allowed for a lot of variety in terms of combat maneuvers (making it a whole lot like DC Universe Online) in addition to the skills you could map to hot keys.

3. Dungeon Driven Storyline

Also, unlike traditional MMOs, where you’re running around a persistent world killing boars, talking to NPCs, and generally playing fetch and kill, the story of Dragon Nest unravels in a series of quests, and these quests take you through a variety of instanced zones.

The instance selection interface.

In these zones, which range from snowy fields to musty dungeons, you complete numerous objectives, such as hunting down an item (marked with a convenient question mark), slay monsters, or collect item drops.

The beauty of the instance system is that you don’t have to fight with two million other players for item drops or mob kills (which could be a problem in games like Rift and World of Warcraft), and can even go at a dungeon alone without the hindrance of partying with people who don’t pull their weight, ninja looters, or annoyances in general.

This makes Dragon Nest incredibly friendly for solo play (though the best gear and rewards still drop on 4 man dungeons in Abyss mode).

4. It takes Skill

A cleric's skill tree. XD

Also, unlike most conventional MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, where you purchase spells from trainers and use talent points to improve your abilities, you gain new skills by unlocking them, either with a skill book drop (it’s random) or by unlocking them at your class trainer at the cost of skill points (or SP).

Leveling skills up also requires skill points, and since you only have a small amount of skill points at each level up, it pays to plan ahead, and choose your skills wisely.

I decided to go the lightning route, so I put the bulk of my skills into lightning attacks, and some into attacks keyed off the kick ability, to knock people back and keep ’em away while I’m casting my pew pew magic.

5. What’s my game?

As a cleric affiliated with the Templars, I was thrust right into the thick of things when a caravan transporting a religious artifact was beset by goblins, and the relic stolen.

Escorting the survivors to the nearby town of Mana Ridge, I was instantly tasked by my superiors to recover the item, sparking a chain of events that unravel the threads of a conspiracy of the highest order.

It was fun going through the motions and reading the dialogue. The NPCs were fairly well written, and other than a few minor hiccups in the grammar and syntax (they’ll probably be ironed out when the game goes live), the dialogue proved to be polished.

Admittedly, it would have been great if multiple quest objectives could be completed in a single instance run (the way it’s programmed, some quests are mutually exclusive), but in general, I didn’t really mind it. The addition of Blessing Points (kinda like Rested XP), which granted bonus experience points during dungeon runs was also a plus, and really contributed to speeding up the otherwise slow leveling curve.

I was a little disappointed by the loot tables though. I rather expected the system to be smarter, and that dungeons would be seeded with items my class could actually use, rather than loot for other classes. I was bereft of new gear and weapons (the game kept giving me sorcerer or warrior gear) for more than 10 levels, and barely got by with quest rewards.

Perhaps this will be remedied at a later point, and class specific gear might be made more readily available.

I’ll be writing more about my Dragon Nest CBT experience in the days to come, so bookmark this blog if you’re interested! I’m gonna get back to grinding in the mean, because I’m this close to 15, where I can get my first specialization! XD

Until then, cheerio!

Well done, Your Highness

23 Jun , 2011,
Crimson
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Your Highness - Poster Art

It’s campy, vulgar and absurd, but Your Highness – with its blend of Monty Python-esque comedy, grossly exaggerated Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) archetypes, and near ludicrous amounts of crass humor – is likely King of the Hill in this season’s geek flicks.

Directed by David Gordon Green (of Pineapple Express fame), and co-written by Danny McBride (also of Pineapple Express fame), this period comedy is an articulate romp through fantasy land that possesses a whole lot more depth than it’s initial presentation lets on.

It’s a clever subversion of Campbell’s monomyth, and as any fantasy fan worth his tropes would soon discover, an homage to everything sword & sorcery.

McBride plays Thadeous, a prince of the kingdom of Mourne. He’s a slovenly horn dog, a coward, and the polar opposite of Fabious, his dashing, golden boy brother (played by James Franco).

The ne’er-do-well’s something of a disgrace to his father, the good king Thallious, but he’s forced to man up when the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) comes calling and spirits away ditzy Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), Fabious’s bride-to-be.

The two brothers embark on a quest to save Belladonna, and by association the kingdom, from Leezar’s evil, facing all manner of peril, including amazons, a hydra, and a minotaur. Along the way, they pick up Isabel (Natalie Portman) – a crazy warrior woman with an axe to grind – and after numerous trials and tribulations, Thadeous grows a pair and goes from leading chump to leading man.

