Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Sunset Six: Obscene Amounts

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Thought I'd give a run down on the remaining Architect Tests which require an obscene amount of high grade materials and/or assistance which means the chances of me getting them done are pretty slim. The highest level test is called the Test of Seven Phoenix which is not only pricey to build, you must get OTHERS to build it for you! Worst of all, you won't know -where- or -which- of the seven phoenixes (all with different build requirements) you need to construct until the hour to build them. Fast traveling during this hour negates all your efforts.

In the Test of the Megalopolis you are required to build a huge structure which is actually composed of 49 construction sites which you are supposed to allocate other people to. Once begun you have one week to complete -all- of it. It's only thanks to Balthazarr that I managed to pass this!

Management skills to the max.

The Throne of Pharaoh is a new test that came out a few weeks after I joined the game. It's actually composed of two parts: first build a plinth (which in this case is a bloody huge fortress) followed by building the chair to go on top of it. Up to seven people then need to decorate the chair and each of them get a different build requirement when signing up. They then have three hours to finish and apply their part or they fail.

Pharaoh must have a big butt.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Gone Girl

Believe the TV. The TV is your god.

A woman goes missing and her husband soon becomes the prime suspect despite his adamant stance of innocence. This thriller is pretty good at keeping your attention with the interesting mystery, puzzle piece flashbacks, and is backed by good performances by all parties involved. It also shows how easy it is for media to manipulate the sheepish masses and possibly holds the most number of times Rosamund Pike says the F-word in a film. There's a fair bit of sex, nudity and a bit of blood too.


Unfortunately it's only towards the end when you realize just how stupid, spineless and flacid all the characters are with their choices, making almost all of them unlikable. Don't expect an ending with closure either. It's a pity since just a little alteration would have made it fantastic in my book.

Currently the option of "the cat kills them all" is better than what is actually there for me. Also I can't help taking a parting shot at yet another pointless opening credit sequence that could have easily been done in the opening scenes with Ben Affleck at the start. All up I give this film three out of five.

Would I watch it again? Nope. If you want a more spoilerific review have a look over at Pixel Thoughts take on it. :)

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sunset Six: Not all the Colors

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Another Architecture test is the Test of the Funerary Temple in which you must construct a temple and glorify it with raeli tiles of many various colors. Many tiles of the same colors will not give you as many points you see. So how does one get these tiles? By chucking charcoal into raeli ovens and cooking them - the longer they bake, the darker they get with black being around one hour of burning. Ovens in different regions make different colors too, and not all are available for public use.

An oven cooking and a sample color map.

Fortunately I joined the Zemples guild who specifically exist to help people pass this test for a small fee of burning some colors for them and transporting it back to their base. They have a host of their own ovens available for use too and documented color times which is handy. In exchange, I get to use their warehouses to take 49 tiles for each of their 141 stored colors.

Adding tiles makes the temple grow!

Speaking of colors, there is are also paints you can (and in some cases must) make for things and it is tough, not only because you need the listed ingredients but because making a non standard color (like Yellow) requires experimentation. Also, much like the test of the acrobat hidden variable thing - one persons formula to make yellow is not guaranteed to work for another player.

Making yellow is bloody difficult.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Last Stand

He escaped from jail? Don't worry, he'll be back.

Arnie is sheriff in quiet town on the border, made quieter by most of the folk leaving for some sporting event for the weekend. Good thing too, because a highly dangerous and well connected escaped convict happens to pick that exact moment to come through. Don't be fooled though, that part comes towards the end of the flick as the story hops between the sheriff's "day off" to the convict's "escape" - and this dude starts pretty far away. This is clever as it lets the quiet detective work of "who are all these mysterious evil looking dudes" from Arnie have contrasting loud "the bad guy escaped again" sequences.

This is my criminal detection device: It points at criminals, I pull the trigger.

There's a decent amount of action, a lot of gun fire and thankfully the bad guys aim slightly better here than in your average film. However I still found the body count too low, especially given the stupid townsfolk in that place who end up being comedy cheese fests that have absolutely zero area perception. As usual there are also a few bits that probably could have been cut out which would result in a stronger film but they are small cogs here. What I do question is the hesitation to simply use an F-16 missile on the bad guy after a particular point but oh well. Deus ex machina cars are more convenient I guess.

I give the Last Stand two out of five and wouldn't mind watching it again.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sunset Six: Dirty Architecture

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Alright, after all that prep, let's get back into those tests shall we? The discipline of Architecture is a good one to hit. Now is a good time to mention that all tests have "principles" which is like a mini version of the test. Passing the principle gives you a level and usually passing the test does the same. If you pass the test outright, you also autp pass its principles. Lastly, while no test actually involves building a warehouse I highly recommend it as you'll need a place to store your stuff. I currently have three!

