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By Jessica Brister On 12 Nov, 2017 At 04:09 PM | Categorized As Books, Editorials, Featured, Opinion, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWhen looking at epic fantasy series, many times a first book can be a little slow, typically concentrating on a lot of set-up for later books.  Initially, when I heard about The Way of Kings, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, the most talked-about feature was the one-thousand plus page length.  When my husband brought home the hard-cover edition, I took one look at that thing and immediately put the title on the back-burner.  I went through Sanderson’s Mistborn series and liked it, but I thought that I was going to have a hard time getting into a first book that long.

I was totally wrong.

 The Way of Kings is one of the best fantasy books that I have ever read.  Actually, it is probably one of the best books I have ever read period, and I don’t say that lightly either.  As a former English teacher, I have many wonderful titles on my list of must-reads.  I have to say, though, The Way of Kings really is a fantastic read.  Here’s why:

Despite the epic length of The Way of Kings, the story is extremely fast-paced.  Sanderson is an expert at dangling little pieces of information at the right points to make the reader want to keep reading, despite the daunting size of the text.  The story revolves around a handful of characters living in the inhospitable land of Roshar, a land of storms and stone.  This book focuses on Kaladin, a former soldier turned slave, as he struggles with his purpose in life and the group of slaves he adopts as his own.  They truly are dealing with horrific conditions as the kingdoms of Roshar battle a mysterious enemy who killed their High King.  But as Kaladin tries to keep his men alive, he begins to realize that they are not much more than cannon fodder, and the righteous war that they were supposed to be fighting is beginning to turn into nothing more than a petty political scheme.

The nobility of the kingdoms in Roshar are obsessed with money, power, and Shardblades and Shardplates—extremely powerful weapons and armor from a different era, one which is lost in the echoes or Roshar’s distant history where the Knights Radiant protected the land from true horrors.  One book that recounts some of the former glory of these guardians is The Way of Kings, a text that Brightlord Dalinar Kholin is obsessed with.  The brother of the slain king, Dalinar believes that the book has some secret meaning that may affect the future of the kingdoms.  Not everyone around him is so sure, since many doubt Dalinar’s sanity.

Meanwhile, in a seemingly irrelevant but extremely important side story, a young woman named Shallan must figure out a way to steal an enormously valuable item from Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah, in order to restore her family’s position in society.  While getting close to Jasnah, Shallan soon discovers that Jasnah’s research may hold the key to the Knights Radiant and the real reason behind the war.

The Way of Kings covers everything from political intrigue to the horrors of war to racism and inherent bias.  There’s something for everyone.  Despite being such a lengthy novel, there’s not any filler.  Everything is important and as the story unfolds, the details masterfully build upon each other.  The story is also beautifully written.  Sanderson is an accomplished writer who creates prose that is truly an art form.  I do not say this about many contemporary authors.

One of the best aspects of The Way of Kings is the setting itself, which has a unique feel from most standard fantasy novels.  Roshar is a weather-beaten land where plants retract in and out of the rocks and most typical animals are crustacean-like beings with tough shells to withstand highstorms, which are fierce hurricane-like tempests that will destroy anyone and anything in their path.  Cities and towns are built specifically with these storms in mind, and travel can be a quite rough.  The lore and history as well as the cultures and people of Roshar are fascinating and add depth to the marvelous world Sanderson has created.

The main characters are memorable and relatable.  I happened to really connect with Kaladin, and I ended up learning a few things about myself through his eyes.  All of the main characters have multiple flaws but also many redeeming qualities, making them believable and realistic.  The reader is drawn in to their plights and is concerned for their well-being, wanting them to succeed.

There are multiple conflicts: some from other characters, some from the war, and some that are internal struggles, which creates a well-rounded story line.  Yes, it might be a hefty read, but everything pulls together so nicely that most readers probably won’t mind.  I certainly didn’t.  In fact, I felt a bit lost after finishing it.  I got that let-down feeling after I finish a book when it is so good that I never want it to end, and when it does end, I get depressed.  The Way of Kings did that to me.  Luckily, I was a little late to the game when I read it, so it didn’t take me very long to get my hands on the second book, Words of Radiance (review coming soon).

The Way of Kings did come out in 2010, so this review may appear to come out at an odd time, but don’t forget that the third book of the series, Oathbringer, will be out November 14, so this is a great time to play catch-up if you haven’t started on this series yet.  I cannot praise these books enough.  They really are the next great fantasy series of our time.

Oh, and those who enjoy listening to their books, the book tape version of The Way of Kings is amazing.  I did one read through and one listen through of the book and cannot say enough about the production of the audio book.

