Friday, October 9, 2015

iZombie: Grumpy Old Liv

How was your summer? Good good. Only a few alien invasions and one attack by catapult werewolves with mange? None of that matters because iZombie is back!

If you missed the amazingballs of last years season finale you can read the long recap here. Or here's the short short short version.

Major breaks out of his ice prison, goes full on Rambo but without the mullet, blows the shit out of Meat Cute then gets stabbed by Blaine. While he's dying, Liv jabs Blaine with her zombie cure then later cures Major too because she's great at thinking ahead. It ends with her brother getting blown to smithereens because the police Lieutenant had the same "explosions are awesome" bug as Major.

Without wasting any time, we're back in the hospital. Despite refusing to give her brother her blood for zombie related reasons (and Medicaid won't cover undead transfers), he still made it through the first surgery and is on the docket for more. It turns out Liv had been trying to visit him for the four months the show's been off the air (and he's been in the hospital the whole time? I would not want to see that bill), but he's refused her. Both her brother and mother blame Liv for not giving up her blood and sharing in the awesome zombie virus.

Of course this leads to the "I must hardened my heart and walk alone" trope which I just got an hour of from the Flash. Sigh. I squirmed at this point because seriously, enough with the damn lone wolf who's dangerous and can't let people near them plotline? Barry's moping seemed even more outlandish compared to the two women on the show who lost a fiance and husband respectively but seemed to have moved on! He's too busy being the Batman, I mean lone Flash crime fighter who something something, I don't know. I expected him to smear on eyeliner and wear all black.

I'm mostly bringing up the Flash for compare and contrast purposes, so bear with me. Seriously though, enough with the Man Pain!

Having established that Liv and her brother yet live, it's time for the brain of the week. Sorry guys, it's pretty pointless but barely mentioned so...

We get the weirdest brain of the week beginning as a woman decides running in a suburban area at 2 in the morning is a great idea. She spots an old lecherous guy working on his car and then a pair of kids playing hockey. At night. At 2 in the morning. If this isn't a remake/update of children of the corn I'll eat my straw hat.

Anyway, turns out the dead person isn't the runner from a hockey stick stabbed into her brain, but the old guy who got smashed below his car. Our first red herring rolls up in her scooter, and she talks about how the dead guy, Wendell, was her brother in law and a cantankerous old bastard. They try to give some reasoning because of illness and his wife leaving, but after a few decades do those excuses count anymore?


After Liv noshes on some spaghetti and brainballs we do a little catching up with our ex-zombie rat. Liv calls her Final Hope, but Ravi insists it's New Hope, not Final Hope because that name's too dark.

"If I wanted to give her a depressing name I'd have called her Phantom Menace."

I've missed you so much Ravi. How is there not already a section of Tumblr the size of Alaska dedicated to that man? Quippy, hot, and kinda nerdy? Come on ladies of tumblr, I'm counting on you.

The other reason I love Ravi is because he often says what we've all been screaming at Liv as he tears into her for wasting the cure. It's an excuse to explain to the audience that yes there were only two samples, and yes she wasted them on her mortal enemy and ex-fiance but it needed to happen. No letting our hero off the hook for being sorry because she may have doomed them all to a zombie apocalypse.

It's also establishing one of the main concerns of this season. In order to make more cure they need the same samples of the tainted drug Utopium from the boat party. And the only person likely to have it is our favorite zombie godfather, Blaine!

Don't go thinking our don-undead's vanished into the night and is reduced to eating rats in the alley. Nope, he's gotten himself a new job at a mortuary where he's just as delightfully creepy as always. Though, I have to question his choice of nom-de-plumes. John Deaux? Really. I expected better from you, Blaine.

Liv goes to confront him at his new house of the dead where some great banter happens. He tortures Liv by eating a piece of chocolate and extolling the virtues of having living tastebuds. She spits back:
"Are you eating that or impregnating it?"

Because Blaine is the Lex Luthor of zombies, he's used his thinking bones to figure out that since Major wasn't mentioned on the list of dead from Meat Cute going to Pun Heaven then either the Ken Doll's running around as a zombie, or most likely she wasted the cure on him. Liv demures the fact, then turns back around on Blaine admitting that they just injected a couple rats, one of which died after a few days. Who knows how long or if the cure will last. So it'd be really useful if he got her some of that same tainted Unobtanium.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

All Hallows Read Posters 2015

September is the stepping stone to October and we all know what that means. Time to get ready for All Hallows Read. What better way than with a free poster or five?