First up today is the Test of the Obelisk, in which you must build a standing stone for some reason. Passing the principle only requires a size 7 obelisk which is what I built. Passing the actual test? You need to have the biggest obelisk around. At this stage of the game that's a pretty tough ask when you have monoliths like the one at Seven Lakes shooting lightning all over the place.

Massive erection.

Unlike that one though, the Test of Towers is actually easier during this late stage because it is all about -when- you use it. There are specific hours where you can build specific towers and if you happen to have the most at the end of the hour (in the best strategic spots to control Egypt) then you pass (win), and all towers are removed. If you have zero competition then a win is pretty much guaranteed!

It's all about how you use it.

Another test that's easy to pass at the end of a telling is the Test of Life, where you extend the reach of the aqueduct system by constructing a water tower to help irrigate the land. The only thing to keep in mind is that the water flows only via gravity so all the towers upstream from yours must be taller and in descending order so that your tower actually gets to function.

Lengthen those pipes.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Double Dragon: Kiss of the Dragon and Dragon Eyes

Kiss of the Dragon

It pays to run a background check on someone before you frame them for something.

Liu (Jet Li) is an undercover cop sent to Paris to assist the police there with some undercover sting operation. Things quickly go South when he is framed by the corrupt cops and spends the rest of the movie a wanted man in a foreign land. I quite like the story in this one as it is one of those rare action flicks where there is no traditional love story to get in the way. Jet Li is in good fighting form here and all parties involved are on the higher than average acting scale for me. This movie also holds one of my favourite fight scenes of all time, which is Jet Li vs "the twins", one of whom is played by Cyril Raffaelli.

Cyril vs Jet

No it's not a flawless movie by any means. Liu's ninja mastery is a little too good to be believed, being able to suddenly escape from what I would think are "challenging" locations, his funky use of acupuncture needles, and his magical shield which somehow protects him from bullets. You also have to question the final part where he simply decides to go on an all out attack. Probably could have done that a lot sooner dude! Still it's a decent action flick and one I give three spinning kicks out of five. Definitely would like to watch it again!


Dragon Eyes

The best way to make friends is to beat them up.

Hong (Cung Le) is an excon trying to clean up the town of St. Jude from all the gangs, by beating them into submission. That's the whole "meat" of the story right there, and while Peter Weller makes for a good "bad guy", Cung is not charismatic enough to carry the film, nor is his fighting style "pretty" to watch. It's mostly just beat downs with no form which while probably being more realistic, is not as entertaining. The pointless opening credits with a car filler sequence should have been a hint.

Can you check if I stepped on some gum?

But, Van Damme is there right? Yes, in what seems to be an extended flashback cameo where he mentors Cung Le on how to fight. Doesn't look like you taught him how to do the split kick, Jean Claude. The editing is slightly wonky here too, which I think is intentional to disguise that there's not actually much going on.

Unfortunately what little story there is also makes no sense as gangs quickly concede leadership to Hong, who apparently is a skilled burglar though we never see him actually burgle anything, and almost everyone either forgets to use guns, or capitulated with Hong's "leadership decision" to stop using them. Eh?

After finishing with an abrupt end I could only feel pity, as this probably could have been something much better than what it turned out to be. Unless you are a martial arts buff that likes Cung Le then you'd best be skipping this movie. I can only give it one sparring session out of five and do not want to see it again.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Sunset Six: Sticks and Stones

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Continuing with our prep session, wood can be used as fuel by itself too to fire kilns for making pottery items or bricks.

Burn baby, burn.

However, wooden boards can also be treated in a chemical tank to gain different properties such as "white, pliable" which are needed by some structures later on. Balthazarr gave me a quick lesson on how to achieve this properly using 10 second bursts of various ingredients. Pin the other windows to mark the attributes you are interested in then see which ingredient will give the result closest to what you want.

The trick is finding the "result" bar closest to where the "current" bar is. The smaller the difference between the two, the faster the bar will move. This means it's sometimes OK to use an item that has an unfavorable property if the bar difference for that between what it is and what it will be are far apart as it won't move that much.

Mark the "current" bars with corners of the other windows.

Balthazarr also teaches me the "spiral rock method" of turning stones into gravel. Using a sledgehammer you can play cat and mouse with the stones that continue to roll away from you as you smash them which eats up time. The Spiral Rock method is more effective: by dropping each stone individually at your feet and smashing only what stays beside you, it goes quite fast and is actually one activity I really enjoy.

There's a reason it's called the spiral rock method.

Why all the gravel? I need to mix it in with cement to make concrete! Now since cement is a pain to come across I was fortunate enough to have it provided to me by Gander, Anyolina and Markanthony. If you want to know more about just how to get it, I suggest you read Jeromai's old post which should give you an idea of how tough the early days of a tale are.

Clearly not invented yet. ;p

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Double Dolph: Bridge of Dragons and Red Scorpion

Bridge of Dragons (aka. Dragon Bridge)

There are no dragons in this movie. I didn't notice many bridges either.