No GravatarI had been dreading playing Mass Effect 3 for years because I knew how bad the ending was.  In fact, I procrastinated for a couple of years by continuously playing Mass Effect 2 over and over again.  Well, after I finished ME2 four times through, I decided it was finally time to move onto Mass Effect 3.  I began the game with a bit of trepidation, but it didn’t take me too long to figure out that ninety-nine percent of ME3 is actually an amazing game.  It’s that pesky one percent that wrecks the whole thing.  But I’ll get to that later.  First, let’s concentrate on the good:

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Mass Effect 3 is a third person, action RPG developed by BioWare and published by EA in March of 2012 for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and eventually Wii U.  The game uses the Unreal 3 Enginge and improved upon the graphics and game play of its predecessors.

For a moment, let’s pretend that the last five to ten minutes of the game does not exist and only concentrate on the good parts of the story.  And there are many.  Mass Effect 3 leaves off where ME2 left us: after years of warning, the Reapers finally come and invade Earth.  Commander Shepard is recruited to rally a force that will be able to stop them.  After finding a an ancient Prothean artifact on Mars that may be the key to the Reapers’ undoing, Shepard and his team must gather materials and help in order to build the device that will hopefully save Earth and the rest of the galaxy.

It’s a really fun story line, though it’s a bit desperate at times.  There is still a bit of humor thrown  in every once in awhile to keep it from being too dark (i.e. Joker’s The Hunt for Red October joke, which was quite a cute little Easter Egg).  Since the player accumulates resources throughout the game, every missions feels like it matters, even the side missions.

Again, just like the first two Mass Effect games, the space setting is done right.  ME3 has more of the amazingly rich settings that I have loved about the franchise, complete with a detailed set of back-story or “Codex.”  Although the game is Science fiction, the pseudo-science jargon feels like it could actually be real.  From the relays to the use of biotics to the Crucible, everything seems to be plausible and like it could actually happen.

For those players who had played through the first two games, there is an overlying tone of sadness as many of your previous team’s homes get wiped away by the Reapers.  There are also some set characters that will die on you, and depending on how you played the previous two games, others team members may go as well.  I actually cried several times during the game because I had gotten so attached to a few of the ones that died.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Mass Effect 3 moved me so much that I cried.  I cried more in ME3 than ME2, which I enjoyed much more.  The game would have been amazing without those last ten minutes, but I will leave aspect last.

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The game play was actually much improved from Mass Effect 2…once a player gets used to the controls.  I had some issues with the roll from cover to cover for a bit because I was so used to the mechanics of ME2.  After awhile, I got much better at it.  Though it still has standard duck and cover, third person shooting elements, I found that the game enemy AI was much sneakier than in the first two Mass Effect games.  Multiple bad guys would actually try to outflank me on many occasions, something that happened very rarely in the ME2.  The RPG elements felt pretty similar to Mass Effect 2.  In ME3, the missions take on a sense of desperation.  Even better, the planet mining that was the worst part of ME2 has been replaced with a scanning for resources in ME3.  I can be a pain because the more the player scans, the more the Reapers are attracted.  This could be an annoying feature.  However,  at this point, anyone can Google any sector and get the precise places of the resources.  Problem solved.

Just like Mass Effect 2, ME3 is not a typical open-world RPG because of the whole space thing.  However, just like with the previous games, the player does get free roam of the galaxy, as long as there are no Reapers actively looking for you.

Mass Effect 3 continues with the great choice-driven tradition of the series.  Unfortunately, that goes down the drain in the final few minutes, but the rest of the game gives you some amazing choices.  The ability to make decision that will affect how the game goes is one of the best parts of the game.  Also, players still have the option to player Shepard however they’d like.  Dialogue options are more paragon/renegade focused without as many neutral options.  One thing that I did not like about the dialogue options was that a player has to hit all of the right paragon options earlier on in the game to get the “good” Illusive Man response at the end.  I totally missed it, but I really didn’t want to mess with a walk-through on a game that really shouldn’t need one.

Mass Effect 3 is one of the few last-gen games that I can still play and not cringe a bit.  It still looks great.  The upgrades from ME2 were amazing.  The characters looks great and the environment looks even better.  The regular game play is great, but the cut-scenes are what really look amazing.  It is still a game that I would recommend to play graphics-wise even after a year and a half of the current gen of consoles.

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I cannot say enough of the amazing voice actors that have contributed to Mass Effect 3.  BioWare pulled an amazing team together, as always.  Honestly, nothing really disappoints in this game.  Well, except…

Everything goes downhill in the last ten minutes of the game.
I honestly felt like I wanted to hit my head through a wall when I finished the game, and I am not exaggerating.  How can you go from such a great story to such a disappointment?  The last ten minutes of the game are just absolutely awful.  I don’t even really care that Shepard dies no matter what.  He did go up against the Reapers, but the explanation about why the Reapers were destroying everything made no sense.  There was also no real ending choices.  The player basically gets to choose what filter color he or she wants over the end sequence.  I am not exactly sure what BioWare was trying to do there, but I’m assuming that it was a rush to get the game out for whatever reason.  Unfortunately, that rush led to one of the worst game endings in the history of video games.  It’s unfortunate too because the rest of the game is so good.

