About Me

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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wizards First Rule Review

            I recently found myself going through a lot of my old books with the intention of donating them to my local library when I came across the fantasy novel, Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind.  It was Goodkind's first novel and the first book of the Sword of Truth series.  So I decided before I donated this book I would write a review on it.  This is the Illusive One's Wizard's First Rule review.
            The plot of the book revolves around Richard Cypher in the aftermath of his father's brutal murder.  He encounters a woman named Kahlan in the woods one day and in doing so gets involved in her quest to find an ancient wizard and to stop an evil emperor named Darken Rahl from using an ancient magic that will enable him to rule the world. 
            The only positive thing I have to say about this book is that it had believable characters.  Other then that it's all bad.  Their was way to much talking, crappy fight descriptions, and various events that didn't seem to have any purpose other then filling up pages.  To summarize this book in a single sentence, it's five hundred pages of descriptions of terrain, walking and dialog, a hundred pages of shitty fight descriptions, and about two hundred pages of suspense with endings that leave you hungry for more. 
            The only redeeming factor about this book is what the wizards first rule is.  It states that people are stupid and will believe anything as long as the want it to be true or are afraid that it is true.  In my experience with people, this is true.
            My final recommendation is to stay away from this shit-fest of words that tries to pass itself off as a fantasy book.  The few sequels I have read are no better with endings that are just traps to lure you into the next book.

All Around

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street Remake Review

            As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a big fan of horror movies.  From the classical silent films, to the golden age of Universal chillers, to the Hammer remakes of the 50-70s, and to the slasher genera of the 80s horror movies had been great, disturbing, and fun.  In recent years, however, horror movies have taken a turn for the worse and have made a habit of remaking classical and foreign horror such as Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Ring, The Grudge, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.  I recently saw this movie so I decided to give my take on it.  This is the Illusive One's A Nightmare on Elm Street remake review.
            Let me start off my saying Freddy Kruger was probably the greatest slasher villain ever and is undoubtedly the greatest character ever created by Wes Craven.  Unlike earlier slasher icons like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, Freddy had a voice, a face, and didn't kill camp councilors or baby sitters with a machete or a butcher knife.  He killed people in their dreams with knife fingers.  These things alone made Freddy the greatest of the 80s slasher villains and the dream idea opened up tons of possibility’s for the ways he could kill people and insured fresh ideas for each movie.  There would be a total six movies, a spin off movie, a short lived T.V. series, a crossover with Jason and now a remake.
            Like a lot of modern remakes, it’s close in plot and style with the original.  Jackie Earle Haley did a pretty good job of replacing Robert Englund as Freddy and went back to demonic Freddy of the original movies, (although he was prone to a wise crack or two).  There was enough gore in it to satisfy my personal bloodlust, but at the same time, it wasn't to over the top.  In addition it introduced a kind of dream walking that supposedly comes with sleep deprivation and causes the character to lose their sense of reality, adding to the blurred lines of dreams and reality.  It also added more back story to Freddy, showing him as an accused child torturing pedophile, instead of a sadistic killer and actually gives the viewer the idea that Freddy might just have be innocent, which was a pretty good twist on the original story.
            On the negative side, the movie was definitely a slasher movie.  It has all the old shock clichés of slashers such as the killer popping up in the background or foreground of the picture and people in disbelief that what's happening is happening.  The acting with a lot of the younger cast members, in particular, is bad and seemed lazy.  Another gripe I had was that I felt they showed too much of Freddy's face.  In the original movie, the rooms all seemed dimly lit, more focused on the victim then on Freddy, who seemed to be constantly shadowed.  In this movie, however, they kept his face in full view whenever he was in a scene, giving him a less demonic appearance.  Finally, some of the special effects were bad, particularly when he puts his claw through someone.  It’s obviously CG, and makes me miss the old Tom Savini-style gore effects.
            If you like slasher movies and the Friday the 13th remake then I recommend this one.  It was definitely better than some of the sequels to the original and is better than a lot of the other remakes that have come out in the past decade but still not as good as the original.