This is my fifth year making free posters for anyone to share and use to advertise All Hallows Read. Free! So I decided, why not make one more to go with the usual lot. Instead of four I've got five for people to pick from.

I'm trying something a bit different by hosting the files at dropbox. They're also at deviantart, if that's easier to download off of.

I don't put a year on any of the posters, so you can reuse any of the old ones you'd like such as:

2014 - Raven, Grave Reflection, and more

2013 - Fairy Witch, Tentacle, and others

2012 - Spiders and Bats and Mummies

2011 - Universal Hammer Monsters 

You can download the whole lot for this year from a file here right now if you'd like:

Now let's get to the new ones!

Black Forest - even the trees are warning you to "Read!"

Planet Read - to honor all the excitement over Pluto's time in the sun this year

Haunted Globe - I told you not to shake it, now we've got specters.

Frankie - The cover may not look the best but this book wants to be your friend.

Batty - Reading can be an emotionally draining experience.

Once again just click and save. They're all free for anyone to use for whatever reason you want.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition Trespasser, New DLC

 Yes, yes yes yes YES YES YES!

It's everything I wanted and so much more! The Inquisitor caught in between countries warring for her power, the Qunari considering it a threat. The mark finally turning on its master, and Solas possibly the only one who can save you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Own Phylactery

Because the templars can always use a little leg up or helping hand, I decided to make my own phylactery. (One I will be keeping far away from Jowan)

This isn't much of a step by step instruction as it's basically take thing, add it to other thing. Done!

I got the bottle and feather charm from Michaels. I've been wanting to make one for awhile, but bottle pendants stopped being a thing and were much harder to find.
The blood is from some of the extra I had laying around the house - the bottle of blood for Halloween props specifically. I was going to use the combo of laundry detergent and food dye but that seems to have gone missing.

Oh, if I had a nickle for every time blood vanishes in this house.

I used some leftover watertight crafting glue from making my old Doctor Who snow globe, but I might need to reseal (it's getting on in regenerations).

That's pretty much it. Now it's both easier and harder for the templars to find me. Suckers!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dragon Age Inquisition: The Descent

On August 11th, Bioware released the latest DLC for Dragon Age Inquisition to all platforms (I'm not bitter or anything, not at all. You're dead, Microsoft). The Descent brings back everyone's favorite Dragon Age buddies the darkspawn, as the Inquisitor is sent into the deep roads to figure out what's been causing a bunch of earthquakes.

I'm going to split this review up into two parts. For the first it'll be spoiler free, just a few shiny pictures and my overall impression without giving any of the plot away aside from characters run around doing things!

The second half will be spoiler central for everyone who's finished the DLC to try and figure out what the hell just happened. I've played through twice and I'm still just as confused as before.

On to The Descent.

First things first, this place is gorgeous:

Seriously gorgeous:

Unbelievably gorgeous:

I personally loved that this was more like Dragon Age of old. No open world that everyone just had to have after Skyrim. Which meant a lot less having to run a few miles while killing a couple dozen spiders just so you can find that last stupid shard up a tree. There are still quests to collect shit and Bioware puzzles because of course there are, but they aren't that bad. Maker knows I've seen worse.

We get two new characters to meet and travel with you as well.

The first is Valta, a shaper from Orzammar who sounds really familiar (hint hint Liara):

The other is the hardened warrior Renn. He leads the Legion of the Dead when not fending off the idiocy of a giant cat named Stimpy.

I love these two. While Valta could easily fall into the "nerdy one who gets into constant trouble and you have to save her" trope, and Renn the "grumpy, never smiles old warrior" neither do. And best of all they're obvious friends, picking on each other that way only people who spent years together can. It was so refreshing to see the rare male and female relationship that's just friends.

But, because they gave us these two characters to get to know, we got no new party banter. I can't help but want to compare this DLC to Legacy which may not be fair since Legacy was clearly a "we're so sorry for rushing 2" apology, but...

