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.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review Part 7

            Wow!  I'm glad that's done.  That was easily the longest review I have ever done or probably will ever do.  Before I go any further let me just thank those of you who stuck with me through all six articles and through this one.  So thank you.
            Well as my articles tell, I loved this game.  It did have its faults, like all games do, but the good out shined the bad.  It had great characters, a great, if clichéd, plot, and a great setting for it all to happen.  Awakening was good, if not what I expected and the DLC was hit or miss.  The game, the expansion and all the DLC is available in Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition and I would highly recommend getting it if you haven’t already played Dragon Age.
            Dragon Age II is due for release on March 8th and from what I know about it, looks like Bioware has ironed out all the bad things I had to say about Origins.  And that's all I have to say about Dragon Age: Origins.  Once again, thank you for reading, keep on gaming, and keep reading.  Until next time, this is the Illusive One signing off.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review Part 6

           Well, my Dragon Age review is almost over.  In this article I'll be getting into the last three pieces of DLC released for Dragon Age.  It's Part 6 of my Dragon Age Origins Review.

Leliana's Song

           Leliana's Song was released on July 6, 2010 and allowed you to play through Leliana's background story, taking place several years before the events in Origins.  This one, in my opinion, is the most flawed of the three.  Of all the characters in Origins, other than Alistair, Leliana is the character you’re given the most information on.  The game completely rewrites her back story, having it take place in Ferelden rather than the Orlesian Empire, shamelessly uses stock setting from Origins and Awakenings and adds nothing new to the game.  A very ignorable piece of DLC.

Golems of Amgarrak

           Released on August 10th, 2010, Golems of Amgarrak takes place sometime after the end of Origins.  You once again take control of your Gray Warden as he/she goes into the Deep Roads to investigate the disappearance of a dwarven expedition.  The expedition was searching for the lost Amgarrak Thaig whose people were dedicated to finding the secret to creating golems.  Unfortunately, instead you find horrible things that are borderline Lovecraftian. 
            This one happens to be my favorite piece of DLC of the three.  While it did have boring characters and reused settings from Origins and Awakenings it made up for it in its horror type suspense, enemies, difficulty level, and it's ever changing environment that has to be seen.  Easily the best of the three.

Witch Hunt

           The final piece of DLC for Dragon Age: Origins was released on September 10th, 2010.  One year has passed since the end of Origins and reports have reached you that Morrigan, the witch from Origins, has returned to Ferelden.  Along with your dog, you set out to investigate this news.  It's a decent but flawed piece of DLC.
            The characters introduced were far more entertaining and once again their interactions with your dog make for comedic gold.  Like the last two, it reused settings and environments from Origins and Awakenings but made no effort to hide it and has a lot of continuity issues.  It offered only one new enemy and even that one's place in the game made no since.  Objects and groups also appear in areas you had already been and offer very thin explanations as to why.
            The last thing to address about it is the way it was promoted.  Bioware and EA advertised that Witch Hunt was the end to your Warden's story and that it provides closer to Morrigan's.  It did none of the latter and your Warden is still active at the end of game.  If anything it was more of a teaser for Dragon Age 2 and was flat out infuriating at the end.  But unfortunately it seems like an essential piece to the Dragon Age story and is worth getting

            And that's the last of the Dragon Age DLC.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review Part 5, Awakening

          Well, I've gotten through the first four parts of this review and now it's time for the expansion to Origins.  Now this one will contain spoilers for Origins as it takes place after the events of Origins so consider this your spoiler alert.  It's time for the Illusive One's Review of Dragon Age: Origins Part Five, Awakening. 
The Plot
            The game takes place about six months after the end of Origins.  At the end of Origins, whoever is the ruler of Ferelden gives a land in the north of the country, known as the Arling of Amaranthine, to the Gray Wardens as new base of operations.  As the new Warden Commander of Ferelden, it is up to you to eliminate the last vestiges of the Blight and restore order to the poorly governed arling.  Things, however, are not as they seem as the darkspawn seem more intelligent and seem to be split into different factions that war against each other as well as the other races.

The Gameplay
            For the most part the gameplay was the same.  The only thing Awakening added were additional sets of skills, spells, talents, weapons and armor for the characters.  On the grander scale, it was more or less up to you to rebuild the arling and the fortress of Vigil's Keep.  In addition, you have to make governing choices for the land, root out opposing factions, restore law and order, and make choices that will affect the arling for years to come.

The Characters
            Awakening did have a decent cast of characters but unfortunately they weren't as compelling as those from Origins, mainly due to limited time with them.  Like the companions from Origins, you have to build on their approval meters either through your actions, your dialoged choices, or through gifts and this affects how well they fight for you.
            Strangely enough, the only companion character to return as one is Oghren who is still just as hilarious as ever and just as useful in combat. 
            Another noteworthy character is Nathaniel Howe, son of the treacherous Rendon Howe.  Having been in a land north of, Ferelden known as the Free Marches, Nathaniel Howe returns home trying to enact vengeance against you but is drafted into the Wardens after he proves his skills.
            Other noteworthy characters include Anders, the wise-cracking human apostate mage, Velanna the bigoted, Dalish Elf, Justice the Fade Spirit  who inhabits the dead body of the Grey Warden Kristoff, (play the game for further explanation), and Sigrun the strangely chipper and suicidal Dwarf and former member of the Legion of the Dead.
            Last of the characters to note are the villains.  First there was the Mother, a kind of mutated Broodmother Darkspawn who is intent on destroying everything the way darkspawn usually do.  Then there is the Architect.  While he is a leader of the darkspawn, he doesn’t seem to want to fight against the Gray Wardens and people strangely join with him willingly and his position on things makes for a few great endgame twists.
            All around the characters weren’t as good as those in Origins but were still good.

