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;)

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! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dark Souls 2 DLC "The Lost Crowns Trilogy"

Well it looks like we get not one, but THREE DLC's for Dark Souls 2!!! I'm super excited! It looks like  the DLC has been broken into 3 chapters. Part 1 is titled Crown of the Sunken King, Part 2 is called Crown of the Old Iron King, and Part 3 is Crown of the Ivory King. Those titles each sound awesome, and I just LOVE the sound of "The Lost Crowns Trilogy", it could almost pass for a Fantasy novel! 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Upcoming "Project Beast" Video Game

For those of you who are Dark Souls/Demon Souls fans, (Praise the Sun) I have some interesting news in regards to the franchise. A few weeks ago some screenshots began to appear online. They were somewhat vague, but the overall feeling was that this was either 1) A sequel to Demon Souls,  2) A completely new game, or the less than likely 3) A sequel to Dark Souls 2. The working title is "Project Beast" but that's subject to change. The other interesting news is that the Director of Demon Souls/Dark Souls 1 is back for this title. For those that weren't aware, he wasn't the director for Dark Souls 2. 

Here are my thoughts concerning this news. For starters I'm slightly upset that there are guns involved. This was originally just speculation, but with the release of the video footage (below) it's confirmed that guns will be involved in this title.  If you know me then you know I'm something of a purist when it comes to Fantasy. I really don't like when guns or modern machines are involved in a medieval world, but based on the previews so far, it's looking more like a gothic/Van Helsing sort of time period. Perhaps late 1600's or 1700's? The weapon doesn't look too advanced, and it's probably a slow reload blunderbuss style weapon but I'm not sure... My hope is that this is a new IP for the developers From Software. I think there is still great potential for a few more Souls games set in their already established worlds. The Lore is already established and I think they can continue to build off of the foundations set by Demon Souls/Dark Souls 1 & 2. Either way I'm super excited to hear more about this title (hopefully at E3) Here's the footage below, it's much better on HD full screen. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trailer for Risen 3: Titan Lords

Saw a decent trailer for an upcoming game called Risen 3: Titan Lords. I'm not a huge fan of this particular franchise, but the trailer was kind of cool. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fantasy Themed Tattoos

Here's a few Fantasy themed tattoos I've found. My blog gets quite a few hits for the tattoo posts, so I figured I'd post a couple more! Enjoy!

Here's a nice Khaleesi by Adam Stoner. 

Here is a cool King in full color by Mario Hartmann. 

I think this is the first Dark Souls Tattoo I've seen! The work was done by Miguel Bohigues. 

This one is from California artist Paco Dietz. It's a section from a Lord of the Rings themed leg sleeve. 

Here's a nice Armor Tattoo done by Dmitry Bronya.

Finally we have a bad ass Knight/Warrior by Carlos Torres.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Lords of the Fallen Trailer

This game still looks like a Dark Souls clone, but considering my Dark Souls 2 journey is nearing it's end, that might be okay! Here's a new trailer below, there's not a whole lot to it, but it still looks promising! It's looking like this title is going to be exclusive to the next-gen consoles. If this get's some good reviews it might convince me to buy the Xbox One a bit sooner! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Ten Thousand

This one has been on my list for quite some time now, and with comparisons to Steven Erikson and George R.R. Martin how could I not give this one a try? Well after finishing book 1 of the Macht trilogy I can say that the comparisons ring true. This is top notch military fantasy overflowing with blood, sweat, and tears.

The Macht are a mercenary group that dwells in the mountains of the Harukush. To put it simply they are like Spartans for hire. They fight in tight formations using spear and shield and are notorious for their ferociousness in battle. The famed Macht have been hired by King Arkamenes, who intends to take the throne from his brother. Two young recruits stumble into the mad ranks of the Macht, Rictus the survivor of a civil war, and Gasca, a young lad looking for adventure. These are the two main characters of the story, but we also get to view the upper echelon of the Macht command through the eyes of one of the generals named Jason. Gasca gets assigned to the front lines of the battle, giving us the perspective of a spear wielding Macht infantryman. Rictus leads a rag tag group of skirmishers whose job it is to scout ahead and survey, and Jason gives us a glimpse into the command center of the army. The ten thousand Macht eventually set sail for war.