I still love Mass Effect 3, despite the ending.  To get around the ending, I recommend stopping after saying goodbye to all of your teammates and friends.  Then you can just make up a better ending in your head because what BioWare gave us is just awful.

No GravatarEvery once in a while, there is an awesome game that comes out, and it revolutionizes the way that a person views gaming.  For me, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is one of those games.  It has everything that I demand in a game: a cool story, fun game play, an expansive world, and the ability to customize my game experience as I see fit.  I love the game so much that it’s one of the top games that I’ve put the most hours into, and that’s saying something because I’ve spent a lot of time on many different games.  It’s one of my all-time favorites.  Here’s why:

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action role-playing game that was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.  It is the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls franchise, following 2006’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  Skyrim was released November 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.  A remastered version is coming out for the game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in October of this year.  The game uses the Creation Engine, which was specifically rebuilt for the game after some of the issues with Fallout 3.  Skyrim got critical acclaim and is consistently rates as one of the best video games of all time.

Set 200 years after its predecessor, Skyrim focuses on Tamriel’s Nordic area (Skyrim, hence the game’s name).  There are two warring factions at odds against each other.  The Stormcloaks consist of Skyrim’s native Nordic folk who wish to rule their own land (and are extremely racist).  The Imperial Legion represents the Empire and wishes to keep the region safe and at peace (but then the native people don’t have control of their own area).  After being almost killed by the Imperials and surviving a dragon attack, the player realizes that Skyrim is in deep trouble if dragons have come back.  Eventually, the player finds out that he or she is Dragonborn, a person born with the soul and power of a dragon.  In the main quest line, the player must find out what is going on with the reemerging dragons; however, there are tons of other side quests that jump into the rich history and politics of the region.  It’s absolutely amazing.

The main story is pretty involved, but it’s the expansive world that really shines with Skyrim.  It’s definitely got one of the best maps that I have seen (I still prefer it over The Witcher 3’s map, which is also quite expansive).  The scenery is gorgeous, especially since I play on PC with the graphics on the highest levels with a few texture mods as well.  Most of the items in the world are extremely interactive.  The people in Skyrim are interesting.  The places are fun to explore.  I’ve gone walking around the map just for fun.  I’ve even read about people who create characters and don’t even play the game; they just make up their own story and go hunting animals, collect things, and just have fun.  It’s so in-depth with lore and back-story that it’s hard not to fall in love with Skyrim.

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However, even though the open world is amazing, my favorite part of the game is actually the game play itself.  I have never quite come across anything quite like it.  For me, even another Bethesda heavy-hitter like Fallout 3 or even Fallout 4 doesn’t compare.  Sure, Skyrim is a first-person, action RPG.  A lot of games are.  The thing that really makes Skyrim stand out is the leveling and experience system.  It’s very simple: you level up what you use.  Whatever angle you want to play with Skyrim, you just have to use it to level it.  In this way, players are not pigeon-holed into a certain class.  Do you want to be a mage who has thief tendencies?  Go for it.  Do you want you want to be a warrior who also can use magic when needed?  Yep!  You can do that.  Do you like being a thief who enjoys two-handed combat?  Why not?

I love the ability to be able to do what I want, when I want.  I love that I can mix and match with the different combat styles and character niches because…why not?  I hate having to decide what class to play because two hours later, I want to change it.  Skyrim lets me do whatever I want.  When I initially played it on Xbox 360, I was a bit limited with the amount of perks that I could get, so some specialization was required.  However, on PC I can do a bit of cheaty, cheat, cheating and add perks when I run out of levels.  It’s perfect for the OCD gamer.  In Skyrim, it’s totally okay to be a warrior/mage/thief all at the same time.

The graphics hold up very well, especially if you are playing on PC and can put on some texture mods.  On the consoles, it is starting to look dated.  Hopefully, it will look great again with the remaster.  However, when the game originally came out, the graphics were hand’s down awesome.  I love the textures of the scenery.  Even though some of the color palate can be very heavy on grays and browns, the game is still beautiful.

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There is something special about Skyrim, and it may have to do with the fact that gamers can easily make fun of it without damaging the integrity of the game.  How many “arrow to the knee” memes have you seen?  How many times have people made fun of the fact that one can eat 99 raw potatoes in the middle of the battle to gain health?  What about trying to kill a chicken?  Or, my personal favorite happens to be: why are all of the lights on in a dungeon that hasn’t been visited by anyone in hundreds if not thousands of years?  It’s fun to make fun of Skyrim because it’s a game that no one has to defend as being good.  Some people might not like it, and that’s fine.  But it’s hard to argue that it’s a bad game.  Therefore, when there are some “silly” elements of the game, it’s enjoyable to point out the shortcomings because even though there definitely are some, no other game even comes close.