Would it really have killed them to give us more than the cursory comment for the entire 3-4 hours delve into the deep from the companions? Varric was the one I found who talked the most, and even then he had maybe five lines. Why bring back such an expansive cast if that's all you're going to give them? I feel like in general Inquisition really dropped the party banter ball, which kills me. Origins was crazy expansive with multiple branching points depending upon not just choices but where you were in the story. 2 was a bit less (surprise surprise), but Legacy and Mark of the Assassin helped to draw out more to learn about the characters.

Maybe it's because it became so much harder to trigger in Inquisition, but I never really found favorite the lines the same way I did from the others. I must have been the only person in the world who liked the fact Hawke would actually interact with party banter at times. I always thought it funny that out of all the playable characters, Hawke was probably the most like Commander Shepard. They both had a distinct character that fueled interactions beyond "oh, that's interesting." The others being left as mostly blank slates made them more two dimensional.

Another possible problem with the Descent, despite what you may have hoped, this DLC adds nothing to the darkspawn lore. We're still as much in the dark as we always were. Everyone was hoping and praying to fill in a few questions but nope. It's about dwarven stuff, but I don't know if I'd call it interesting dwarven stuff. It sort of answers a question I don't think anyone was asking, but I'll save that for the spoiler section of this review. Point being, you do get to kill darkspawn but you don't learn anything new about them.

But, we've got shrieks back! And ogres (which I think Bull wants to have sex with. I don't know with that Qunari). They gave Renn a pretty good line the first time shrieks appeared about everyone having a favorite darkspawn, which sounded a bit like the devs wondering what the hell was up with people's fascination with shrieks. I think it comes down to the simple fact we know humans = hurlocks, dwarves = genlocks, and qunari = ogres, so what about the elves? Bring back our darkspawn elves!

They're looking a lot more elf-like too, moving like the ancient elves from the arbor wilds. No more paralyzing screams, so their name seems rather superfluous, but eh. We've got shrieks!

Gameplay-wise, this is a grinding game. I came in at the level cap of 27 (if anyone figures out why the level cap is 27 please tell me. 25 makes sense. Or 30. But why 27?). Freaking everything had about a gabillion hitpoints. They test your mettle when you first start the DLC with a boss level Ogre which can take a good 3-4 minutes to kill. It's that kind of game.

Oddly enough, wave combat is back. Sort of. There are a few levels where you have to take out a shit ton of never ending darkspawn or other things before you can advance.

My overall opinion, if you're a Dragon Age nut you should probably play it. There are some lore additions/changes that could have repercussions. After all, we did meet Corypheus in DLC even if, like Varric, we all knew that was going to bite us in the ass.

But it doesn't come close to touching my favorite Dragon Age DLC - Legacy. There isn't any connection to the Inquisitor and even the danger feels rather minimal for Thedas to the point I'm questioning the idea of sending the only person who can close rifts into the deep roads. Oh, well, if she gets the blight she could always become a grey warden and...uh oh.

Given the lore feel and the level of puzzles, I'd put this one on par with Golems of Amgarrak. Not bad, not great. The Descent's Decent. Ba-dum-tish.


All done?

I'm giving lots of space for the coming spoilers.

Seriously. This is only for people who finished the DLC. I'm not going to recap the storyline or what happened. If you want to know find another review or play it.

I warned you.

There's still time to turn back if you want.


Here we go.

What the hell was all of that? So we've got Titans that created/are creating the stone/world and if you go down deep enough you climb inside one. And their blood is lyrium. Which means if you mine it, it's titan blood. But it's cool, the titan doesn't mind that at all. It was only pissed because of the breach. Or one of its guardians was, which means there are probably others around.

At some point in the past, the titan's guardians also got all huffy and destroyed another lyrium mine. I turned to Solas during that reveal and asked if he had anything to contribute to the discussion. Of course he stayed silent because they have no idea what to do with that character after spending his dime. Come on guys, we all know who he is. Slip in some winks and nods in dialogue. It'll be funny!

I wasn't lying when I said I liked Valta, I really did...right up until she became some chosen one of the titan who was called by the stone. That felt like a tacked on "we need an ending, and we killed off our Legion of the Dead guy so..." If she said she wanted to stay and study it, cool. She seemed the type. But the whole look I can maybe cast a spell, or not, who knows but I'm above you all in my awesomeness now was pretty damn cheesy. The only way you could get more Mary Sueish would be:

So Valta can maybe become a guardian now? because she has more stone sense, which might mean dwarves are children of the Titans despite the fact that Titans look like giant floating cities inside?