General Ruechang is a bad man who seeks to claim the throne of the recently deceased king by marrying the princess. The princess isn't keen on this idea so she runs away to try join the rebels and the general sends Warchild, his best soldier (played by Dolph Lundgren) to bring her back. The movie then plays out as expected with action scenes involving shooting without reloading (including rocket launchers that fire without rockets), everything exploding, bad guys not being able to hit a target in the open, and ten recycled stunt guys wearing a variety of hats and wigs getting killed over and over again. It's also the type of movie where everything needs a sound effect. Turn left suddenly? "Whoosh!" Being sneaky? "Sneaky piano chord!"

If you are the type to do a facepalm every time you see something stupid in a movie, I think your hand and face is going to get sore watching this one. The town of "the world", which I named myself due to having people of every ethnicity in it, is very confusing from a technological as people are using horse drawn carriages, cars, and helicopters. Guess which one the princess chooses to make her awesome escape? If you said "a slow running horse", good work! In her free time the princess also likes to moonlight as a masked pit fighter to beat her subjects into the mud. This is good because her acting skills are as wooden as the staff she likes to use.

Oh noes, he might cut the side of your neck! :P

Also, don't worry about being confused as to who the rebels are and which guys are members of the "bad" army. All of Ruechang's vehicles have a huge "666" sign emblazoned on it to help you out. Speaking of which this movie holds the stupidest, slowest and worst chopper chase ever. Ruechang is also the only person with a sword but apparently it can only be used to slit throats, not for anything else. I give Bridge of Dragons (why the hell its called that I have no idea) one slow running horse out of five and declare it Not Worth Watching!


Red Scorpion

Proving that all "ultimate weapons" have a soft spot.

Dolph Lundgren is a Spetznaz soldier sent on a secret mission to assassinate a rebel leader in Africa by first befriending his captured lieutenant and helping him "escape". The plan goes a little sideways when he begins to see that he is fighting on the wrong side of the war. To its credit, this film is much better than the one above but then shoots itself in the foot by being very bloody long. As to be expected there's a lot of action, bad shooting, various vehicles (though I think the Germans could have fielded more than one chopper) and most importantly - lots of explosions. Of the real variety too where random wildlife gets startled by it unlike CGI explosions where non-actors rightfully don't react. Actually there's very little CGI to speak of.

If only they didn't train Dolph so well!

There's also perhaps a bit of animal cruelty, involving some critter carcasses but that's nothing compared to the torture scene involving needles. As good as the action parts are, unfortunately there is a bit of space between them (the problem with lengthy movies) which makes for a lot of down time so ultimately I can only give this one and a half scorpions out of five. Still, if you are a die hard Dolph Lundgren fan or an old-style action flick fanatic then you might actually get some kicks watching this. For everyone else, I advise to steer clear. Personally, I wouldn't watch it a second time either. Somehow though, this managed to inspire a sequel? *shrug*

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Sunset Six: Everything needs Prep

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Since most of this game is about building stuff, let's move on to that. The main thing you need to know is that everything requires a lot of prep. Almost everything needs processed flax products (such as canvas and rope) which is both tedious and time consuming - and that's already with using the public workshops of the Holy Black Dragon guild at River Plains and Tedra 992, a player made flax strain that has six times the yield in half the time.

The wheels on the thing go round and round...

Mining for ore is pretty different here too as it comes in the form of a puzzle. To successfully collect ore you need to pick stones that are all the same or all different, and depending on what you are mining this will range in difficulty. Ore itself is mostly unusable so you need to compress it into metal and the rate of conversion is pretty shocking.

500 ore = 15 units of metal

Of course you cannot even use a compression oven without charcoal, which actually is the main fuel for many devices (like forges to turn your metal into something useful) and is pretty important. While there are various methods of making this (all from many units of wood) the Charcoal Oven is my most used method to date. It too is a mini game.

Needs a fair bit of concentration.

To "win" the Progress bar at the bottom needs to max out.
Higher heat makes the progress bar move faster.
Oxygen is controlled by vents. If it is empty, fire dies and you have to restart.
Wood adds heat, and danger!
Water reduces danger, and heat!
Danger is the worst. If it maxes out, everything explodes and all resources are lost.

Good times, good times. Skilled people can run more than one of these simultaneously. I tried that and found I am clearly not one of them. :P

Monday, 21 September 2015

Safe House / Safe


Getting killed is bad business.

A little Chinese girl who happens to be very gifted with numbers is kidnapped and used by Chinese mobsters in the USA to "count" for them. She is eventually also given important information that makes her a target not only by the rival Russian mobsters but also to the corrupt police force. Jason Statham, who manages to piss off the Russian mobsters right at the start of the film, runs into her by coincidence and decides to protect her because he's the protagonist, and that's what protagonists do.

Does he look like someone you want to piss off?