All Around 7/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jason and the Argonauts

As stated on my first post, I shall be doing movie reviews as well as books and video games.  For my first movie review, I decided to do one that is universally considered to be classic.  It's time for The Illusive One's Jason and the Argonauts review.
            Released in 1963, the effects in this movie are considered to be the master work of stop motion animator, Ray Harryhausen.  But was the movie itself actually that good?
            The plot of the movie revolves around Jason of Thessaly, based on the mythical character and his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece at the end of the world and to reclaim his murdered father's throne. 
            On the positive side it follows the myth fairly well, cleverly combining the best elements of the journey to and from Colchis into a single voyage.  It depicts the Gods using the world as their own chessboard and the mortals as their pawns in their never ending games.  The stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen are well done and are the spectacle of this movie and have inspired countless film makers and special effects crews.  The most famous of these was the battle with the skeletons and was a fight that would never be surpassed using stop motion animation.
            On the negative side, however, this movie is very outdated.  The acting, to put it lightly, is very bad and didn't seem to have much effort put into it.  It's the kind of acting you would probably expect to see in a 50s/60s matinee movie.  A lot of the miniature sets were obvious and some of the background scenes, particularly the ones with the Cashing Rocks, look really fake and requires a lot of suspension of disbelief not to laugh at.  The final issue I have with this movie, (and I know I'm not alone in this), is the ending.  I won't spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the ending leaves you hanging in a way that makes you feel that the story is only half over.
            All around, it's a decent movie and must see for any lover of Greek Mythology.  I say watch it if you can get past the outdated feel to it.  If not, don't bother.

