Friday, January 12, 2018

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Bethesda Creation Club"

So, Bethesda...we meet again at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was mocking the fact that you were trying to resell what was admittedly a very good game six years afterwards as a "Special Edition", which earned it a spot as one of my worst games of 2017.

How far I have come in seven years of doing this.

But now, I come to tackle a new spore of madness - likely long after anyone has stopped caring about it. The Bethesda Creation Club. When the controversy first broke out, I admit, I was squicky about the concept of paid mods. Of course, anyone who follows my blog will know that I try to avoid controversies surrounding games and just try to focus on the product themselves...though sometimes, that is astoundingly impossible in a few instances.

Like with No Man's Sky.

...or Aliens: Colonial Marines.

But now, I come back to Bethesda again. Once, we were as close and intimate as lovers. I was a scrawny, energetic thing at the age of 21 when Skyrim first graced store shelves in November of 2011. Now that I'm a slightly more robust, cynical creature at the age of 27, it seems that the honeymoon is over. Bethesda is doing things that no longer thrill me and just plain make me sad. Case in point, the aforementioned re-releasing of Skyrim with some graphics clean up long after anyone stopped caring about it...and the Creation Club.

Monday, January 8, 2018

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Thor: The Dark World" (2013)

Hoo boy...

Yeah, I'm not going to lie here, when I'm recommending a Marvel movie to one of my friends (y'know, of the three people who haven't seen a Marvel movie at this point) Thor: The Dark World is not my go-to choice. It's not because the film is bad - with the exception of Iron Man 3 (which I covered in detail a few weeks ago), I'd be hard pressed to call a film in the MCU bad - but because it's, frankly just...boring. It has good moments and isn't overall unwatchable, but it's not a film I find myself revisiting often whenever I get in the mood to watch a Marvel film.

As a testament to this statement, I will say that I've seen this movie three times: once in the theater, once on DVD at my home, and then once on DVD at home when I went to review the movie.

I think a large problem is that, coming off of The Avengers, Dark World isn't exactly sure what it wants to be. The first Thor film had a clear focus - it was a Shakespearean drama about two brothers vying for the throne of their father. Even Thor: Ragnarok had a clear focus as a fun space romp much in the late 80s vein (admittedly because of the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but that's neither here nor there). But Thor: The Dark World? It doesn't really follow the rule of successful superhero movies using another genre to disguise themselves.

For example, Captain America: The First Avenger worked well because it was a war film that just so happened to have the fantastic superhero elements within it, Spider-Man: Homecoming worked because it was a coming of age film that just so happened to have the fantastic superhero elements within it, Logan worked because it was a gritty western that just so happened to have the fantastic superhero elements within it, and so on....

Thor: The Dark World is sort of an action-adventure, but also a romance, but also a disaster film, the problem with that combination being that it really doesn't succeed in pulling off any of those. With that said, let's get into the nitty-gritty.

Friday, January 5, 2018

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Best of 2017"

And let's hope that this year will be better than the last, am I right everybody?!

Ahem.

With the new year here at last, 2018 (and not a moment too soon), I find myself reflecting on the year past and I have come to a very important conclusion - I have not played nearly enough game in the last year. This is to change in 2018! Before that, however, I bring to you my list of the top three games of 2017! Because, believe it or not, there were actually some good ones that I played. And, as established last year, 2017 was not a good year for my gaming cred for a variety of reasons.

So, let's start out 2018 on a high note! Here are my top 3 games of 2017!

Friday, December 29, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "The Worst of 2017"

So...2017 was not a busy year for me in gaming. My job picked up and I spent several months dealing with a major change. I spent a great deal of the year in a depressive funk. I also participated in NaNo in November and wrote 50,000 words of Star Wars fanfiction before it inevitably collapsed in on itself. I suppose, then, that the conversation turning to things turning to absolute garbage is why I'm here, ultimately. No, I didn't review a lot of games in 2017. Out of 52 weeks of the year...I managed 16.

Yeah, no. Not a great year. Needless to say, I am ready to watch 2017 die.

But all acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind...or something along those lines. Let's crack into the three worst games of 2017. Why three instead of ten or even five? Because when you break it down, I technically only reviewed twelve games seeing as the Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. And - spoiler alert! - I have to take it off the table for both the good and the bad list. While it had no place on this list, it would be in the Good one. It likely would take up every slot. Hence, we're down to three with those off the table.