Good stuff first: Statham is in good fighting form here, and racks up a decent body count. The little actress (Catherine Chan) is also very good and not annoying in any way. It's also nice to see Reggie Lee (Sgt. Wu from Grimm) here, and while the film ends somewhat abruptly it fits in well and doesn't become dragging at any point. Worst part is the start, which is unnecessarily messy and convoluted with all the sudden cuts. It's a good example of misuse of timeline as it only serves to be annoying.

All up it's an average action flick that doesn't require much thinking, and I give it two bullets out of five. Would I watch it again? A solid maybe. It's really neither here nor there. Guess I'm playing it Safe?


Safe House

Making house keeping look awesome.

Ryan Reynolds is a "house keeper" for a CIA safe house, which is made out to be a very boring and lonely post. This all changes when a highly wanted criminal (Denzel Washington) is brought in for safe keeping, resulting in all hell breaking lose. Despite the title and the setup, very little of the movie is spent in a safe house which is good as the script keeps everything in flux, in turn keeping the characters and the audience on their toes.

Good thing too or it would be a boring movie.

There are also good action sequences with shooting, hand to hand and the mandatory "car chase if movie is not using heavy CGI". Acting wise it also gets a thumbs up from me, though it does suffer a little from a few plot holes and "but he could have done -x-" moments towards the end. I give this film three and a half guest rooms out of five and can easily recommend it to action fans. I would also happily watch it again.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Sunset Six: Strangely Specific

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Continuing on the theme of Body tests that send you running far and wide, the Test of the Singing Cicada is actually not that bad. In it, you gain points for taking cicadas from nests (hidden by other players) and more points over time for nests you hide well. These things make a very loud noise over a decent distance so they aren't that hard to find. My advice is not to look for them at all until you hear the noise because you'll find enough when you go shroom hunting.

The more points you have, the better your speed attribute will be.

In the Test of the Oyster Catcher you must first learn how to swim (which requires paying tuition at schools) and then patrol the banks for tell tale signs of light in the water. This grid actually plays like a game of lights out: turning off all the lights nets you a pearl, the size of which is determined by the grid difficulty.

It's pretty fun... when you solve it. :P

The Test of the Ritual Tattoo is a higher level test where after assembling a mortar, you must assemble all the ingredients at a specific spot. So, it might say "on dirt, near a road, near a large stone" which is what I needed in the picture below.

Strangely Specific.

That part isn't so bad though as you have the little helper window to guide you. The bad part is you need to put one of the dozens of herbs in the game in that mortar. They too move about but aren't as bad as mushrooms in that department. In fact they wait quite awhile! No, the bad part is this:

Oh, it's "some type of herb".

SOME TYPE OF HERB? Yep. ALL the plants you might need to forage for this are named "Some type of herb". Put the wrong one in and sorry, you need to start again and lose all the other material you put in your mortar. But how do you know what to put in then? You study the wiki. I'm not kidding. Please click the link and scroll down just to see how many herbs there are available.

The amount of information you need from the wiki in this game is staggering. Also, good news if you start in Tale 7 - the values for things (possibly plant names) will all be switched around! Woohoo. :P

I should also mention that there is one more Body test after all of these but my stats are simply not high enough to even start it. >.<

Friday, 18 September 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

"Manners maketh man."

Kingsman tells the story of a kid with wasted potential being recruited into a super secret, non-government run spy agency and obviously ends up trying to help save the world from a crazy megalomaniac. As cliche as I made it sound, this film actually has a very good story and very good action and special FX to back it up. It also has many likable characters - actually pretty much all of them, even the blood / violence phobic villain played by Samuel L. Jackson who does a fantastic job here.

Don't mess with the Kingsmen.

I quite liked the many nods to the other spy flicks too, though the incredibly poor shooting by the generic bad guy minions near the end versus the heroes near perfect aim took it a little bit too far but that's just a minor point. I also love the Maccas advertisement they managed to work into the plot. All up I give this very enjoyable flick four and a half leg blades out of five (Yes, I'm trying to move away from continually using "bullets" :P). Highly, highly recommended and one I'd love to see again!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

NWO: The Cryptic Method

With the release of the latest module "Grindfest" "Strongholds", Cryptic certainly designed a great way to encourage people to grind in all the end game campaigns to acquire various doohickeys to help construct their stronghold. In addition to this (or I only realized recently) that they also placed some item level "barriers to entry" on some content which I am not a big fan of - mainly epic level dungeons.

Needs a lot of work!

Not that I have a burning desire to do that content, but just so I have the choice for if ever I want to participate - I can. Thus began my quest to improve my gear, and I quickly found there were two paths: farming a PvE instance or farming PvP matches. The fastest method to my goal was simply to do both. It probably also helped keep me sane, giving some variety in game style.