All Around

Fallout: New Vegas

Throughout October, I reviewed a number of games in preparation for the late releases this year.  Now it's time to actually review one of these games.  I held off posting this review until I got what I felt was a fair perspective of the game  This is the followup to Fallout 3.  This is The Illusive One's Fallout: New Vegas Review.
   The Plot
            Unlike Fallout 3, the plot of this game was fairly straight forward.  A new democracy has emerged in California, calling itself the New California Republic and has quickly become the dominant power on the west coast.  As the Republic expanded it stumbled upon Hoover Dam intact and usable.  Not far from it, they also discovered a city untouched by the nuclear fire of the Great War called New Vegas, (formally Las Vegas), run by the mysterious and reclusive Mr. House with his private army of robots and rehabilitated tribals. 
            However, another power had emerged east of the Colorado River calling itself Caesar's Legion and the two great factions went to war over Hoover Dam with the NCR only just emerging victorious.  The Legion's defeat, however, was not decisive and across the Colorado river they prepare for another attack.  Four years have passed since the Battle of Hoover Dam and the New Vegas Strip has remain open for business.
            You play as a courier who is hired to deliver a platinum poker chip to the strip only to be ambushed and shot in the head by a mysterious man in a checkered suit.  Somehow you survive and peruse him to New Vegas and learn of the increasing hostilities between the NCR and the Legion and ultimately decide who will rule New Vegas, Hoover Dam, and the Mojave Wastelands.
The Game Play
            The basic game play was nearly identical to that of Fallout 3 with the same leveling upgrades and the same controls.  The only significant difference is the ability to look down the irons of the gun whereas in Fallout 3 it only zoomed in.  One of the major differences of these two games is your Fame Meter.  Different towns and different factions have different opinions of you based on your actions for or against the town.  For example, working for the NCR against the Legion gives you fame, (they like you), for the NCR but infamy (they hate you) for the Legion. 
            The game offers nearly identical sets of armor as Fallout 3 other then the Legion and NCR armor.  Wearing the armor of either of these factions makes them think you're one of them and will allow you to go places that would normally be forbidden.  However, this will make the opposing faction shoot at you on sight as long as your dressed in that armor.  Depending on the armor your enemy is wearing can determine how difficult it will be to kill it.  Wearing armor, for example makes it far harder to kill an enemy then it did in Fallout 3 and requires you to buy a variety of different ammo types such as armor piercing bullets or hollow points to kill different targets.
            The guns, however, are of a much larger variety in this game.  It has has the guns from Fallout 3 but also offers weapons such as a variety of Assault Carbines that resemble M16s.  There are also other familiar weapons such as 9mm pistols, light machine guns, and grenade launchers.  Additional mods can be bought for these weapons such as sights and handles for improved accuracy.
            There is also a huge number of quests in this game.  By my count there are over 200 and most don't offer Trophies or Achievements.  These quests usually involve the main factions and the independent towns throughout the Mojave and determining their fate.  Getting sidetracked from the main storyline is easy as a result and you could spend twenty hours on the game before even getting to New Vegas.
            You are also able to recruit a number of companions in this game and much easier to control then in Fallout 3.  For one thing, they don't die unless you kill them or if the game is in hardcore mode.  They just get knocked out.  There is also the Companion Wheel, that enables you better command your troops such as telling them to wait, be aggressive, to watch your back or to keep your distance.  Each of these companions also has a personal quest that involves their past, culture, or family.  Sometimes these quests improve your characters or have the opposite effect depending on the results of the quest.
            Another noteworthy part of the game play is Hardcore Mode.  This is a mode that requires you to eat, drink, sleep in order to survive and makes for a much more challenging game.  Failure to do these things will result in death.  Ammo is also given weight, limiting the amount you can carry.  Healing items, such as stimpaks, heal over time, rather then immediately and broken limbs can only be healed by a doctor or a doctor bag.
            If there is one bad thing to say about the game play it's that it is glitchy as shit!  These glitches  include but are not limited to enemies falling through the ground, problems loading, frequent freezing, and delays in pressing buttons and the reaction of your character and nearly make the game unplayable.  Maybe this was due to the programer laziness, to a tight budget, or due to the changing of people who hate you but who can say.   A lot of these glitches are being fixed by downloadable patches for the game that have already come out or are going to come out in the near future.  Regardless, the glitches are their and it's nearly a fatal flaw in the game play.
The Characters
            Unlike its predecessor, Fallout: New Vegas did not have a great cast of characters.   While your companions and their quests are interesting the rest of the characters often come off as wooden and cliched.  Mr. House tends to come off as your typical mafia/CEO overlord, Caesar as an insane but driven leader, and Oliver as your typical pencil pushing officer.  Ron Perelman reprises his role as the game's narrator and Mathew Perry does the voice of Benny or the man in the checkered suit.  Kris Kerstofferson also has a role in this game but it's so obscure that its actually possible not to encounter his character throughout the game. 
            Danny Trejo and Zackery Levi provide their voices for companion characters, but are also obscure and missable as are most of the companions in this game.  The companion quests are interesting and it's cool to see how a lot of these characters started out and to help determine where they go.
The Verdict
            All around this game was decent.  It was everything I expected but nothing more.  It was incredibly distant from Fallout 3 in the way they took its plot.  Their was no Enclave, the Brotherhood of Steel's involvement is minor, and Super-Mutants and Gouls are rare.  In this game, the true horrors of the wastelands are the people around you where there are no true villains, only the lesser of a number of evils and is more about prospering in the waistlands rather then just surviving in it.  It show guts on the part of the developers that they were willing to take a different approach to this game whereas the plot of Fallout 3 sometimes just felt like a remake of the first two.  But unfortunately the plot just wasn't as compelling as it was in 3. 
            The game suffered from flat characters and a huge number of glitches and sometimes seemed like it borrowed to much in game play from 3.  The environment, however, was great and was truly a unique thing to bring to the gaming world. 
            If you liked Fallout 3 I say give this one a play but just don't be expected to be blown away the same way you were with the last game.
All Around

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy Verdict

My final take on The Sword of Shannara trilogy is one of mixed feelings.  Sword was an unforgivable ripoff of Lord of the Rings.  At the same time, however, I felt it was far more enjoyable then Lord of the Rings.  The Elfstones of Shannara was easily the strongest of the three in plot and protagonists.  Wishsong of Shannara was very close in quality as Elfstones but went back to that campy, feel good, everything’s going to be ok type ending.  At the same time it had some of the greatest characters ever put in a Shannara book.
            They all also seem to be among the founders of all the modern fantasy cliché.  These include, but are not limited, to a protagonist with royal ancestry, average Joe’s becoming heroes, and, the worst fantasy cliché ever, the protagonist getting captured.  In nearly every Shannara book this happens with little to no purpose, other than having an elaborate escape, or to introduce new supporting characters. This tradition would carry on to nearly every fantasy franchise that exists and is one of the most unforgivable things about the series.  Lord of the Rings may have been the first, but these were the books to really popularize these clichés. 
            If you're a hardcore fan of old Tolkien style fantasy then I say give these books and others by Terry Brooks a read.  If not, then skip them and go for books by Joe Abercrombie or Robert Jordan.  Until next time, this is The Illusive One saying “Thanks for Reading.”  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Wishsong of Shannara

