All things that interest me as a fan of Fantasy. Fantasy themed art, tattoos, video games, books, movies, and anything else that catches my eye;)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Poseidon Tattoo

I just had to share this amazing tattoo by artist Rob Richardson. I would happily wear this one! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt "The Trail" Opening Cinematic

Yet another amazing trailer from CD Project Red, the development team behind The Witcher 3. Coming out in February 2015. At this point I feel like CD Project Red is showing a bit too much of the game. We still want to be surprised, and at this point I feel like I've seen half the game. Then again it's supposed to be bigger than Skyrim was, so likely they've really only shown off the cinematics. Looks pretty awesome, and the graphics should look amazing on the PS4! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dark Souls 2 Crown of the Old Iron King Review

Crown of the Old Iron King is part two of The Lost Crowns trilogy and it takes place almost exclusively in a giant tower. Once again From Software has delivered with this extraordinary DLC, and somehow manages to top Crown of the Sunken King.  Accessed about halfway through the standard game, Crown of the Old Iron King is difficult even for the most seasoned veterans of the series. The environment itself becomes just another obstacle to tackle. With precarious ledges, hidden enemies, and sinister traps, Brume tower manages to instill both wonder and anxiety.

In the opening area the player comes across a strange pulsating statue, surrounded by fallen soldiers. Immediately I began to wonder what happened here, and what was the strange Idol before me? Afterwards, the player begins to traverse a giant chain that leads towards the main tower. Much like the first DLC, this sense of scale allows the player to take one last deep breath before being plunged into a claustrophobic nightmare.

The central area of Brume Tower became something of a “home base” for me. From there I could begin to get a sense of direction. There are multiple paths the player can take be it left, right, up, or down. Eventually the player will find a key to ignite the giant furnaces within Brume Tower. Platforms rest upon the backs of ancient stone sculptures, and similar to an elevator, these go up and down once the furnaces are ignited. Brume tower takes on a whole different personality once it comes to life. Areas that were initially inaccessible become available for exploration.

While the majority of the game will take place within the interior of Brume Tower, there are several areas available on the outside. These exterior areas became small respites and allowed me to breath again. Once you leave the tower you realize just how suffocating it feels. The graphics do suffer a bit on these exterior areas. The distant lands just look a bit unrealistic, but considering this is a DLC I couldn’t really complain.

Several new enemies make an appearance in Crown of the Old Iron King, but unfortunately the main enemy soldiers are very similar to the soldiers you faced in Crown of the Sunken King. One of the best parts about a Souls game is the creepy enemies that you face. To confront what is essentially a different colored version of an enemy previously faced is something of a letdown. There is however a certain enemy that is just downright disturbing. Bloated, legless humanoids crawl towards you at an alarming speed only to pause and explode after a few seconds. When I encountered my first one I was overconfident, and when it did its speed crawl I was truly disturbed.

Much like Crown of the Sunken King, the bosses in this second DLC are hit and miss. Two of the three are truly tough battles, and one in specific could be considered the hardest boss of the game. Once again the theme of “recycling” a previous boss is repeated here, and it’s just as disappointing as it was in the first DLC.
Crown of the Old Iron King is littered with new weapons, rings, armors, and items. Another NPC makes an appearance, and this one actually flees from the player. These NPC fights feel like you’re playing an online player, and while they do use cheap tactics, it makes them feel authentic.

The one thing that I found surprising in this DLC is just how damn big the map was. For the ten bucks I spent I probably got about eight to ten hours of play. To me this was totally worth the price and once again I am completely blown away with the quality of these DLC’s. As with the first DLC Crown of the Old Iron King’s level design is arguably one of the best in the entire game. If you’re a fan of the game, this one is going to be essential. This was yet another impressive and solid entry into the Dark Souls 2 saga.

Level Design 10/10
Enemies 8/10
Lore 7/10
Items 9/10
Boss Battles 8/10

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dark Souls 2 Crown of the Sunken King Review

When the announcement came that there was going to be DLC for Dark Souls 2 I was absolutely ecstatic. This was going to be a huge test for From Software, the development team behind the game. Would this be a grab for players’ cash, or would this be legitimate material that would enhance the original game? Eventually From Software announced that there wouldn’t be just one DLC, but THREE! Thus was born the Lost Crown trilogy. Once again fans began to wonder whether or not this was going to be a good thing. Well I’m here to tell you that all three DLC’s are absolutely fantastic. They are worth the ten bucks apiece, and arguably the level designs are better than most if not all of the original game.

The first to be released was The Crown of the Sunken King. The level begins by leading the player down a winding corridor, and this claustrophobic feeling hints at what’s to come. The player then comes face to face with an ancient dragon, with a spear protruding from it’s poisoned flesh, it seems to be expecting you. It flies right over the player and the sense of scale shows just how gargantuan it really is.  