Anywho, as a non PvPer, you can imagine how that went for me in the various PvP Domination matches (fancy name for "Hold this Location" which is standard in many other games). Fortunately you still gain currency to buy those higher level items even if you lose, though at a much slower rate than the victors obviously. What it did make me see though is how people use their various characters, and what combos were most effective since I was usually at the receiving end of them.

Using my ultra-narutard Kakashi skills I obviously then respecced my guys to be more inline with what I would encounter there and wow, taking those builds back out into the PvE environment I'm now showing much better performance than before. My alt ranger character in particular, who was pretty rotten compared to my main rogue, I now slightly favor more because of the combat techniques learned from fighting other rangers: I had no idea he could perma root and stun enemy groups with fast enough rotations.

So now, not only do I have the bare minimum to pass all the gear wall levels but I also have the player skill for my two characters to play better. I think that is pretty awesome. Still doesn't mean I like PvP though, and that's a bad thing since it feels like Cryptic is trying to push it to the forefront with the recently released Stronghold Siege patch, which also happened to remove a major source of Astral Diamonds from the game.

See with Cryptic, "fix" is the same as "hack it off with an axe". Usually as MMO's progress there are more and more patches that release ever increasing content. Neverwinter Online is one of the few where future patches actually take away things from the game like dungeons, profession rewards, the foundry, and who knows what else is to come, and unlike the Living Story in Guildwars 2 there's absolutely no lore reason for it happening here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

I, Frankenstein

Mindless violence: Tick.

First and foremost, this is an action flick with a lot of decent CGI creatures and more surprisingly, acting talent behind it (Bill Nighy - yay!) . It follows Franken-zombie's (Aaron Eckhart) un-life, how he was created and dealt with his creator (in the first 5 minutes of the film) and proceeds to become the immediate target of demons and by proxy, their enemies in this film: the gargoyle order. After getting past the initial "WTF is going on" start it gets into a nice, fast-paced and violent groove that is pretty enjoyable to watch. Don't expect much substance plot wise though.

Sums up the movie.

So, my problems with this flick. The "secret war" being waged that humans somehow don't notice - how the frick do people -not- notice it? Especially with all the colorful special FX and burn marks when one or the other is destroyed? Some terminologies are also stupid like "descend a demon" or "ascend a gargoyle". What? Interesting too how the whole plan of one side utterly fails simply due to said effect. >.< Despite all that it's a pretty entertaining watch which I give two and a half metal batons out of five. I also wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Sunset Six: The Secret Ingredient

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Only through passing tests of the Body discipline can you increase your stats permanently, so it is a popular choice as one of the schools to do first. Many of the tests here require you to run around like a mad man across all of Egypt (good thing there's that speed boost food at taverns), so let's have a look at a couple -  starting with the test of the Safari in which you have to catch (and release) a number of different critters who very seldom appear randomly around the map.

These are the only ones you can "see".

  • Fennecs (of all types) are invisible and are caught in a cage array.
  • Ibises only spawn during the day, and there is only one flock of them in the entire map at a time.
  • Otters have a network of tunnels you must block before you can nab them.
  • Desert rats have a set of footprints to follow (they must be huge).
  • Gazelles have to be tired out by chasing them.
  • Bullfrogs are invisible, only spawn at night, and must be captured by sound alone.
  • Falcons you bait with rabbits (who in turn are baited by carrots), then climb trees to find their nests.

None of the above are particularly easy since they like to move around so what about mushroom hunting instead? Plants don't really move around right? WRONG. In the Test of the Darkest Night, you must find and eat seven shrooms of various types to increase your poison resistance (aka Constitution). While these can be harvested and used for cooking or paint, to qualify for the test YOU must find them and eat them while they are still on the floor so no trading or begging for them.

The secret ingredient is dirt.

The kicker is that the shrooms also spawn far and wide and most give you a very short window (30-50 minutes) to find them before they despawn again. You miss it? Have fun with your eight hour wait before trying for that one again. It's so bad that there are at least two different mushroom trackers out there to help people find it!

Constipation: it's a reward!

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Flight of Dragons

Science versus Magic.

One of my favorite cartoons of all time, the basic plot for this movie is that science is overtaking magic so three of the "magic brothers" decide to make the last sanctuary of magic to protect all the magical creatures and basically hide them from the world. The last brother though, Omadon (voiced by James Earl Jones) will have none of this and instead quite vocally proclaims that he will twist man's science to destroy themselves before laughing and flying off on his dragon. Of course the good guys can't let this happen, and so begins a quest to defeat the evil wizard.

Sometimes you can talk your way to victory.

While the art is very dated and is from the school of "good guys look good and bad guys look ugly", it's still pretty decent and is helped by some good voice acting. They also try to explain how dragons might exist but make no effort for things like humongous three eyed ogres or gigantic, acid secreting worms. There's also a bit of a "whaaaaa?" moment when a knight explains how he vowed to fall in love with a girl who at the time was five years of age and some borrowed "inspiration" from sleeping beauty.

