Let The Games Begin: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is HBO’s new series, a medieval fantasy based on a series of books by the name of ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’. The story follows the actions and reactions of seven families living amidst seven kingdoms that make up Westeros. We primarily focus on four families in particular; The Starks, whom protect the North of Westeros; The Baratheon, who rule the kingdom through King Robert Baratheon of the Seven Kingdoms; The Lannisters, a family married to King Baratheon silently seeking control of the throne, and finally The Targaryens, previous rulers of the seven kingdoms now living overseas and plotting revenge and a means of retaking the throne for themselves. Having enjoyed HBO’s Rome I thought I’d give this series a go, and I can’t say i’m disappointed. The opening episode sets the tone for the series well, showing us that the world of Westeros is far from stable, housing various families each with their own agenda even if allied with another in some way.

The cast is strong, led by Sean Bean as Ned Stark in what I believe to be his strongest role to date. He’s accompanied by a range of actors including Charles Dance (Alien 3) and Lena Hedey (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). The shows characters are as strong as the cast which make for interesting scenes. The outcast characters John Snow (Bastard of Ned Stark) and Tyrion Lannister (Dwarf brother of the Queen) for example work really well together and provide the show an element of satire. Tyrion ends up instructing Snow to carry his title of Bastard as a shield so that he might be invulnerable to its use against him in the future. I look forward to the development of many of the characters found in Game of Thrones but I seem to have grown attached to the bastard and the dwarf.

I can’t help but see a few similarities to characters from others shows/films. The Stark children seem to have a close bond that’s so similar to how I remember the kids in the British series Shameless, this may be HBO’s intention as they’ve recently made their own version of Shameless. The similarities gets weirder, do the Targaryens remind you of the character Luna and Lucious Malfoy from Harry Potter? Or does the Lanister prince remind you of Draco Malfoy…surely I can’t be the only one to see the likeness to them.

I was surprised to find that this series was different to past HBO series in the bedroom department. Being a fan of True Blood, Californication and Rome I’ve been accustomed to quite graphic sex scenes, however Game of Thrones seems to have toned things down a little. I don’t mind this in the slightest it just feels odd that HBO seem to have changed their approach to sex scenes. I wonder if they’re trying to change their image, if this is a one off or if they’ll ramp up the sex in later episodes.

The opening scene of the first episode features three night watchmen being slain by some sort of inhuman being (White Walker). Whilst this scene clearly shows all is not normal in the world of Westeros we hear nothing more than a whisper relating to such things other than that scene. I assume we’ll see more of these things further into the series, perhaps when visiting ‘The Wall’, either that or HBO feels that the paranormal aspect might put viewers off the series.

I’ve really enjoyed the series so far and look forward to seeing further episodes. With a second season already confirmed and an interesting start to the series this is definitely something to watch during the summer.

Advertisements

Game-A-Week: Star Wars The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes

Game Title: Star Wars The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes (PC)

The Gist: Another Star Wars game, they’re plenty in number these days and I don’t think a year goes by without Lucas approving a new game of some sort. This game in particular extends the Clone Wars TV series and allows players to take control of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Clone Troopers and various other characters along the way. The game is spliced with scenes similar to that of the Clone Wars series in order to carry the Story similar to that of an episode that bridges the gap between the first and second season. The game feels like it’s been set up as a clone wars based imitation of The Force Unleashed and designed for kids. Levels take place on a third person view for both characters themselves and vehicles such as speeders. You fight enemies and navigate obstacles occasionally finding a vehicle or a boss fight such as a giant battle droid.

Pros: You get to play with a lightsaber pure and simple. No matter how bad a Star Wars game can be as long as you have a lightsaber to swing, it’s got something in it most people want. I like the ‘attempt’ at bridging the first and second series of Clone Wars however the first hour of game play revealed little in the way of Story and felt more like an excuse to use the characters from the series. Bizarrely whilst Jedi levels feel pretty boring the Clone Trooper based ones feel rather fun and make me wonder if this should have been the concept for the game instead, in fact I have the urge to load up Republic Commando sometime soon.

Cons: Graphically this game is ugly. With full settings, max AA and such the game still has a distinct feel that it’s nowhere near as polished as it could have been. The difficulty settings for the game essentially consist of normal or hard…hard being easy enough for a gamer of any calibre to beat the game. The challenge sections of the game are clearly designed for two players only, anyone doing these on single player even on hard will find no challenge at all and most likely find themselves bored. The cinematics do not match the quality of the series which is a shame as the voice over work is spot on and utilises the same cast as the series itself. The in game dialogue does however seem badly ‘edited’ and often feels like someone’s rushing the lines in order to make game play occur sooner. Whilst this might be what some gamers would like, more pew-pew less chatter, as a Clone Wars fan I’d actually like to sit and watch both cinematics and dialogue from characters. One of the features of the game is being able to jump onto battle droids and stab your lightsaber into them enabling you to take control of the unit for a short period of time, blasters and all. The game utilises Games For Windows Live which brings achievements to the game, however these achievements are essentially a child’s way of building up his game score, being rewarded for completing a level or jumping onto a battle droid.