And so, without further adieu...number three...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

MadCap's NaNoWriMo 2017 - "Minos Mayhem" - Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen - All But Extinct

By the time they had made it back to the shuttle, and Calen had given his fourth explanation of what had happened, his new shipmates were still in heavy disbelief. Calen honestly couldn’t say that he believed everything he had seen, but knew well that there had to be at least some truth to it. Whatever was on Pergitor, Critus wanted it. If he wanted it, so did the Empire. The fortune hidden in that ship aside, the gem...calling it the Heart or whatever it was actually called was irrelevant...was something that could not be allowed to fall into their hands. This information, the map, all of it had to be brought to the Alliance.


“So the Critus in this vision…” Niyasa started, having made the most headway into working it all out.


“Was an illusion created by the Gesaril cave.” Calen said. “I had thought the other dreams were just illusions too, but now I’m not so sure.” He had not forgotten the nightmares that had plagued him since the news had broken about Alderaan’s destruction...that need to run built up in him.


“So...you’re telling me that kook running that cult of eye-worshippers is going to get a magic rock that’s going to destroy the galaxy?” Tessa asked.


“...yes. That.” Calen said. As much as he was becoming a little irate her insisting on using the term ‘magic’, it was fitting enough. Of course, he didn’t know what else one could call the Force besides magic. Onboard the ship, Calen slid into the cockpit’s pilot seat, Tessa moving into the co-pilot’s seat.


“You do realize that they’re in no way going to think you’re not crazy, right?” Tessa asked.


“I’ll back him up.” Niyasa said.


“Because Vos totally thinks you’re on the level.” Tessa snorted.


“Vos?” Calen asked as he did the last pre-lift off checks.


“Our boss.” Niyasa said. “Above Glin, unfortunately.”


“Not a big fan of Force-related things?” Calen asked.


“Only one worse is the Empire.” The Mrlssi said darkly. That didn’t sit well with Calen, but he had a goal. If he couldn’t get the Alliance to help...he truly had no idea how he’d do this himself. If he had to. A bridge to cross when the time came, not to worry about now. For now, it was getting to the Alliance that was a problem.


“Think this thing can slip out before the Empire reacts?” Calen asked.


“Fly it right, they’ll be able to see our taillights right before we jump into hyperspace.” Tessa said. “Sensors are clear.” With that, Calen lifted them up. The engines purred as the ship moved smoothly through the air with nary a sound. This time, nothing seemed to pull them down to the planet’s surface. If anything, they felt lighter than ever as they ascended up through the atmosphere. Soon, the jungles below vanished and were replaced with a planet that was quickly getting further and further away. They broke orbit. “Looks good! The prison’s on the other side of-oh, crud!”


“Why’d you say crud?” Calen asked, focusing on piloting.


“Because the Warden is coming around this way…” Tessa said.


“The Warden?”


“Admiral Ayro’s flagship…” Tessa said. “And it’s almost within tractor beam range.”


***


Dax stood on the bridge of the Warden wearing a grin. They had actually done it. There was no discounting it, the Rebels had actually managed to get off of the inescapable planet.


“Captain, unidentified vessel is coming within range of the tractor beam.” One of the men in the crew pit reported.


“Lock on with the beam when they come within range. Prepare a boarding party.” Dax commented nonchalantly. Moving down into the pit proper, he watched over the shoulder of the ops officer preparing the tractor beam. His hand slipped to a nearby panel. “Prepare the ion cannon.” He ordered, another officer doing so.


“We’re in range, sir.” The ops office spoke up.


“Fire!” Dax ordered. The correct key combination was input, but no effect was produced. “What is happening?”


“Sir...the controls aren’t responding!” The ops officer spoke.


“What?” Dax demanded, doing his best follow up on Ayro’s usual anger.


“S-Sir…”


“You are useless! You’re are dismissed! Get out of my sight!” Dax shouted, forcing the man aside and taking the controls himself.


“Sir, they’re making the jump into hyperspace.” The controls were indeed unresponsive and, moments later, the shuttle had vanished from the sensor grid. The entire bridge tensed, fearing the end result. Before they received the rage of their new captain, the column-like form of a medical droid rolled its way to the edge of the crew pit.


“Captain Dax. Admiral Ayro has regained consciousness and requests your presence…” Dax knew the crew had been running betting pools on whether or not the Admiral would survive. Even Dax himself had been prepared to hear the news that Ayro had passed on after being near the heart of a thermal detonator explosion.