I know Dragon Age is renowned for raising more questions than it answers, but this is ridiculous. Shit, this was the rare time my Inquisitor said exactly what I was thinking.
 Did anyone really care about if the stone sense was real? Or where it came from? Honestly?

I want to know what the hell lyrium is beyond titan blood. We already knew it was alive and could be corrupted. And at some point the ancient dwarves turned that corrupted lyrium into an idol - raising a whole lot of other questions. I want to know why, if we're gonna keep acting like the whole Magisters invading the black city caused darkspawn is true, the darkspawn started in the deep roads. I want to know what happened to the elves that fled the fall of Arlathan and stayed with the dwarves in the deep. There's so much to build off there and instead we got giant hearts that turn into monsters and dwarves that drink its blood turning into monsters themselves.

Speaking of the guardian, there's been a few calls lately for video games to step away from the violence. To give not just an occasional opportunity to talk yourself out of a fight, but to eliminate it all together. I do love the times my character can wiggle out of killing someone, but normally I'm cool with the big boss battle and using of my daggers. Shooting lightning at fools is part of the games.

But Maker did I think the Inquisitor was being a complete moron here. Not only are you risking your life and the lives of your companions with possible corruption, (They seem to have really backed off on the virulence of the blight. I swear to god, no one gets it anymore save random character in the background) after you found out that titans are real and shape the world, your first thought is "Let's kill it!"

Come again?

Not everything needs to be stabbed to death. What if that wasn't just some guardian that went a little earthquakey, and instead you somehow killed a real Titan and caused a complete collapse of the deep roads or of Thedas itself? You had no idea what you were dealing with beyond some moldy old pages and what a person you met a few hours earlier was telling you.

And the dwarves that were no longer dwarves...Why did we fight those guys? I know, I know, they attacked us first. But what happened to the Bioware of old that gave us talking darkspawn and a geth companion? In the last DLC we had friendly Avar that everyone fell in love with, but this one it was just dwarves with lyrium in their skin and because of it they must be evil. That's it. Can't speak to them, or ask them, or bargain with them, they're evil. No point. Stabbings all around.

Despite giving us this world shattering (literally) lore, I have a sinking suspicion the titans are going to be another cul-de-sac like the harvester. There was another abandoned thaig discovery which should have shattered some perceptions but I guess the Warden forgot to tell anyone. You break into it to find dwarves were messing around with blood magic of a sort (not to mention weird color dimension stuff). Then you unleash a horde of those things on the world and all we see of them again is Orsino seriously overreacting and doing something stupid.

What I really want to know about is the Architect. Yes, he might be dead, but who's to say he's alone? And we know he created talking darkspawn. They can easily still be around doing what? He knew where all the old gods were buried. Do his minions? Are they trying to do the same thing he did to free the old gods from the calling or is it something new? Solas sure as shit implied that killing all the old gods won't stop the blight but probably make it worse (in his Fen'harel side speaking way of course).

I wouldn't be harping on all the questions if there was more to this DLC beyond "Look, shiny new scary thing for you to kill and be a bad ass about" disguised as lore. What I loved about Legacy was the connection to Hawke. It wasn't just about stopping Corypheus (and failing at it), it was learning about your father, reconnecting with your sibling, and, through party banter, sharing concerns and fears of the darkspawn.

There hasn't been any connection to the Inquisitor with either of these DLCs. The first was all about the Avar. Even finding the Inquisitor of old felt like something they slapped on so we could have an ending involving fighting a massive god dragon. It was really to explore these Viking Inuits and their connection to the fade.

And The Descent was "Look, darkspawn!" except not really because we're never gonna explain what darkspawn are. Suckers!

I'm hoping and praying that we'll get a third DLC that will finally take place after you kill old Cory so the Inquisitor can learn about Solas. All the pieces are there. It's easy to see an army marching against the Inquisition. You grew so big so fast, people are going to get twitchy about an army squatting between Ferelden and Orlais. Add on the fact you seem to be able to open and close the fade at will and assassins are coming. Break the Inquisition up, send the Inquisitor hunting for the fabled person that started it all and finally let her learn the truth. Give some real connection beyond "Yeah it sucks when friends die. Anyway, on to the next chamber to stab more monsters. Dum de dum."

But really, what the hell was that?