I still quite like it and recommend it to those who enjoy this fantasy setting. I also quite like that they do show how one dragon can rip apart an entire party pretty easily. :P All up I give it three out of five sand murks and wouldn't mind seeing it again. Also be advised, the art of the movie is far superior than the one on the box! Failure of advertising right there.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sunset Six: Acrobatic Mechanics

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

The school of Body has perhaps the easiest initiation task of simply running around and finding 35 different plant species in 20 minutes, but that is followed by one of the most time consuming tests around: the Test of the Acrobat. Basically you are given seven facets of one move and are then sent out into the world to learn and teach from others to master -every move available-. You can only teach moves you have seven facets in, and can only learn one facet of each move from everyone you meet.

That list scrolls a LOT.

It's actually worse than that though, because of a random hidden attribute that each character has - you simply cannot learn from some people and vice versa. Sometimes even those who are master level teachers to you still are unable to teach anything because the particular facet they teach (only 1 of the 7 per move) might be one you already have. The solution?

Acro with everyone!

Similar to that is how the mechanics skill works in game. All the automated machinery can be tuned up to level 7 (making them run faster or produce things more efficiently), but the luck factor of the hidden attribute per person, per machine exists again meaning some things you -can- tune up and others you cannot. The 20 minute cool down after any tune-up attempt also helps prevent "tune spamming".

Whee, the only thing I've been able to tune so far.

A long time player named Lazybum actually told me that for his machines he gets a bunch of eight or so people around to try tune things for two hours. Any machines that don't make it to level 5 he tears down and rebuilds. Contrary to his name, I get the feeling he actually is very productive and has a ton of resources at his disposal.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Fast and the Furious: Five to Seven

Fast Five

Only one way to quit being a criminal, and apparently that's by doing a big crime.

Carrying on right after the fourth installment, the crew are now all wanted by the police - more so when a "botched job" gets a number of DEA agents killed. Having had enough of this BS the FBI decides to send in their best hunter (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and his team to hunt down those dastardly thieves once and for all. To make matters more interesting, the same botched job also pisses off another wealthy bad guy who is out for blood to get back what is his. Deciding it's time to quit the criminal life, Dom (Vin Diesel) plans one last big heist and assembles a team composed of characters from all the previous movies. For me, especially having watched everything in sequence, this is pretty cool.

I'd be worried too if The Rock got me in a headlock!

It then turns into a little bit like Ocean's Eleven, only with more cars involved and while it also makes for a longer movie it also makes it better! They've added a ton more violence, fighting and gun play here and while they've slowly been upping the kill count I think this one certainly holds the highest so far. While there is less actual racing, the few races present actually have more meaning or are more interesting than the previous ones. I quite liked the cop car one as that was the most level playing field the characters have had for awhile.

I suppose I should also mention that there's a fair bit of Portugese in the film being set in Rio and all, and that Gal Gadot is hot, but the important part is that I give this movie four tires out of five and would definitely watch it again. I even watched all the credits this time to watch the CGI race at the end! All up, this sequel better than the initial outing!


Furious 6

Where the writers thought... what other vehicles can we throw in there?

Best FBI hunter man (The Rock) is hunting another band of thieves in fast cars, this time with a more military background, but since they are too slippery for him (seriously, does he catch anyone on his own?) he is forced to ask help from the now "retired" Dom and his team. To help convince him he does have an interesting hook - one of Dom's old pals is working for the competition. That, and pardons for his crew if he gets the job done. I quite like the opening credits to this one as it has snippets from all the movies that have come before.

With most of the cast returning from the previous movie, it's pretty cool that they get to combat a rival team this time who are driving modified F1s, and it's refreshing that they aren't going up against "another cartel boss". Luke Evans is a welcome and more hands on bad guy from the previous bunch and while there's certainly still killing and shooting, there's less of that than the previous flick and more focus on hand to hand here. I was most impressed with Gina Carano's fights in particular. Once again there is also awesome CGI and a high volume of vehicular destruction also gets the thumbs up from me.

Good luck catching this!

Despite all this there are quite a number of negatives for me - the main one being some ridiculously over the top action sequences that break suspension of disbelief. There's also an unnecessary trip by one character into "danger" which is basically filler and could have been cut out. I should also mention that the chicks in the London street racing scene are the most conservative so far, which could be a plus or minus depending how you look at it. Ultimately I score this film three and a half tires out of five and... yeah, I'd still watch it again. :P


Furious 7

The first movie that actually happens after Tokyo Drift.

The big bad brother of the bad guy from the previous movie is the main bad now, and has sworn vengeance on Dom and his team (most of whom return again here). For me he is even better villain than his brother since he mostly works alone, and he's Jason Statham! His intro scene is bloody fantastic. Unfortunately, for a supposedly ultimate deadly assassin he makes ever increasing faulty judgement calls. The main one probably being warning his mark that he's coming for him.