There are a lot of games that I have enjoyed over the years, but there are few that I truly love.  The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim is one that I absolutely will love forever, even when newer and better games come out.  I have about an estimated 415 hours on the game right now between console and PC, and I have thoroughly loved every minute of it.  I actually cannot think of another game that I have spent so much time on.  That’s the power of Skyrim.

By Jessica Brister On 14 Aug, 2016 At 03:38 PM | Categorized As Featured, PlayStation, Reviews, Reviews, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWhen I was handed a copy of Dead Island: Definitive Edition for the PlayStation 4, I had no idea what to expect.  To be quite frank, I had no clue what the game was about, it’s history, and what I would get on this remastered version.  I guess that it was just one of those games that slipped by me at the time it came out.  However, I am glad that I got a chance to play it because I had a great deal of fun.  It wasn’t what I expected.  I was thinking it would be the typical zombie-slasher game.  Instead, I got a surprisingly fun, open-world Far Cry-like game.  There were some gameplay issues, but overall, I would recommend Dead Island: Definitive Edition as a great edition to anyone’s the FPS/open-world/zombie collection.

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Dead Island is an open-world survival horror RPG that was originally released in 2011.  It was developed by Techland (Polish developer who also did Dying Light), published by Deep Silver, and distributed by Square Enix for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.  It got fairly positive reviews when it came out, though there were some negative marks against it, including game glitches.  The game was remastered for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One May of this year.  There is a sequel “Dead Island 2” that is coming out soon, but there is no release date as of yet.  I did not ever get a chance to play the original release of the game, so keep that in mind as I discuss the Definitive Edition.

The premise of the game is that you are one of four protagonist characters (each with their own special abilities and personalities) on the resort island of Banoi (modeled after an island near Papua New Guinea).  I happened to play as Xian Mei.  After a night of partying, your character wakes up to find that much of the resort has been turned into zombie-like creatures.  Your character, though, is immune.  You are guided by a mysterious voice over intercoms and whatnot (think BioShock).  After meeting up with groups of survivors, you realize that you can’t stay on the island forever and a plan is hatched to leave.

It’s a pretty straight-forward story plot.  It’s nothing super special, but I did like the fact that you didn’t have to worry about zombie bites turning you like you would in say, The Last of Us (more on this later).  The crown jewel of the game is the setting and the contrast between the gorgeous island scenery and the undead and gore all over the place.  I wasn’t expecting such a large map to play around in when I initially started the game.  I also enjoyed the pacing and progression of the story as well as some of the side missions, which some of them are actually pretty darned funny.

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The gameplay itself is a little disappointing for a standard first-person shooter.  You are definitely playing it for the open-world and not a seamless gameplay experience.  Jumping, exploring, and combat are all a little stiff with the controllers.  I got used to it after a while, but it definitely is not one of my favorite gameplay experiences.  Overall, it felt like a Far Cry game with lots of missions, weapons, and vehicles.  It’s an action RPG with three skill trees to add points to: Fury, Combat, and Survival.  XP is earned through completing missions and killing zombies, and you get points toward the skill try for each level earned.  It’s very standard fair for an action RPG.

Dead Island really shines with its reliance on heavy melee combat and its weapon systems.  The melee-focused fighting is actually pretty fun.  I liked that fact that I didn’t have to worry about being bitten (unlike other zombie games) because my character is immune.  I was able to just focus on kicking-butt and killing zombies.  The particular style of zombies that Dead Island have are more of the running kind than the slow creepers, so one of my favorite things to do in the game was throw knives at zombies running toward me and watch them splatter.

Weapons degrade after use, so it is vitally important to keep an eye on them and repair or replace as needed, although the higher level of the weapon, the slower it is to degrade.  If a weapon degrades too much, it becomes ineffective and will eventually completely fall apart if you try to keep using it.  The crafting system was pretty cool, as you can collect items and schematics and use them to build weapons.  Weapons can also be modded as well.  Though melee weapons are highlighted, there are guns as well.

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The graphics are improved from the original release, and they look fairly decent on this current generation of consoles.  The tropical scenery is beautiful and a delight to romp around in for a while.  Obviously, it is a remastered game from 2011, so there is only so much that can be done.  However, I found that it was quite enjoyable on the PlayStation 4.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Dead Island: Definitive Edition.  There are, of course, some things that I have dinged it on, but the pros really outweigh the cons with this one.  I would have never picked up this game (mostly due to the title; it sounds a bit silly), but I’m glad that I did.  It’s a solid game that I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun, open world FPS.