Three years after finishing The Elfstones of Shannara, Terry Brooks wrote the final book in what would eventually be known as The Sword of Shannara Trilogy.  This book was The Wishsong of Shannara.
            The book takes place a little over twenty years after the events in Elfstones.  Wil Ohmsford is now married and has two children.  He has a daughter named Brin and a son named Jair who both have innate magic due to Wil's actions in Elfstones.  The plot revolves around the origins of the Warlock Lord and the source of his power.  It is revealed to have been an ancient book, known as the Ildatch and in order to destroy this book and its evil once an for all, the druid Allanon recruits Brin to help him penetrate a great swamp that holds the book.  Standing against them is an army of gnomes and servants to the power of the Ildatch, known as Mord Wraiths who will do all in their power to stop them.
            Parallel to Brin's journey is Jair's.  He is recruited by a benevolent creature, known as the King of the Silver River, to purify the corruption the Mord Wraiths have caused, and to aid Brin when her quest comes to its end.
            While not quite as good as Elfstones, this book is a great edition to the series.  Brin and Jair were forgettable protagonist, but this book introduced some of the greatest supporting characters of the series.  These characters include Slanter, an abrasive gnome tracker.  Initially hired by the Mord Wraiths to track down Allanon, he becomes a reluctant companion in Jair’s quest and one of his best friends.
The book also introduces the character of Cogline, a half-mad man, with a knack for explosive powders and would be a major character in future books.  This was also the first book to introduce the creatures called Moor Cats and the reptilian creatures known as Mwellrets, who would have roles in many more of the Shannara books. 
In this book Allanon’s character has changed once again.  In Sword he was a leader, not unlike to Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring.  In Elfstones he was a warrior druid who did a lot of the fighting himself.  In this book, he came off as a world weary old man, who seemed like he was trying to finish his work before he dies.
The most noteworthy of these characters,however, is Garet Jax, the Weapons Master.  He's the ultimate fighter of the series, able to kill anything in his path with any weapon and searches the world for an ultimate challenge that will truly test his skills.  While a little cliched by today’s standards, he's a great and mysterious character who was undoubtedly one of the best in the Shannara series and it's a bit of a shame that this is the only book he appears in.  He joins Jair on his quest only because The King of the Silver River promises him that he will have the fight of his life when the journey comes to its end.
            Another noteworthy creature is the Jachyra.  It's a demon that the Mord Wraiths summoned to guard certain areas, who's claws and teeth poison not only the body but the sole as well and make for great creatures for the protagonist's to fight.
            This book also probably has one of the highest death rates in the Shannara books, as many major characters die, giving a darker feel to it.  It was also the first book to bring forth the idea in the series that magic is addicting and is as deadly to the wielder as the wielder's enemy.  The groundwork for this had already been in place in earlier books but this was the first to really bring the concept out and would be repeated many times throughout the series.
            The ending was a bit campy but conclusive and Terry Brooks could have easily ended the series here.  Oddly, the book spawned a short epilogue story called  Indomitable and a comic book entitled The Dark Wraith of Shannara that continued the journeys of Jair after Wishsong had ended, but neither are required reading to understand the series.  While this book wasn't quite as good as Elfstones, it was close and I would recommend reading it if you like the previous two books.