When the epic confrontation goes south for the Macht they are forced to retreat, but the only problem is they are a world away from home with very few supplies. The story really centers around this epic retreat, with the enemy forces hot on their tails. From the pursuing army we get a point of view from a prior Macht soldier named Vorus who is in service to the Great King. After his brother’s betrayal, his King has ordered that the very memory of the Macht army be erased. Knowing the strategies of the Macht, Vorus pursues his prior brethren on behalf of his King. Vorus’s chapters were surprisingly well done, and it was interesting to read about the inner conflict he faces when he’s tasked with hunting his brethren.

This is a manly man’s fantasy story right here ladies and gentlemen. While there are a few female perspectives littered throughout the book, at the end of the day this is a story surrounding a group of battle hardened men. What I most appreciated about this book was that Paul Kearney really captured the spirit of a military campaign. The soldiers talking shit to one another, the boredom, the groans and moans, and the whispers of mutiny that can be found in any army all paint a wonderful picture of the realities of being in a campaign.

I think fans of fantasy will have plenty to love here, as well as those interested in military tactics. Grab your spear, stretch your legs, and be ready to march! I have book 2 waiting beside me and I can’t wait to dive back into this sweaty, bloody, brutal world.

Monday, March 10, 2014

300 Rise of an Empire Review

When I first saw 300 it absolutely blew me away. I was about 19 years old when it came out so perhaps I was a bit impressionable, but I can remember leaving that theater wanting to go to war with Persians. It came as no surprise when I heard that they were developing a sequel but there was just one small problem… NO LEONIDAS! Gerard Butler will forever be remembered for his role as the Spartan King, and his performance was arguably the best ever in the entire sword & sandal genre. Well, I hate to say it but his presence is greatly missed in this sequel, and without him it is no better than the average fantasy film.

Although this is pitched as a sequel to the original 300, much of the story coincides with the first film. We get a quick back-story to the Athens side of the house from the perspective of Greek General Themistokles. Xerxes father Darius once launched a campaign against the Greeks and was killed by an arrow from none other than Themistokles himself. The Persians retreat and Darius dies leaving his kingdom to his son Xerxes. This is where we get to meet the Persian commander Artemisia, who encourages Xerxes to become a “God King” and avenge his father. The Persians sail to war and Artemisia leads the Persian Navy. On the other side of the house Themistokles attempts to broker an alliance between Sparta and Athens. The Spartans deny Themistokles and have no desire for a united Greece. So it’s up to Themistokles and his rag-tag Navy to stop the Persian Fleet.

While the story has a good concept, there were too many reoccurring themes in the sequel to offer anything new to the story. Several themes are repeated here and none of them improve on the originals. We have the standard “son on the cusp of manhood who wants nothing more than to prove to his father that he can handle war” story, the “humble group of men who are outnumbered ten to one” theme, and Artemisia’s back-story is your standard, “taken in by the supposed enemy who trains her in the ways of war to become a prodigy.” To top it off there are multiple “war speeches” that unfortunately pack little to no punch.

Look, I appreciate a good pre-war speech like anyone else. It gets you pumped, and it lets you know that there is a lot at stake here, so look within and find your courage! Leonidas in 300, William Wallace in Braveheart, Aragorn in The Return of the King, the list goes on and on. The speeches in 300 Rise of an Empire do nothing to get the audience rooting for the underdogs. The one-liners from the original 300 are sorely missed here, and leaving the theater I couldn’t recall a single one. “Tonight we dine in Hell!” “This is SPARTA!” “Their arrows will blot out the sun! Then we shall fight in the shade!” These classic quotes are absent here and it leaves a longing in the hearts of the audience. The Athenians lack the suicidal willingness for battle, and you can tell by the performances.

While the dialogue is lackluster and the story mediocre, there are a handful of cool parts to be found. The Persians getting trapped in a small cove only to be pounced upon by Athenians from the surrounding cliff sides were a highlight, and the final battle with Themistokles on horseback (at sea) gets you pretty excited. I thought that the visuals were pretty awesome, but those who don’t like the green screen should stay away.

Leonidas and the brave 300 was never going to be topped, I think everyone can agree with me on that. Some stories just don’t really need a sequel, no matter what the fan boy/girl within says. We had a classic stand-alone film with the original 300, but now we have a sad sequel that utterly fails in comparison. Go see it if you want to escape for a few hours, but be prepared to shake your head in disappointment and say to yourself, “RIP Leonidas, you’re surely missed…”