No GravatarEvery once in awhile, I get to play a game that is just plain fun.  Not that most video games aren’t fun, but some of them focus too much on grinding or the competitive aspect of gaming.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of those games that is just plain fun.  The length is about right, and it’s a lot of non-stop action and adventure.  Plus, it’s got a humorous side to it as well.  Uncharted 2 is just a blast to play with the right formula to be downright awesome.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is an action-adventure third-person shooter that was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony.  It was released for PlayStation 3 on October 13, 2009 with critical acclaim.  It was later released for PlayStation 4 as a part of the Uncharted: Nathan Drake Collection October 2015.  For the purposes of this review, I will only be concentrating on the PlayStation 3 version.

Uncharted 2 picks up with the fun and adventure that the original game started.  Nathan Drake is a world-traveled treasure hunter who is approached by some old associates, Harry Flynn and Chloe Frazer, to steal an oil lamp that belonged to Marco Polo from a Turkish museum.  This oil lamp holds the key to Marco Polo’s hidden treasure.  There’s a lot of fun and adventure, including some familiar faces like Victor Sullivan (“Sully”) and Elena Fisher.

I don’t want to spoil any of the awesomeness that is this game, but I will say that it is thoroughly enjoyable.  You get to go to cool places and do some downright cool things.  I love the fact that even though there are some dark tones to the game, the story overall has humorous overtones due to Drake’s snarky comments.  He’s just one of those cool characters in gaming that you just have to love.  It took me a long time to try this series because I thought that Uncharted was just a Tomb Raider rip-off.  That is far from the truth.  Uncharted stands on its own as one of my favorite genres: cheesy, action/adventure in the lines of Indiana Jones or The Librarian.  It’s just something that you just plan enjoy.

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The gameplay of Uncharted 2 has been much improved over the original game.  I had issues with Drake’s Fortune because of the odd save times, weird camera angles, and funky controls at some spots.  All of these issues were corrected in the second installment, making for an extremely fun game that I can just sit and enjoy.  The game is a third-person adventure game with jumps, climbing, and shooting.  Unlike the older Tomb Raider games, the jumping is significantly easier and the puzzles are more thinking puzzles than gaming skill puzzles (anyone who has played any of the retro TR games knows what I’m talking about).  The player must use Drake’s journal in order to solve these puzzles.  

There is also a significant amount of shooting, using a lot of duck and cover third-person shooting.  Drake switches between a two-handed weapon and a one-handed weapon in combat, and he also had limited access to grenades.  Drake is able to pick up different weapons depending on the situation and personal preference of the player.  There are also a few stealth enemy take-downs as well.  There are also secret treasures that are hidden along the way that allows the player to unlock certain rewards.

Besides the main portion of the game, there is also a multiplayer angle that involves both competitive and cooperative gameplay.  The cooperative is fairly straight-forward, team-based, objective-driven missions.  Teams can be up to three people (Nathan Drake and two other characters).  The competitive allows for ten people on a map (two teams of five) and has fairly standard Deathmatch, as well Plunder, Elimination, Turf War, King of the Hill, and Chain Reaction modes.  Players gain points, level up, and can purchase character skins and whatnot.  There are some hardcore players in the midst, though I’m not sure how active the servers are for PS3.

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he graphics looked pretty slick for the time frame that the game came out.  When it came out, it pushed the boundaries for realistic environment.  The amount of cut-scenes in the game were multiplied by seven as compared with the original game.  I am curious to see how it looked on PlayStation 4 whenever I finally get a chance to crack open the Nathan Drake Collection that I got for last Christmas (life got busy).  Naughty Dog also utilized motion capture with the voice actors for more realistic scenes and dialogue.  Obviously, we saw how this progressed with Naughty Dog in the masterpiece that is The Last of Us.

Overall, Uncharted 2 is just plain fun.  It’s one of those games that you can just jump into and not have to worry about.  There’s no grinding nor is there any stale points.  It’s jam-packed action and adventure with Nathan Drake’s wry, humor interjected throughout.  For me, that is one heck of a good time.

By Jessica Brister On 25 Jul, 2016 At 10:19 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews, Toys and Merchandise | With 0 Comments

No GravatarA lot of geek parents often like to share their various fandoms with their children. Call it the perks of being a totally cool parent and all. I am no exception. I love doing geeky stuff with my daughter. When Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and the release of The Force Awakens, there have been a lot more novelty items out there for fans to love than there used to be. My daughter received a boxed set of Star Wars Little Golden books for her birthday that follow the first six movies. If you don’t know, Little Golden books are children’s books with a gold-colored binding on them. Many of you may have read them as kids or are currently reading them to your kids. I read Episodes I through III with my daughter, and we moved on to the meat of Star Wars: Oh, yes, it’s time for A New Hope!