It’s evident that the script was Your Highness’s strongest suit. The lines are tongue-in-cheek, and they come fast and loose, irreverently satirizing anything and everything about the genre. Simply put, nothing is sacred here.

That, coupled with the cast’s over-the-top presentation and hammy acting, lent further credence to the entire point of the movie – the director’s and writers’ aim was solely to entertain, and it does so without any pretensions or sensitivities.

McBride was every bit as goofy as he was offensive in his portrayal of Thadeous, while Franco’s Fabious oozed honest-to-goodness (and thus idiot) charm. Rasmus Hardiker, who played Thadeous’s spoony bard sidekick Courtney, proved surprisingly versatile, while Natalie Portman sizzled the screen with her intensity and delivery. She’s downright bloodthirsty, and doesn’t even blanch when she describes how she’d kill the ones that wronged her, and “wear their flesh as capes”.

In addition to it’s slap dash toilet humor, herpderp moments and implied homo-eroticism, the movie’s also full of geek references and Easter eggs.

Comic book lovers will notice the similarities between tubby mid boss Marteetee and the X-Men villain Mojo (as well as  his champion’s similarity to X-Men’s Longshot), while the unnamed Barbarian in a later scene  is an obvious parody of Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

There’s even a bunch of samurai in there, and Boremont’s metal hand, missing a convenient finger joint, sports a wrist blade a la Assassin’s Creed.

Ultimately, if you watch the movie closely and carefully enough, its true target audience soon becomes apparent.

Yes, it’s a movie by geeks. For geeks. And that, my friends, is Your Highness’s crowning achievement.

The critics and their highbrow sophistry be damned. Go watch this movie.

Your Highness demands it.

Dylan Dog – A Doggone Tale

26 May , 2011,
Crimson
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Dylan Dog - Poster Art

Dylan Dog‘s something of an underdog in comic book circles, never having quite achieved the same measure of popularity in the U.S. as it did in Italy. And that was kinda why I was surprised when I discovered that this obscure Dark Horse title had actually managed to make it to the big screen, and that it was showing in most cinemas here.

Simply put, Dylan Dog’s a title that mashes up old school noir with vampires, werewolves and a healthy dose of mystery. The titular character is a private eye that straddles the world of the living and the world of the dead, and every chapter or so, he succeeds in solving a new supernatural crime. It’s all very pulpy, rife with dubious femme fatales, the alleyway confrontations, and the eponymous rooftop encounters.

Don’t get me wrong. The genre conventions are all there (well, mostly there), but other than Dylan and his idiosyncrasies, almost everything else deviates from the comics.

Set in New Orleans, Dylan’s big screen outing thrusts him into the center of a murder investigation, when an antique dealer gets murdered by something tall, dark and furry. Things get personal when Dylan’s sidekick Marcus gets killed, and this propels him out of his funk, and into some funky detective work.

Along the way, Marcus comes back to life (as a zombie), Dylan gets romantically entangled with his client (what else is new), and tussles with both the vampires and the werewolves whilst hunting down the murderer and an ancient relic called the Heart of Vlad.

It’s a pretty standard B-grade story as far as things go. There are no funky twists, no unpredictable plot devices, and the humor (there’s a bit of it) kinda misses the punchline.

Brandon Routh made for a horrible Dylan Dog. While he could pull off the look, his voice just ruined the entire experience for me. He didn’t have the neurotic intensity I’d come to expect of the character, and overall, like his other performances (in both Superman Returns and most recently, Scott Pilgrim), came across as lackluster.

Sam Huntington, who played Marcus, was by comparison the better actor. He was the right sort of whiny, the right sort of smarmy, and the right sort of annoying. Few can do zombies with panache, and well, Sam is it.

The camera angles and effects weren’t entirely bad, and director Kevin Munroe (who also did the Ninja Turtles movie in 2007) demonstrated a high degree of aesthetic competence. The feel of the movie was sufficiently gritty, and the action sufficiently creative to not be a total bore. It was evident though, from the creature effects, and some of the special effects, that this wasn’t a big budget movie (as if all the B-listers on cast weren’t indication enough).

All told, this movie makes for a doggone tale.

It’s just another entry in a long list of Hollywood B-movies about supernatural dicks and their adventures in undeadland. And while it doesn’t do the comic book it’s based off any justice (just read the comics, and you’ll know what i mean), it’s watchable, in the same way that movies like Big Trouble in Little China and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are watchable.

It makes for an excellent time waster.