The level design introduces a new concept in the form of movable platforms. The player can raise or lower these platforms by hitting a small switch-like stone. This was a really cool idea, as you can use these platforms to your advantage. If you find yourself swarmed by enemies, you can escape by running on a platform that raises you above your enemies. Likewise, you can raise a platform and send an enemy plummeting to their death. While I didn’t personally do much PVP (player vs. player) this would be a really fun playground for that.

The whole level has a lot of Mayan influences. It feels like an abandoned kingdom, gone to ruin long ago. While there were only a handful of new enemies to encounter, there was one that really stuck out. The player will eventually come across ghost like phantoms, each wielding two swords. Initially when I came across these foes I was shocked to discover that you couldn’t deal damage to them. There was a certain panic associated with this discovery. Once you agro these enemies, there is no escape. They will pursue you until one of you is killed. After dying several times I discovered that you have to destroy a tombstone first. Once the tombstones are destroyed the ghouls become solid, and combat can ensue. This was typical Dark Souls! Introduce a seemingly impossible scenario, and leave it to the player to figure out how to overcome the obstacle.

There were three boss battles in The Crown of the Sunken King, as well as an optional “challenge” path.  The biggest complaint with this first DLC comes in the form of these boss battles. For starters, two out of the three boss battles were essentially re-skins of other bosses. One of the bosses is exactly the same as a boss previously encountered in the original game. One of the great things about a Souls game is the fog door that let’s you know that there might be a boss waiting behind. When you come upon one you can’t help but get excited/nervous and to enter only to see a boss that you’ve already come across before left me feeling a bit disappointed. However, the final boss was exquisite and arguably one of the coolest dragon fights I’ve ever encountered in any game.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Souls series for me has been the very obscure lore. For the most part Crown of the Sunken King is something of a standalone story, and I found it refreshing. Reading the item descriptions and observing the surroundings it’s clear to the player that this was once a prosperous kingdom that fell into ruin. I was proud to have finally understood what was going on around me. There is a story to be found within this first DLC, and while it may not be the most original, it’s very well done.

There are a host of other things that could be mentioned. The surprise NPC encounter, the challenge route, the secret areas, the new weapons and armor, I could go on and on. All in all I spent about ten hours within the poisonous pyramid of the Sunken King. I think that ten bucks is fair for such a generously sized DLC, and I would remind people that some entire games are only ten hours long.

To conclude I think that this was very much a success and it feels like From Software wasn’t out to just grab our cash, but instead they wanted to give us another wonderful experience within Drangleic.

Level Design 8/10
Enemies 7/10
Lore 10/10
Items 9/10
Boss Battles 7/10 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Official Shadow of Mordor Story Trailer

Initially I thought that this was going to be another sad video game set in Middle Earth, but I have to admit it's really starting to look good. I know this is only a CGI video, but at this point I'm all but sold on giving it a shot! 

Corvus by Paul Kearney

Book 2 of the Macht trilogy takes place a number of years after the famous campaign of the Ten Thousand. Rictus has aged a bit, taken a wife, fathered some kids, and really wants to just sit back and relax for a while. Following the events of The Ten Thousand, Rictus and his Dogsheads have become living legends. While Rictus attempts to readjust to civilian life, a young upstart by the name of Corvus is carving his way through the Macht world. Corvus is no ordinary warlord; he wants to unite the Macht into one unified Country and give them something they have never had before…A King.

Corvus knows that he needs Rictus and his famous company of mercenaries in order to accomplish his goal of unity. (Or conquest depending on how one views the situation) Rictus reluctantly agrees to fight alongside Corvus, but that’s only due to the fact that he wants to keep his family safe. The majority of the novel follows Corvus and Rictus as they make their way across the Macht Kingdom. The finale is a great battle that determines the future of the Macht society. Will Corvus become King, uniting the Macht under one leader, or will the resistance defeat the ruthless tyrant?

This was another great book by Kearney, and I’m beginning to get a sense of his style. The book’s pace develops quickly, and Kearney doesn’t drag his feet in his storytelling. You won’t find lengthy descriptions of clothing or food, and the political discussions all advance the plot instead of dragging it down. Much like The Ten Thousand there are some great action scenes early on in the story, but the finale is really where Kearney shines. The man knows how to write a good battle scene, placing the reader right in the middle of the action. The smells, sounds, and fury of battle are all gorgeously realized.

The early chapters of the book really build around Corvus’s reputation. He is described as a younger man, who doesn’t quite look like a full blooded Macht. He is ruthless, and yet very fair and just to the subjects he conquers. I found myself intrigued by Corvus, and I really wanted to know just who this young man was that conquers such hard people with ease. I’m not a History major, but I think Kearny was inspired by Alexander the Great in terms of developing Corvus. Once again the “fantasy” here is very minimal; fans of historical fiction will find a lot to like.