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Star Wars: A New Hope (Little Golden Book Edition) was written by Geof Smith and illustrated by Caleb Meurer. It was published in 2015 by Golden Books. I got this particular book in a packaged deal with five other Star Wars episodes as children’s books, but for the purpose of this review, I will only be discussing A New Hope.
The book focuses on the main plot points of the movie. Young Luke Skywalker dreams of bigger and better things when he meets Obi Wan Kenobi, a Jedi who wants to show him the ways of the force. On a desparate mission to deliver a set of stolen plans for a battle station capable of destroying planets, they meet up with a smuggler and a beautiful princess. The rest is history. Of course, I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you probably already know the rest, so I’ll spare you the details.
I adored being able to go through the little kid’s version of A New Hope. There is something very special about sharing this story with my daughter. The story itself works really well as a kid’s book. Well, except for the fact that an entire planet is destroyed, but I thought the book did a good job of glossing over that fact and sticking to the characters instead.
The book is aimed at older children and has no rhyming or rhythm to it. It is definitely story-oriented instead of focusing on teaching a concept. The book only comes with regular soft pages with a hard cover, so you may want to watch this book with very young children. They tend to like to destroy things, and this is very much not a board book.
The illustrations were great, though the faces looked a little more mature than some of the previous illustrators in this Little Golden Book series. They really helped further along the story when necessary. There are pictures on every page as well as text, and they kept my daughter’s interest as we read through it.

Overall, this is a cute book as a novelty Star Wars children’s book. It is a fun way to share your love of the franchise with the movie that started it all. I recommend it for any geek parent.

No GravatarWhen I first began playing BioShock Infinite, I had a tough time getting into it.  Not because the game isn’t interesting.  It pulls you in pretty quickly with its beautiful graphics and fascinating storyline.  I was just mad that the game was vastly different in setting and tone then the original BioShock, which is one of my favorite games of all time.  I wanted BioShock Infinite to be in Rapture or somewhere like Rapture.  I actually stopped playing the game and went back to play the original several times before I finally forced myself to play Infinite.  It was a good thing that I did too.  Infinite is an absolutely amazing game, and I shouldn’t have compared it to the original.  Trying to make a game too much like the original BioShock only ends in mediocre sequels (BioShock 2).  I think that Irrational HAD to pick a different setting in order to have an effective story.  So, after getting over that self-imposed hurdle, I found that Infinite is actually one of my favorite games ever.

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Overview

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K in 2013 for PS3, XBox360, and PC.  Is it is the second sequel of the much loved original BioShock.  It uses a modified version of Unreal Engine 3 and has also been praised for its graphics, setting, and story.  Despite being a BioShock game, it departs from the Rapture-setting and instead focuses on its own dystopia of Columbia. BioShock: The Collection comes out in September, which is a remastered version for the current generation of all three BioShock games.  For the purpose of this review, I will be concentrating on the PS3 version only.

Story

The original BioShock had an amazingly intricate story that made several play-throughs enjoyable because of all of the little details.  BioShock Infinite steps it up to a completely different level.  The story is absolutely amazing.  It follows Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton and Battle of Wounded Knee vet, who has acquired a massive amount of debt.  To repay this debt, he is hired to rescue, Elizabeth, a woman who has been imprisoned since childhood in a city called Columbia.

Columbia is not a normal city, though.  The place floats in the sky (don’t worry if it sounds ridiculous; it’s very well explained) and is run by the prophet Zachary Comstock, a religious fantastic.  Like the original BioShock, Columbia is a city that has gone wrong, but it also highlights issues such as: racism, religious extremism, socio-economic struggles, American exceptionalism, the corruption of power, and dealing with past mistakes.  As you can see, Infinite is not a one-trick pony when it comes to thematic elements.  I am not even sure what part is better: the story or the setting.  The story is amazing, don’t get me wrong.  Elizabeth is probably one of the best, well-thought out, well-developed female characters ever done in a video game.  However, I also find myself playing Infinite just to explore Columbia (it is really that cool).  I love the early 1900s/steampunk style to it as well.  It’s just overall very well done.  There aren’t many games like it, especially in the first-person shooter style.

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Game Play

If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I’m pretty picky about my first-person shooters.  I’m not really that into most multi-player games, and I hate fps campaign modes that are too short and without substance.  BioShock Infinite, first of all, is worth the price  (I think it may be on PlayStation Plus now, though) because of its length, which is perfect for a fps game.