All Around

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Elfstones of Shannara

            Following the success of The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks immediately started working on a sequel to it.  And after five years we got what was, in my opinion, the greatest of the Shannara books, The Elfstones of Shannara. 
            Taking place fifty years after Sword the book starts in the Elven capital of Arborlon where it is revealed that the magical Ellcrys tree is dying, loosening the spell that bars demons from the world.  In order to restore this tree, the Druid Allanon recruits Wil Ohmsford, grandson of Shea Ohmsford to guard an Elvin girl named Amberle as she carries one of the Ellcrys' seeds to a mysterious place where it can be shaped into a powerful new force with a Demon known as the Reaper hot on their trail.
            Their isn't much to say about it other then it is a great improvement over Sword.  The characters are more real, the battles are just as epic, the villains are far better, and the chase with the Reaper was well done. 
            Wil was a much sharper protagonist then Shea and was all around more believable.  He is initially distrustful of Allanon and never looses this distrust, wary of the druid's plans.   Amberle was a great, dynamic and believable character.  She doesn’t want the responsibility of carrying this seed and I doubt many people would either.    
            The Dagda Mor was fascinating as the leader of the Demons, if a little cliched.  The Changeling kept you scanning the characters for any suspicious activity and kept the tension up away from Wil and Amberle.  The chase with the Reaper made it the best of the three as it killed anything in its path in order to kill its target.      
            Even the druid, Allanon, had improved from the first book.  The fact that the Ellcrys is dying makes him confront his own mortality, and causes him to seriously think about about a successor to his work.  He is much more involved with the story and the deceptions he uses have greater impact on the characters then they did in Sword. 
            Terry Brooks has often said that The Elfstones of Shannara is his favorite of the Shannara books and most fans, including myself, agree.  The idea of magic barring demons from the world would be used countless times after this book was released and eventually became a cliche of its own.  Unfortunately, it still has that same campy, cliched feel to it that Sword had.  The ending was heart breaking, but at the same time made you hopeful for the future of these characters and leaves you eager for more.  This is a good fantasy book and I recommend it to any fantasy reader.

All Around

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Sword of Shannara

            As mentioned in my first entry I will be doing movie and book reviews as well as video games.  To start off on my book reviews, I shall be going back to 1977 when fantasy and science fiction were nearly extinct genres of fiction.  I don't exactly know why this was, but from the 60s to the mid 70s both of these genres seemed to be non-existent in the media world with only a few exceptions like Lord of the Rings or 2001: A Space Odyssey.  I've heard speculation that this was because of the Vietnam War and people were more interested realistic fiction and anti-hero movies and books but this was before my time.  Regardless of the exact why, both genres saw a revival in 1977.  The revival for fantasy is what I'll review today.  This is The Illusive One's The Sword of Shannara Review.
            When it was first published by Del Ray books in 1977, the book remained on the New York Best Seller List for five months.  It has spawned 12 sequels, 7 prequels over the past 33 years and the author, Terry Brooks, has at least 5 more books planned for the series and many have been best sellers.  But for all that it spawned, was the book itself really that good?
            Well, to tell you the truth, it's a collection of fantasy cliches.  An ancient creature known as the Warlock Lord has returned and is planning on conquering the world with his unstoppable army.  The only one who can stop him is the half-elfin, son of an innkeeper, Shea Ohmsford, who's told by a seven foot druid that he is the last of an old elfin royal bloodline, the Shannaras.  The only way to defeat the Warlock Lord is for him to use an ancient sword against him that only Shea can use. 
            My first thought was, “Oh my God! It's The Legend of Zelda!”  How wrong was I.  To sum it up in single sentence; It's a Lord of the Rings rip off that borderlines plagiarism.  Any hardcore fan of the books will hate Sword of Shannara for this reason and probably only this reason.  That aside, it's actually, in a lot of ways, better then Lord of the Rings.  And before you get pissed off at me, allow me to evaluate.
            Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings knows that the book is ridiculously drawn out and boring.  It seemed like it described every step the characters took in vivid detail while the parts you actually care about, (the battles), are vaguely described, give almost not detailed, and just seem to tell you the results of said battle.  Sword of Shannara, however, seems to add everything Tolkien missed.
            With that aside the book itself is well written and worth the time it took to read it.  It has not, however, aged well at all and seems like the founder of fantasy cliches and that's what it is.  It's good verses evil, no vague lines for the characters to trip over and no middle ground.  My advice is to skip this one and read The Wheel of Time series or the books by Joe Abercrobie.  The initial sequels are better but this one only worth reading for them and is outdated and ignorable.
All Around

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Reviews

Well, that's it for my promotional reviews.  I hope those of you who read them found them informative and interesting and helped to decide if you would be interested in the sequels of these games.  As I play and beat these games I'll post more reviews and you can decide if you want to get these games yourself.  Until then this is the Illusive One saying thank you for your time.