This was a quick read, and one that I would recommend to people who are craving a good story but may not have a lot of time to dedicate to reading. My schedule is a bit hectic right now, and I don’t have much free time but I was able to pick the book up after a few weeks without being completely lost. If you’re a fast reader I’m sure you could knock this whole trilogy out in a weekend, I would if I had the time!

All in all this was a solid sequel that doesn’t suffer from the dreaded middle book syndrome. While the tragic despair of The Ten Thousand is missing, there is still a hell of a lot to enjoy in this one. Kings of Morning concludes the Macht trilogy, and I can’t wait to see how Kearney brings this story to a close.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Once again I fell for the hype surrounding “Blood Song” by Anthony Ryan. A lot of trusted bloggers pitched this guy as the next best thing in fantasy, with many claiming it to be a “Darker Name of the Wind.” While it does have some cool moments, overall I was a bit underwhelmed.

Blood Song is told from the viewpoint of Vaelin Al Sorna. The story opens with Vaelin being transported to face a trial by combat. On his way to this trial he tells his life story to a chronicler from a neighboring kingdom. This “Rothfuss formula” didn’t really bother me too much, and even though it wasn’t the most original plot device, I found these brief interludes interesting.  The real story begins with Vaelin’s father dropping him off to become a brother of the 6th order. The 6th order are defenders of “the faith” and for the most part the reader gets to watch Vaelin go from young recruit to respected leader in the 6th order.

At first I was interested in watching Vaelin progress within the order, but then at some point it began to feel way too similar, as if I had read this very story before. The 6th order was basically a rip off of Martin’s Night’s Watch from A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s a bunch of young men who don’t really want to be there, but slowly they begin to believe that what they’re doing is honorable. This cliché has been done before, and unfortunately Anthony Ryan didn’t spice it up enough for me. Rothfuss had Kvothe going through the magic academy, Harry Potter had Hogwarts, Jon Snow had the Night’s Watch, and Peter V. Brett did it with Jardir in The Desert Spear. These are just a few that I could think of. I’m aware how difficult it must be to put a new spin on the whole “young man trains at a medieval academy” but when Vaelin befriends a large wolf it just reeked of Martin fan fiction. Needless to say I was excited when Vaelin finally journeys beyond the compounds of the 6th order.

When Vaelin finally does depart the 6th order things pick up a bit. He stumbles upon an ancient prophecy, and he slowly becomes the notorious legend that we met at the beginning of the novel. Since we know that this whole story is being told backwards, the sense of danger concerning Vaelin is diminished. We know that he will survive every encounter, so when an action sequence came up I wasn’t really concerned because I already knew the outcome. Not soon after leaving the 6th order another cliché is introduced in the form of a forbidden romance between Vaelin and a young woman. I appreciate that Ryan was trying to break up the constant testosterone fueled story by introducing the reader to a female, but she soon turns out to be another cardboard cutout, a sassy healer.

When the book opens and Vaelin is introduced as a living legend I was intrigued. Who was this mysterious bad ass? The Hope Killer they called him! Unfortunately after catching up with Vaelin at the present moment, (towards the end of the book) he didn’t quite live up to the grand persona initially introduced.

Overall it sounds like I’ve really talked a lot of trash with this book, and yet I must admit that I am interested to see where the story goes in book 2. Ryan does conclude the story nicely, and a final reveal did leave me a bit stunned. Ryan is writing fantasy for a reason, you can tell that the man has a love of the genre and I can see why he has a legion of admirers. For me though, there were just too many clichés littered throughout that took away from my enjoyment. I will purchase book 2 because I think that Ryan has some great potential, and hopefully he has the confidence to break away from the mold and give us something great. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dracula Untold Movie Poster

Luke Evans as Vlad... I have some high hopes for this movie, I really thought Luke Evans was great in The Hobbit, and I think he's perfect for these kinds of medieval/fantasy movies. Trailer to follow soon I should imagine! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bloodborne Official Trailer

Well, the sneak peaks have all led up to this... Project Beast is now Bloodborne... Teaser doesn't give away too much... but shit now we have an idea of what's to come!!! This is the teaser trailer for the Dark Souls/Demon Souls rumors floating around the web! GET EXCITED!!! 