The game play, however, is also amazingly well-done.  With Infinite, you get a fun, smooth-flowing fps game with a few added elements that push this game up to a 10.  First, there is the use of plasmas…um, I mean vigors, which gives the “BioShock” power.  Then there is also the use of infusions and gear, which give some added elements of game play, such as more health, shields, and salts as well as some special “perks” from the gear.  Second, there is the use of the sky-line hooks and open-environment that make this game incredibly fun to play.  The first time I got on a sky-line, it felt like I was on a freaking roller-coaster.  You can zip around and melee enemies from above, jump on floating air ships, and fire your weapon while swinging around.  Third, you get Elizabeth as a sidekick, who helps out Booker during battles.  The AI for her is absolutely brilliant.  It really is a new way to play an fps.

These added elements make the game so much fun.  The game never felt repetitive.  I never got bored with the game either, especially with all of the fun vigors I got to use.  Overall, I have not seen many single-player fps games out on the market quite like this.

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Graphics

This game highlights the pinnacle of what the PS3 can handle graphics-wise and was pretty much one of the best-looking games for the PS3 (if not the best).  When I got my first glimpse of Columbia, all I could do was go, “WOW!”  After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I began really enjoy how amazing the setting really is.  Even if you don’t like first-person shooters, the game is worth seeing just for how truly beautiful it looks.

Voice Acting

As you might have known, Troy Baker is my favorite voice actor.  What you might not have known, is that I had no freaking clue who the man was before I played this game (*gasps can be heard from across the Internet*).  Yep, that’s right.  No clue.  But I enjoyed listening to Booker DeWitt so much that decided to look Troy up and the rest is pretty much history.  In seriousness, though, the voice acting is top notch.  From Troy who plays the quiet, soft-spoken but flawed Booker to the very-talented Courtnee Draper, who does Elizabeth’s voice, the actors make the game that much more enjoyable.  Even the Lutece twins are pretty awesome and give some added humor to the game.  By the way, this game is still my favorite Troy Baker game.

Music

I usually do not include a game’s musical score in my reviews, but I decided to add it to this one because the music in Infinite is so great.  Besides having a great score for battles and exploring, you have the added bonus of all sorts of popular songs being done in an early 20th-century style.  There are a lot of Easter-egg tunes to hear, but I don’t want to go into it because I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t played the game yet (you should).

Overall

There really isn’t anything that I can knock this game on, and trust me, if I see something wrong, I will say something.  BioShock Infinite is just an amazing game.  I know this review is very glowing, and I can’t find anything to complain about.  For the most part, the complaints that I have seen about this game are a little unfounded.  Here are some and my response to them:

Complaint: The story is too complicated, especially the ending.

Response: Sorry, it’s not the game’s fault that you can’t figure it out.

Complaint: The game should have been third-person not first-person, since it has a lot of narration from Booker.  You are the character when you inhabit a first-person perspective, hence there should be no narration.

Response: That’s like saying if you read a book that is in first-person narration that YOU are the character.  Not so.  You are just getting it from the first-person perspective.  Even though you control Booker from the first person, you are not Booker. Sorry.

Complaint: It’s not enough like the original BioShock. (This was my original complaint.)

Response: If you want to play the original BioShock, play the original.  If the game was too much like the original, we’d get a mediocre re-hash like BioShock 2.  The game plays tribute enough to the original but is still it’s own game.

Complaint: I didn’t like the hordes of people coming at you in battle.  It felt like filler.

Response: Um, if you don’t like fighting in a first-person shooter game, then you probably shouldn’t be playing these types of games.  Just saying.

Complaint: It’s too gory.

Response: Uh, last time I checked, it was a BioShock game AND a first-person shooter.  Considering that the original had tinge of the horror-genre to it, Infinite holds up to the franchise.  If it’s too gory, may I suggest a game like Little Big Planet, instead?

Complaint: Elizabeth is too much like a damsel in distress.

Response: I think that she takes care of herself just fine, but apparently you must have missed those parts of the game.  Sure she’s trapped at the beginning, but there is a reason she can’t get out herself, and she also takes charge for a lot of the game.  May I suggest that you replay it and pay attention?

I think the biggest issue is that some of these critics want this game to not be a first-person shooter, BioShock game.  I think they are looking for something that they were never going to find and never should find in this game.  I don’t even know what to tell them there.  I enjoyed the heck out of it.  Infinite will be one of those games I will replay many, many times.  In my humble opinion, it is just that good.

By Jessica Brister On 21 Jul, 2016 At 08:34 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSharing your favorite geek fandoms as a parent is one of the many awesome things about having little ones. As my daughter has gotten older, I have started to slowly introduce her to some of my favorite geeky things. Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise and with the release of The Force Awakens, there are a lot more novelty items out for fans to enjoy. My daughter received a boxed set of Star Wars Little Golden books for her birthday that follow the first six movies. If you are not familiar, Little Golden books are children’s books with a gold-colored binding. You may have read them before as a child. After reading through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, my daughter and I continued through to Revenge of the Sith.