Musical Note: The music is a collection of classic Star Wars style music mixed with specific Clone Wars music that is overplayed as it should be to each area of the game.

Hunger Level: After playing for an hour I felt little desire to continue playing. Even after watching the latest episode of Clone Wars the game did not entice me to play on.

Conclusion: This game is one of those Star Wars games that uses the franchise as motivation to play a bad game. You’re much better off playing The Force Unleashed if you’re looking to use force powers and a lightsaber, not that TFU is without flaws itself. Give it a miss unless you happen to find a copy of the game inside a box of cereal, at the bottom of a well or if it’s incredibly cheap and you’ve nothing better to do.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

Being an American Being Human

I’ve watched the British Being Human since the first episode, it’s witty humour and dark themes have kept me coming back for more each year.  Now nearing the end of its third season means having to wait another year for any more, or so I thought. The Americans have hopped back across the pond with another British show. I saw the US version of Shamless earlier this year and noted never to watch it again and if you check out the American Red Dwarf on youtube, the top comment sums things up about how people usually feel about these remakes: “I’m american and even i think this is sh**ty. The british version was fu**ing hilarious and ingenious!” History aside, they’ve created something fresh for you to sink your teeth into.

The American Being Human stays close to it’s British counterpart to begin with but seems to be slowly moving in its own direction. The werewolf Josh in the American series for example has had a member of his family see him for the first time since he ran away from home, the British show doesn’t deal with this concept until its third season. The writers of the American show have said they’ve watched the first season of the British show but “..made a point of not watching Season 2 when it aired on BBC America…We didn’t want to be swayed by it. I don’t think we ever will“.

Sam Witwer (Smallville/Star Wars: The Force Unleashed) plays vampire Aidan and whilst the characters name comes from the British vampire’s actor not much else does. This character seems darker, especially during episodes where he falls to the dark side of his vampric nature. Witwer only watched the first episode of the British version stating that he’s:

“…looking forward to seeing the original. I saw the first episode and, once I recognized how good it was and how good Aidan Turner is in that role, I really wanted to stay away from it while we shot our season. I didn’t want to subconsciously mimic anything that he did.”

I’ve been a fan of Witwer’s since I saw him in Smallville and give him kudos for voicing ‘The Son’ in recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes. Whilst I’m not familiar with the actors playing the Warewolf Josh (Sam Huntington) and Ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath) they’ve each added their own feel to a character I’ve already fallen in love with.

What really makes the American Being Human work for me is its dark guitar-infused score emphasising the theme of the series in a unique way to that of the British version. The soundtrack isn’t bad either and is definitely a playlist I’ll be listening to soon.

Overall this is a series for any Being Human, vampire, werewolf or ghost fan should be watching and it’s certainly a show I’ll be keeping an eye on. My only concern is the show being on Syfy, I’m still left in pain over them cutting both Caprica and Stargate Universe and don’t wish to find Being Human in the same boat. With thirteen episodes, seven more than that of the first British season, I’m hoping that they can use that extra time to build upon their own distinction and take the story into new directions.

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ Falls to the Darkside

 

In the past two months Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Season 3), has drifted away from season three’s politics and fallen to the dark side by means of not one but two trilogies.

The Nightsister Trilogy’ finds Dooku’s assassin Asajj being deemed too powerful by the emperor, Seeing her as a threat Dooku’s ordered to dispose of her. Surviving and seeking revenge against her former master Asajj brings a new character into play, Savage Opress, allowing him to become Dooku’s new apprentice and her aid in battle against Dooku when she wishes it. The episodes feature several well choreographed fight scenes and insights into the Sith training process which bring a much needed change of pace to the events we’ve been following in the Clone Wars this year.

The second trilogy steps away from the battlefield that is the Star Wars galaxy and ends up becoming an echo of things to come. Both Shimi Skywalker, Anakin’s mother and Qui-Gon Jinn make an appearance (guess voiced by both Liam Neeson and Pernilla August from Episode One). We return to the prophecy of Anakin being the one who will bring balance to the force, interplay between the light-aligned Daughter, the dark-aligned Son (voiced by Sam Witwer/Starkiller of The Force Unleashed!) and their neutral farther on the Force imbued plane of…wherever it is. We get a glimpse at a few interesting concepts such as Anakin discovering his fate, his decisions after discovering this and Dark-Side Ahoka Tano. Interestingly ‘The Son’ at one point in development was going to be the character Darth Revan from Knights of the Old Republic. Being a major fan of that character myself I’m sort of glad I didn’t see this happen, yet I’m intrigued of course. It seems his scenes were actually animated for the episode but pulled by Lucas himself. I rather hope we’ll see this footage surface someday, perhaps on the DVD/Blu-ray for the episode.