They finally find an excuse to dress up!

Yes, there are car chases here - and again with new vehicles to chase and be chased by them combined with over the top BS CGI physics that I was hoping they'd steer away from but it's almost on the same level as last time. At least the hand to hand combat is epic, this time with Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa showing off their skill. It's really the flaws of Statham's assassin that get me because ... gah... logic!? Just be sneaky and you'll win! Anywho, I still give it three and a half tires out of five like last time since it was pretty entertaining and yeah, I'd watch it again.

I also was quite touched by all the feels for Paul Walker near the end there, possibly because I watched all the movies in sequence. At the same time I was impressed that they managed to make the rest of the film with body doubles, CG replacements and voice and film snippets for his character. That did get it some bonus points from me.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Sunset Six: Initiate +3

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

The initiation task for Art and Music is an interesting one in which you construct your own sculpture in which you can use pretty much anything in game as part of the design.

You can make odd things like I did or more commonly...

... they are used for signs. :)

Similarly, the discipline of Thought requires you construct an empty hand puzzle and let a number of other players solve and rate it, requiring a "good" or better to pass. This is tricky as making it too simple or too frustrating can lead people to giving you a low score.

I made mine pretty simple.

Lastly, the initiation of Worship is one I didn't think I'd ever pass as not only do you need a sacrifice a number of ritual components under a time limit but you also require a partner who has not yet passed that initiation. I was in luck that another new player named Sarina was keen on getting it done and with Balthazarr's help with providing supplies along with prompts for recited incantations that require perfect typing, we both passed with a double zap.

It involves jugs.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Kill all Robots! Transformers: Extinction and Chappie

 Transformers: Extinction

Less explosions and better story.

If you haven't seen any of the previous Transformers movies, rejoice! There is no requirement to do so for this film as most of the previous protagonists were scrubbed / killed off during a time skip. Speaking of time skips this movie certainly begins with a few! Fortunately once it gets back on the rails it does a pretty good job of telling its tale, that of how the humans decided to kill all these metallic alien bastards known as either Autobots (goodies) or Decepticons (baddies). For some reason, Optimus Prime (the good guy leader) is number one on the hit list.

Ok, good things first: Mark Wahlberg is a good lead, better than -all- the army guys previously. He plays the part of overprotective father / skilled enough inventor pretty well and I rather enjoyed that he could take on lesser bots by himself. The CGI is outstanding as always, and those cars the robots transform into are -really nice-! There are less explosions than the previous movie (I think) but it also has a better story. Quite liked all the sponsor shots too.

Not sure -why- a robot would make a weapon that size but whatever.

Negatives include: Bits where humans should definitely have died, the "daughter" character is hot but incredibly stupid (oh, let me take a nap beside this giant alien space ship which the authorities are hunting down!), the samurai bot forgets he can turn into a helicopter after using it once(?), all the "extra" bots talk way too much in combat and for some reason there exists stupid "comedy" bots that serve no purpose other than to get laughs. Think carefully as to why the hell you would create such a thing.

The main negative though is that the film feels long. It reached the third act and it just began introducing new characters, what? Anyway, all up I give it two and a half transformium cubes out of five but have no real desire to watch the whole thing again.



Featuring the least secure defense company ever.

In this film, South Africa has an almost fully automated police force with "Scout" robots being the new front line all the bad guys have to deal with. Yah, F-U Robocop! While profitable for his company, the creator of the robots is unhappy because he still wants to create a robot that is more than just a machine - he wants a robot that is self aware (possibly because he's never seen any Terminator movie ever), and through exploiting the really, really weak security measures of his work place (which is meant to be a multi million defense contractor) he gets his wish. Unfortunately the bot falls into the hands of scumbag gangsters thanks again to security flaws, and they end up having to raise the bot as one of their own.

Aww, cute doggie!

Alright, good stuff first - CG is great, how they make Chappie be cute also gets the thumbs up from me. Hugh Jackman (who rocks a mullet and speaks in his native Australian accent here) plays the antagonist and is fantastic. Not only does he stand for the "opposing church view" of requiring to destroy all godless constructs but also highlights the very, very flawed security of the defense company by carrying a gun everywhere he goes. Even pointing it at colleagues in the office. The action scenes are great and the body count is high: both positives in my book.

On to the dumb stuff: I think I've harped on enough about a defense company having moronically lax security, lacking something as basic as monitored video cameras but that's just one of many plot holes. Such as bad guys letting people that know where their base is, and people forgetting they have advanced tech and time to prepare it. Also, the gangsters who become the main focus of the film were unlikable and as the robot slowly but surely took on their traits it also became unlikable. I was really hoping for a "and then they all died" ending but it wasn't to be. I was definitely cheering for Hugh's character at the finale. 