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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Little Golden Book edition) was written by Geof Smith and illustrated by Patrick Spaziante. It was published in 2015 by Golden Books. I got this particular book in a packaged deal with five other Star Wars episodes as children’s books, but for the purpose of this review, I will only be discussing Revenge of the Sith.

The book focuses on the main points of the movie. Anakin and Padame are secretly married, and she is pregnant. War is continuing to rage against the Republic and the Separatist army. There are a lot of battles and fighting, and then the inevitable descent of Anakin into the dark side. I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you probably already know the rest, so I’ll spare you the details.

Revenge of the Sith was definitely the best of the prequels. However, it did not translate over very well into a children’s book. Even though the author did the best that he could with making the plot a little more kid-friendly, reading it to my daughter was kind of depressing. I thought that the pacing was right for a children’s story, but the story itself just did not fit well. This is not a knock at the author. I’m not sure what else he could have possibly done.

The book is aimed at older children and has no rhyming or rhythm to it. It is more story-oriented instead of focusing on teaching a concept. The book only comes with regular soft pages with a hard cover, so you may want to watch this with very young children if you decide to purchase it. Since it is not a board book, your very little one might tear it up.

The illustrations were well-done and at least tried to make the book a little more child-friendly. It was a tough story to draw, based on everything that happened. There are illustrations on every page with text, and the pictures did a good job of furthering the narration when needed.

Overall, I really liked this book as a novelty children’s book. However, I would caution any parent with the content of the story. It’s a little down. Actually, it’s kind of depressing. You may want to skip this one until your kids are a bit older, but that is one hundred percent your call as a geek parent.

By Jessica Brister On 19 Jul, 2016 At 06:10 PM | Categorized As Reviews | With 0 Comments

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As a geek, I love Star Wars.  As a former English teacher, I love Shakespeare.  When you combine the two, I am in heaven.  That is exactly what has happened with the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series.  Someone has gone through and re-written the classic Star Wars movies into Shakespearean plays.  I received Episodes IV through VI as a set and think they are an absolute blast to read.  I have already done a review for A New Hope and will be concentrating only on The Empire Striketh Back for the purposes of this review.
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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back was written by Ian Doescher and was published in 2014 by Quirk Books.  At this time, the first six Star Wars movies have been published in this series so that nerds like me can collect them all.  I found out that the author decided to write these books because George Lucas purposely put archetypal characters in Star Wars, and Shakespeare is the master of archetypes.  This was definitely an interesting and creative idea of rewriting different Star Wars movies into the form of a Shakespeare play.

The Empire Striketh Back is essentially Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back in iambic pentameter with stage direction, like it is a true Shakespearean play.  The plot has stayed the same, but the dialogue has been greatly changed.  It was extremely fun to read, though it will probably not be for everyone.  It definitely fits a niche group of readers.  I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you are already familiar with the story and will focus more on some of the key differences.

Though most of the book was as expected: The Empire Strikes Back turned into Shakespeare, there was one interesting twist that I want to discuss and that is the diction and style of Yoda, which was quite interesting.  Yoda speaks with the characteristic and very memorable dialect, which is inverted.  There are also many, many Shakespeare lines which are inverted as well because that was the dialect at the time.  So what was the author to do? Invert the dialogue again so that Yoda spoke normally?  Keep Yoda doing the same thing?  Just quote the lines of Yoda from the movie and be done with it (He sounds Shakespearean enough, doesn’t he?)

Well, the author chose a completely different way, which I admire, since this was a difficult issue…because you know how Star Wars fans are and all…When I say that, I mean crazy and all.  Because they totally are.  Instead of what you might expect, Yoda spoke in haiku.  It was beautiful and all.  It was unique.  I thought it was great given the difficulty of mastering a character who has already existed in cannon for a long time in a language that is archaic.  For those who have an issue…do you have your own deal for Star Wars in Shakespearean language?  No?  Okay then.

There were also some issues with Boba Fett, but then again, when aren’t there issues with Boba Fett?  Seriously, if you have been following the Star Wars universe as much as I have over the last couple of decades, Boba Fett has been a  crazy topic to try and mess with, which is why I won’t.  Have fun and all.  In the meantime, I thought that his character was done as best as could be done.

The book was a great rendition of Star Wars plus Shakespeare.  This book is not for everyone, but for the small sub-set of people who love geeky things and classic literature.

By Jessica Brister On 17 Jul, 2016 At 07:06 PM | Categorized As Movie News, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIt looks like Alden Ehrenreich will be the Young Han Solo in a standalone film.  It was revealed at the Star Wars Celebration event in London.

The audition took about six months, including doing multiple screen tests alongside Chewbacca.  Ironically enough, he was the first actor that the directors saw for the role.

The 26 year old actor is known for his role in Hail, Caesar! and Beautiful Creatures.

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