Upon reflection, he should have known better.


“Maintain standard orbit.” Dax said, moving from the console and heading up to follow the droid to the medcenter. The crew thought they were watching a dead Captain walking. Dax, however, wasn’t worried in the least.


It hadn’t been his override code that had cut off the controls to the tractor beam.


***


Hyperspace always seemed to calm him, he never knew exactly why. Hurtling through space at speeds enough to tear through reality should have been terrifying, but it was so distanced from everything else. A great, big, tranquil nothingness between the many worlds of the galaxy. No worries, only the stars streaking by.


“It won’t last.” Niyasa told him. The pair had come into the back area of the ship, six bucket seats lining each wall for any troops or passengers. As it happened, now, there was only the two of them. Once they’d gotten into hyperspace, Tessa had taken over for full piloting at Niyasa’s insistence. Once there, she cleared out a space in the middle.


“What do you mean?” Calen asked.


“In a few hours, we’ll be on Karideph.” Niyasa said. “If we got the jump coordinates right.”


“Pretty sure we did.”


“More than likely.” Niyasa said. “Now...the holocron.” Calen had almost forgotten about it, in their departure from Gesaril. Niyasa pulled it from her pack where it had ended up in their leaving the cave, and she set the twelve-sized device on the floor before the pair of them. After a few seconds, nothing seemed to happen.


“...so...what is it, exactly?” Calen asked.


“A holocron is supposed to be a receptacle of Jedi knowledge,” Niyasa said, “specifically about the Force. I’ve spent years trying to find one. I’d thought they’d all been destroyed or captured by the Empire.”


“Why would they do that?”


“If you’d just taken out the only people in the galaxy that opposed you, you wouldn’t want anyone trying to follow in their footsteps, now would you?” Calen supposed that that was a fair point, as he watched Niyasa roll the device against the ground with her palms, almost as if she were afraid to fully touch it.


“Well, how would it have gotten on Gesaril?” Calen asked.


“The Force works in mysterious ways.” Niyasa said, still intently eyeing the device.


“That is an unsatisfying answer.” Calen replied.


“Well, if you find a better one, let me know.” Niyasa said, clicking her tongue in irritation. “There’s no controls on this.”


“Well, then it’s just a very nice paperweight, then.” Calen replied.


“No, it’s a holocron.” Niyasa corrected him. “We just have to figure out how to access it.” She had rolled it around its entire form several times, but each side was smooth and featureless apart from the ornate black lines formed across the blue metal of its casing.


“Well…” Calen thought. “The Jedi wouldn’t use conventional means to lock something up, right?” Niyasa looked up at him. “I mean...wouldn’t they…” He waggled his fingers toward it, indicating the power they both held. Niyasa’s eyes lit up.


“It’s certainly worth a try.” Niyasa nodded. She raised her hand, closing her eyes. After a few moments, it was clear that nothing was happening. The Mrlssi huffed. “Well...there goes that idea.”


“What if...both of us tried?” Calen asked. She raised a brow at him. “Just...try it again.” He suggested, raising his own hand. His eyes closed once more, as did the Mrlssi’s. Once more, he tried to focus. Somehow, here, it felt easier to him. Smooth, like the ship careening through hyperspace at this very moment. He didn’t hear it so much as feel it, the ripple the holocron created. Just one. It made the response to his own, moving more like a crack through the water...and it opened. A light projected from within it, making a hologram of a human male in a cloak.


Greetings, young acolyte. I am Jedi Master Rohm Tethras. This is Training Holocron A-25-Beta.” The hologram spoke in a deep, rich voice.


“Oh, yes!” Niyasa grinned. “We’ve done it!”


That is correct, young acolyte. You have successfully accessed Training Holocron A-25-Beta.” The flickering image of Rohm Tethras spoke, turning to look directly at the Mrlssi.


“Wait, what?” Calen blinked. “Did...it knows you’re there?”


And I know you are there as well, young acolyte.” Rohm turned, speaking to him as well. Calen stared, open mouthed. “The entire repository of knowledge contained within this holocron is now open to you. You need only ask.


“I don’t understand.” Calen said, looking between the image and Niyasa.


“Holocrons have a form of artificial intelligence within them that acts as an interface for the user.” Niyasa said. “At least from what I’ve read. It’s not terribly sophisticated, though.”


I am the Gatekeeper of this holocron, that is correct.” Rhom spoke. “Make your inquiry and I or another Master shall enlighten you.”