Anyway, it's an entertaining ride if you don't mind the holes but it's not one I'd like to take again unless there's an alternate ending option I don't know about. All up I give it two and a half broken robots out of five.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Sunset Six: Pyramids of Heaven

[Part of my Sunset Six story.]

Traversing the huge map is pretty slow going in this game, albeit slightly better when running along roads where I seem to get a speed bonus. It's not long before I am advised by a player named Balthazarr on region chat of two more efficient speed boosts in the River Plains area where I started: The fast travel chariot and the Jawa Tavern which offers free, temporary speed food. It is only much later that I learn from a deep desert huntress named Nabirye that this food can be packed into jugs with stoppers for later consumption.

Sounds delicious... (blerrrgh!)

Balthazarr also speaks of magical Pyramids of Heaven deep in the desert that grant up to seven levels to anyone who simply gazes at them - cue me going on a pilgrimage! It is an incredibly long and uneventful run but totally worth it to unlock more tests faster. Like most constructs in this game these were all player built at some point as they and the other pyramid types grant global boons to everyone in game. I don't really want to think what the building requirements for -these- were.

I'm the little dot in the sand.

With that out of the way it's time to get cracking on the other initiation tasks, and fortunately both Leadership and Harmony have a similar requirement of meeting people and getting them to sign or introduce themselves formally to you (via click menu). Chariot stops are a good place rack up a lot of these as eventually everyone uses them and it's almost second nature to everyone to just do it without prompting too, which is great!

People sure are helpful!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Fast and the Furious: 3 & 4

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

This movie actually happens somewhere during the credits of Furious 6. :P

There's an all new cast this time around, mainly focusing on an adrenaline and car-racing junkie (Lucas Black) and due to getting into trouble early on is sent to live with his dad in Tokyo. He quickly gets into old habits and gets himself into trouble with yakuza because... Japan! And ultimately learns to take responsibility for his actions. It's a pretty basic plot, but at least the different setting is refreshing. Don't expect to have escaped the "gansta" music though - now you just get it in Japanese. Obviously there's some Japanese spoken too.

Positives: It looks like they learned their lesson from last time and have less "talking while racing" as well as less "special FX while racing" with pretty intense and impressive stunt work happening - mostly focused on drifting as the title might give away. Also, despite being pretty "late" in the chronological order of things because it was made earlier than the in between movies it offers almost no spoilers. What I like most about it is they aren't shy about showing what happens to cars when you crash. There is a -lot- of automotive damage in this movie. I also quite liked the Initial D feel of the mountain race. Han is very cool.

You might not know it yet, but I'm actually the main character.

Negatives: There are also -lots- of party scenes. I mean LOTS (possibly more than the last two movie combined), most of which could have been cut out since they serve just as background while main characters walk from point A to B. This is probably to get the most out of all the scantily clad extras everywhere. Think Miku from the last movie x50. Also, while there is less "talking while driving dangerously", they didn't get rid of it altogether. One of the silliest scenes for me is two characters having a heart to heart while drifting down a mountain at speed, and the "driver" is obviously not driving thanks to her poor position.

All up I think those two sections balance each other out so I'm forced to just give this film two tires out of five. I also have no intention of watching it again.


Los Bandoleros

Takes the gear to the next level... down. Possibly two levels down.

I'm not sure what the point of this 20 minute little film is as the plot basically focuses on Vin Diesel recruiting people for the next movie below. It also does a pretty poor job of explaining why he is targeting oil - because the price is going up so he's going to give it away ala Robin Hood to the poor.

Logically, if you do that the oil companies would just increase the price even more? Moron. Anyway, there's no racing to be had here and most of the average camera work film is in Spanish. I don't know why, but despite all that I kinda enjoyed the slower pace of it. I guess I've taken a liking to his crew! Still, I can only give this one tire out of five, and don't really have a need to watch it again. You won't miss much for skipping it.


Fast and Furious

Welcome back Vin. We missed you!

In this fourth film, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is up to his old tricks again with a few familiar faces in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, his decision to try protect his girl friend by leaving her (really, that's a stupid move) goes incredibly bad and leads to him on a vengeance quest again an unknown cartel boss. Cop guy from the first movie is also back and happens to be hunting the same guy so a team up sounds pretty logical, but only after they get their machisimo out of the way.

Sports cars vs 4 Wheel Drives?

Like movie number two, this movie has the bad guy hiring drivers to deliver stuff which happens to be their "in" to the organization - pretty damn convenient if you ask me. Also, you are now treated to Mexican "Gangsta" music. Admittedly I'm getting used to hearing this genre now, which quite made the more regular acoustic songs of Los Bandoleros a refreshing change.

They also learned from the overuse of party scenes from Tokyo Drift and made an interesting, compressed one where you actually are still interested in what's going on. At the same time they kept the car destruction high which is awesome. Anyway I think this one is back on the same level as the first movie so I give it three tires out of five but again, have no interest in giving it a second watch through.