Assassin's Creed Unity Official Trailer

Well here it is, the first CGI preview for Assassin's Creed Unity. Any thoughts? 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Middle-Earth Shadow of Mordor Video Game Trailer

I know that many Tolkien fans are filled with rage at this utter blasphemy of a game, but I'm not really looking at it in that light. Look, it's a video game that slapped "Middle Earth" onto the cover. I think we all know that this isn't what Tolkien had in mind for his world, but that shouldn't stop people from giving this game a shot. Pretty much every video game adaptation of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit have all been gods-awful. This is the first one that actually looks promising. I'm not going to be dropping 60 bucks for this one, but I'll be giving it a try when the price lowers, or if I can rent it from Redbox. What do you think? Complete waste of time, or does this have some potential? I guess we will have to wait until October to find out. Check out the trailer below, pretty damn cool IMO.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Witcher 3 Gameplay Trailer

Wow, this game is looking like it's going to be the one to watch next year. After some delays it looks like The Witcher 3 is going to be coming to next-gen consoles and PC February of 2015. What an awesome trailer, looks very clean and crisp and those next-gen graphics are just spectacular. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dark Souls 2 Video Game Review

Dark Souls 1 is my favorite game of all time. There I said it! The months leading up to Dark Souls 2 were excruciating for me because there were spoilers all over the web. It’s important to remember that you only get one “First Playthrough” when it comes to video games, and the last thing I wanted was for my DS2 experience to be ruined because of spoilers. When I finally got home, turned the light off, and popped the game into my Xbox 360 my blood immediately began to pump a little faster. In many ways this sequel feels very similar to the first one, which was fine with me because I wanted more of DS1. I didn’t want them to change much and like the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Thankfully the creators didn’t make too many drastic changes so in many ways this feels like a continuation of DS1.

So how does it compare to DS1? Let’s start with the gameplay. Enemies feel a bit easier this time around, but that’s because I played the ever-loving-shit out of DS1. Going into DS2 feels easier because you know HOW to play the game. You know that you can’t just storm into an area guns a blazing. You know that you have to study your enemies move set before you initiate combat. You know that certain enemies will be more susceptible to certain weapons. This is why the sequel feels less challenging, but that’s not to say this game isn’t hard. Don’t get me wrong, I still died HUNDREDS of times throughout my first play through. Let’s talk about the NPC’s (non-player characters) for a moment. The NPC’s in DS2 are just as cryptic and mysterious as they were in DS1. Some of them sell items that can be used throughout the game, and each one has something of a storyline.  This for me was a little frustrating, because the lore in Dark Souls is fascinating. The storyline is hard to pin down, because the player has the freedom to traverse the world in various ways. There is no “correct” path to take, you simply venture out and hope to survive. With such vague conversations coming from the NPC’s and most of the storyline coming from item descriptions, many players might miss out on a really cool and complex storyline.

Next I’d like to talk about the level designs. Some were better than others, and some were longer than others, but all said and done, they were all very fun to play through. Doors of Pharros was a personal favorite of mine. It’s an underwater cave-like area that is littered with deadly traps, and the player’s movements are slowed due to the water levels. The final area the Dragon Aerie is also beautiful, if a bit short. There was also some very claustrophobic areas that really fill the player with a sense of unease. The gutter is one such area. It’s essentially bitch black and the player is forced to light a torch, which increases the difficulty because you can’t have a shield at the same time. The stress level is raised because you can either extinguish your torch and fight, but if you do then you will be fighting in the dark. This sense of dread is what makes these games so rewarding. When you finally see the light at the end of the level, you feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Another aspect I’d like to touch on is the PVP. (Player vs. Player) It seems like this was one of the best improvements over DS1. Players have the choice to join a covenant and each covenant rewards the player with certain items upon vanquishing other players. For example, if I join the brotherhood of blood, I can use an item to invade another player’s world. This is another aspect of the game that really gets your blood pumping. When invading another player’s world you can’t help but feel a bit evil inside because you know what it feels like being the one who’s invaded. When you see the words pop up on screen notifying you that another player has invaded your world, you tend to get sick to your stomach. Here you are, minding your own business progressing through an already difficult situation when another player invades with the goal of killing you. On the other end of the spectrum, you can also summon other players to aide you against invasions, as well as boss fights. There is a real sense of community that comes with this interaction, and while I usually never play games online, it’s essential for this game. Players can also leave cryptic messages to one another by writing words on the ground. Players can give tips such as, “ambush ahead, be wary” or they can trick you with messages like, “safe zone ahead”. This is yet another brilliant aspect that is exclusive to this series.

Truth be told I could go on and on about this game, I haven’t enjoyed a video game this much since… Well since the first Dark Souls game! This game is set in a dark medieval world where everything is trying to kill you, and any moment could be your last.  If you are a fantasy fan AND a gamer then I beg you to give this series a shot, it’s unlike any other game out there.  It’s terrifying, rewarding, beautiful, and refreshingly original. Put aside your Call of Duty and your Grand Theft Auto and pick up Dark Souls, you won’t be sorry. Praise the sun, and prepare to die!