“Okay…” Calen said, thinking it over for a moment. “Tell us...about the Force.”


The Force is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Rhom rattled it off. “A Jedi may use the Force for a variety of purposes in the service of the light side of the Force and the defense of all sapient life.”


“The light side of the Force?”


The light side of the Force is revered by the Jedi Knights. It flows through all living things, spread by benevolence and selflessness. It is reached through a state of calm, which all young acolytes such as yourself must learn to achieve. By the time you have put to use this holocron, you should have already done so. If not, please consult a holocron from the A-46 series for Basic Meditation Techniques.


“Okay, so there’s that…” Calen muttered, then spoke up. “Wait, so if there’s a light side...then...what other sides are there?”


Jedi doctrine recognizes an opposing side of the Force, the dark side. It is a profane twisting of the Force for selfish or terrible ends. It, too, is a great power though it comes at a grave cost.” Calen felt that same, familiar chill going down his spine as the hologram spoke of this ‘dark side’. “The Jedi Order works to eradicate the use of the Dark Side or otherwise bring its users back toward the light, if it is at all possible. For more on the nature of the Dark Side, please consult holocron Q-55-Sierra.


“They must have had thousands of these.” Calen thought aloud.


All of the Jedi Order’s holocrons are kept in the vaults at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. I would recommend traveling there if you wish to know more.” Rhom said. Calen felt a twinge of pain go through him at the thought that the image hovering before him had, once, been a real man. Had he been among the Jedi who had died in the Clone Wars? Or even before? There was no real way to know, and Calen took pity knowing that whatever was left of the man was now in this device. An echo of a man who was dead and gone.


“But I thought the Jedi betrayed the Republic, and-” Calen thought, but he stopped himself. So much of this hadn’t added up. If it was all a lie, then...he felt that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.


The Jedi Knights have been the guardians of peace and justice in the Republic for a thousand years.” Rhom’s hologram spoke. “If you wish to know more, I would recommend traveling to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and accessing the historical archives.” Calen winced even more, sitting in one of the bucket seats that lined the small room.


“I...think that’ll be all for now.” Niyasa said. “How do we deactivate you?”


The holocron will deactivate on its own after a set time left idle. It can be activated again in the same manner.” With that, Niyasa turned back to Calen.


“Are you alright?” She asked, coming toward him.


“I...I don’t know.” Calen said. “I had thought the Jedi were traitors. But to find out that I’m one of them…”


“Well, you’re not.” Niyasa said.


“Huh?” Calen asked.


“We’re Force users. Not Jedi.” Niyasa said.


“What’s the difference?” Calen asked.


“There are many different kinds of Force users, Calen.” Niyasa said. “Not just the Jedi. I’ve met a few. Baran Do Sages. Aing-Tii monks. There are many.”


“So, which are you?”


“I’m a scientist.” She earned a blank stare for that one. “I believe...I know the Force exists. I’m a believer. But I’m also a Mrlssi. We like to poke and prod. I want to understand it, and that means looking into many different systems.”


“So I wonder what that makes me, then.” Calen thought, turning his head toward the holocron as the hologram above it winked out of existence, and it lay unmoving on the cold, metal floor.


“I suppose, for now, an acolyte learning from the lost lore of the Jedi Knights.” Niyasa said with a shrug.


“A...Lost Knight, then?” Calen asked, pondering the name.


“Trying to start a religion, are you?”


“No, I just think it sounds kind of cool. ‘Lost Knight’. Hey, we could be the ‘Lost Knights’.” Calen suggested.


“It’ll never catch on.” Niyasa chuckled and shook her head. Calen laughed. It was a strange flight of fancy, and he rarely entertained them. Still, something about it seemed...right. Though, for the first time in quite a while, he wasn’t lost.


“I guess we can at least learn from the holocron.” Calen said. “If Critus is already so far ahead of us, then it would be good to try and catch up to where he’s at.”


“If we can.” Niyasa said. “If we’re right and that Heart has some power we don’t know about, then we’ll have to have every advantage we can get.”


“Let’s just focus on stopping him before he can get to it.” Calen said, not particularly savoring the thought of it himself.


***


“Come closer, Dax.” He did approach the medbed, seeing the form upon it. It took him much to not jerk his head back in revulsion. “You have secured the Rebels?”


“No, Admiral.” Dax said. “Due to the incompetence of-”


“I have no use for excuses!!!” Ayro shouted, immediately followed by a loud bout of coughing.