Both trilogies contribute a lot to the Star Wars galaxy, quite honestly more so than the entire Clone Wars series has done to date. I look forward to storylines spun from these trilogies in future episodes and rather hope one will become the thread for the fourth Clone Wars series as it’s rather dark, exciting and may just bring back a character from the first film we believed to be dead. You will cast aside your political storylines and embrace the dark side more frequently…I have foreseen it…

Battlestar Galactica Online Open Beta

“In Battlestar Galactica Online, both the Colonial and Cylon fleets find themselves stranded in an unexplored area of space at the very edge of one of the galactic arms. Heavily damaged and critically low on resources, both fleets race against time to repair and rearm, struggling for control of systems rich in Tylium, metals and water. The Colonial fleet desperately searches for a way to escape and continue the search for Earth before the Cylons gain enough strength to destroy them once and for all”

Check out the game here


Battlestar Galactica Online open beta started today so I thought I’d give it a test flight. The browser based MMO allows you to take sides with either the humans or the Cylons and take part in a story where both fleets have been transported by a mysterious energy wave to an unknown sector of the galaxy. This is still in beta obviously so don’t be surprised to find bugs…and you will find them. I’ve currently given up exploring anymore of the game tonight as I’ve found my game crashing, browser compatibility problems and various in game text looking like it’s been smudged. I did get to test the Cylon faction a little so let’s take a look at what you get to do.

So far, bugs aside, the experiance has been enjoyable. I started off with the tutorial, learning how to fly/enable weapons and fire missles (which have the same awesome sound as the series). Whilst in the flight part of the game you’ll be treated to excerpts from the original score for the series by composer Bear McCreary,I loved hearing the track Black Market from season 2 kick in as I engaged a squadron of Vipers, dodged their weapons fire and pumped them full of Cylon missiles. I then went onto the character creation area. Sadly I encountered a bug where both the text for each customisation option and the 3d avatar itself were slightly blurred meaning I didn’t know what I was truly ending up with until I finished making my toaster. I’m hoping that somewhere down the line I’ll be able to alter the look of my avatar again as I’m not entirely happy with him just yet. What I did find cool was being able to have battle damage to give your Cylon that extra detail.

After grabbing my Cylon I proceeded to explore my Basestar and met a few of the cast of the series. The game currently features 4 of the original 12 Human-Cylon models who provide missions and information. There’s a Six an Eight (Cavil) a One (Sharon) who also handles anything regarding your ship such as selling you ammo, new weapons and repairing, and a two (Leoben). It’s nice to see the cast again and perhaps down the line we’ll get to have missions involving some of these or other human-Cylon models.

Overall I’ve enjoyed my first hour or so on Battlestar Galactica Online, I hope to test it out a bit further during the week and getting a taste of the Colonial fleet…I have to admit however I have ambitions of enslaving the human race so be nice to your toasters…or you might end up with more than burnt toast.

Requiem

Deathwing incinerated Azeroth upon his return, causing chaos and reining destruction on that which I’ve called home for the past three years.  A requiem plays in my head as I explore the devastation and death I can’t help but notice the overture spilling into the shows I’ve been following.

Caprica (prequel spinoff of to Battlestar Galactica) found itself cancelled, it’s remaining episodes torn from the Syfy schedule early, airing in the first quarter of 2011. I couldn’t help but ponder Stargate’s newest spinoff meeting the same fate which is now the case, it’s remaining 10 episodes airing Spring 2011.

I wonder if there’s any point to things being made anymore, Syfy continue plans for a second prequel entitled ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome’  but why bother if you’ll not only axe the show mid-season but pull it from the air. Frell…I miss my Farscape, my Firefly, my dollhouse: We’re in an era of cancelation, why do the good always die young?

Something I figured would die off (again…it died once back in 2001) is the videogame Aliens: Colonial Marines by Gearbox software (those lovely lads who gave us Borderlands and are resurrecting Duke Nukem). This game was supposed to be out back in 2009 but got pushed back due to the new Alien Versus Predator. I’ve been looking forward to this more so than AVP. The game’s planned to release in 2011 according to Sega’s release schedule. We’ll more than likely hear more about it after they’ve released Duke Nukem Forever. Here’s a teaser for Aliens: Colonial Marines to whet your appetite.

It’s Christmas and Sega/GamersGate are giving away the Mega Drive/Genesis classic Golden Axe today (17th Dec) and tomorrow (18th). Enjoy your FREE game!

Just head here and input one of the following codes:

  • Dec 17th: GIVE-SEGA-GAXE-32LN2
  • Dec 18th: GIVE-SEGA-GAXE-96PDB

Remains of a Dollhouse

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly went on to make two seasons of the show Dollhouse before it was cancelled. I enjoyed the themes that dealt with identity, technology, human nature and was disappointed that the show wasn’t renewed for a third season.

The show might not live on but the team behind it have created a music video for a song (Remains) that was featured in an episode. The four minute video is beautifully shot and whilst doesn’t relate to the show irectly features a few cast members. It reflects nicely on themes within Dollhouse, namely human nature and its craving for perfection. What do you make of it?