Admiral, I must advise you to-” The medical droid on-duty spoke, but Ayro waved it off.


“Shove it up your processing unit, you animated scrap heap!” Ayro snapped at it, and the droid rolled away a few steps. The man’s remaining eye turned on Dax. “You have lost Calen Darkhaven. Which means you have lost the map.”


“The map can-”


“You have jeopardized our entire operation in the cluster. The weapon for the Emperor may very well be lost. Forever.” Ayro said.


“Admiral, if you would please allow me to explain.” Dax said. “In their escape from Gesaril, they were aided by a member of our own crew.” There was a long silence, Dax could tell the man was clearly thinking this over.


“Who is this imbecile?”


“Midshipman Varian Delt.” Dax said. “We believe he is a Rebel plant and he’s been working to subvert our intelligence for months now.”


“How is this possible?” Ayro demanded.


“I do not know, sir. But I do know that his access code was used to lock out the controls to the Warden’s tractor beam at the most inopportune moment.” Dax said. “I have no doubt that he aided them. Just as he has aided them on numerous occasions throughout the cluster.


“And from the bridge of my flagship!” Ayro’s fist slammed against the bed. Dax couldn’t imagine the pain he must be in, seeing the remains of his skin in such condition. “You will escort a security team and take Midshipman Delt into custody.”


“At once, Admiral.” Dax clicked his heels together, saluting him. He turned to leave.


“And Dax…” The young Captain turned to face the Admiral, seeing as he sat up. Exposed in the light, the Admiral’s face could be clearly seen as a hideous patchwork of burned skin, flawed skin, and even exposed bone. One eye had been completely destroyed, unsalvageable. The other, though, remained. It was wide, piercing as ever, even as glassed over as it was. This gave it the added appearance of not being able to tell just where the Admiral’s eye was focused. All of this...greatly unsettled him. “Do. Not. Fail. Me. Again.”


“Of course, Admiral.” Dax said, turning quickly and moving to leave the room before the urge to vomit at the grotesque sight overcame him.


***


“And there is Karideph.” As they dropped out of hyperspace, Calen found himself oddly very happy to see the marble suspended in its orbit around its star. Though, the last time he had been here, he had still had his old crew. But now Ordos, Beedee, they were gone, too. Even the Dawn, wherever it had ended up. Perhaps, when this was all over, he’d go looking for it again. After all, he was the only member of the crew left, and he knew well that Caius would want him to carry it onward.


More to the point, he’d want him to finish this.


“Working on getting us landing clearance.” Tessa said from the comms chair, listening in on the various frequencies.


“Better do, I don’t think we want to be seen idling too long in this.” Calen said, putting them in standard orbit nonetheless, doing his best to keep them inconspicuous.


“Well, that may take some doing.” Niyasa said. “We sort of flubbed up the mission.”


“I’m sure that...what’s his name? Vos?” Calen asked. Niyasa nodded. “I’m sure that Vos guy will understand.”


“Well, that’s the thing.” Niyasa said. “He wasn’t the one who gave us the mission.”


“What?”


“It technically wasn’t a mission given by the Alliance.”


What?!”


“We told you we worked for Glin.” Tessa said. “He was the one who sent us on the mission.”


“So you went and broke into the most heavily fortified Imperial prison in the entire sector to save two people and then shot your way out just because he asked you to?” Calen asked.


“For the record, you were the one that caused the shooting out.” Tessa chided him. “If it hadn’t been for your need to go back after, we would have gotten out of there without a hitch.”


“I’m sure your plan to release every prison on the station in one go had nothing to do with that.” Calen shot back, his head half-turning to face her.


“Now now...you can mate once we’ve landed.” Niyasa waved them both off.


This is not a mating ritual!” Calen and Tessa yelled at the same time. The two looked from Niyasa, then back to one another, then both quickly looking away. Silence settled over the shuttle. Tessa continued to work with the subspace frequencies while Calen became intently focused on piloting the craft.


“Sure is pretty out there, isn’t it, Rook?” Niyasa asked, looking out through the viewport and going on as if nothing had happened. The Wookiee was laughing from his seat, which likely would have earned him a death glare from Tessa if she hadn’t been so intently minding her station. “Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.”


“We have coordinates. I’m putting them through now.” Tessa managed out, still not looking away from her console.

“Got ‘em.” Calen said, piloting the shuttle along the predetermined course.