The Verdict
            All around, Awakening was better than I expected but worse then I hoped.  I think I was expecting a sequel and not an expansion and that's why it was worse than I hoped.  If you liked Origins then I would absolutely recommend playing it.
 All Around

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review, Part 4

           Well, it's time for the Illusive One's Review of Dragon Age: Origins, Part 4.  As I said on my previous post, this one will be dedicated to some of the strange things about the game; just little things that I loved and hated about the game.
           For starters were the graphics.  I mean, just look how cartoony they are in comparison to other non-Nintendo games that have come out in the past few years.  There are often graphical glitches that you wouldn't expect in this generation of gaming such as limbs going through cloths or weapons just disappearing into the ground when a character gets up.  It kind of seemed like Bioware got lazy in this department, (they were probably more dedicated to Mass Effect 2).

           Then there is the blood in this game.  I mean, good God, it just gets everywhere.  Even a single stab just splatters in unexpected ways.  And it stays on you!  I mean the only way to get it off is to travel or have your dog lick it all up.  Yes, your dog can lick you clean of blood.  Make of that what you will. 

           There are a few oddities I noticed with the plot as well.  For example, even if you didn't use a certain origin story there are references to the character you could have played as.  Another has to do with the human noble origin story.  A character introduced at its beginning was Arl Rendon Howe, voiced by Tim Curry, (his image is to the left).  Now how obvious is it that guy would betray you?  I mean come on!  He looks like a rat and he's voiced by Tim Curry.  What more warning do you need?

           The last thing I wanted to note were a few references made to other pieces of media.  Towards the end of the game you have to rescue the queen from Loghain and to get her out she dresses up as a guard.  A possible response to this; Aren't you a little short for a guard?  If you don't know what that's from may you burn in fires of Hell.  The last one to note is a completely random event.  A meteor falls to the earth with a baby inside of it.  Somehow it survives and a local couple adopts it as their own.  WHAT THE HELL?!  Is that foreshadowing a possible alien invasion to Thedas?  Is there going to be a Dragon Age version of Superman who's going to save the world?  Oh well, whatever.  It still makes me laugh.
            And that's it for part four.  If you've stuck with be this long, please stay and continue to do so.  Next is the expansion to Origins, Awakenings.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review, Part Three

           Well, it's time for part three of my Dragon Age: Origins Reviews and today I'll be discussing five pieces of DLC that came out for the game.  Four are direct addons to the main game and the last was a kind of an alternate scenario to the game's ending and I feel that none deserve an entire post to themselves.  Each is relatively short and cheap so I'll keep my review of them like wise.  It's the Illusive One's Reviews of the Dragon Age: Origins DLC The Stone Prisoner, Wardens Keep, Feast Day Gifts and Pranks, Return to Ostogar and The Darkspawn Chronicles.

The Stone Prisoner
            The Stone Prisoner was released when Dragon Age came out and was free for those who bought the game before April of 2010.  This piece of DLC gives you the mission where you recruit Shale the Golem and her companion quest.  Absolutely worth the price and a great piece of DLC.

Wardens Keep
           Wardens Keep was also released upon the games launch and gave you a new mission.  In it, you are recruited by Levi Dryden to investigate a place known as Solder's Peak in order to redeem his family name.  In the process you find out exactly why the Gray Wardens were banished from Ferelden.  After beating it, the game allows you to store your excess items at the Keep and gives you access to new sets of weapons and armor. 
            For what it was, it was a good piece of DLC and worth what it cost, (on XBOX LIVE it was 400 Microsoft points or five bucks).

Return to Ostagar

           Return to Ostagar was a piece of DLC with a number of problems.  First was its release date.  It was originally scheduled to be released in the holiday season of 2009 but was pushed back to January 10th, 2010, but was released on the 13th and withdrawn again due to bugs, and finally released for good on January 29th but the PS3 version wasn't released until March 14, 2010.  Unfortunately it wasn't worth the wait.  There were so many continuity issues with it, such as the quests, convenient places to find the items you need, and the ogre that killed Calin just happens to be right where he died when all the other bodies are gone.  Truly a missable and lazy piece of DLC.

Feast Day Gifts and Pranks
            Feast Day Gifts and Pranks was a piece of DLC that gave you items that could make your companions either love or hate you.  In other words, it's for people who don't want to take the time to say the right things to your companions or to do the right missions.  But personally, I don't like it and thought it was a waste of money.

The Darkspawn Chronicles
           In this piece of DLC, released on May 5th, 2010, play as a Darkspawn during the climax of the game.  In goes under the assumption that your character died at the beginning of the game and that Alistair had to lead the armies against the Darkspawn.  While it simply reused the cut scenes and sets of the climax, it was still fun to kill your way through all of the companions and supporting of the game

           And that's it for part three of my Dragon Age: Origins review.  A little hint at what's to come; for part four I'll be discussing some of the strange, interesting, and annoying things of the game.  So look at that if that kind of thing interests you.  If not, just skip to part five, where I'll be discussing the expansion to the game, Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings.  Until then, keep reading.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review, Part Two

           Well, now it's time to finish my review of the main game.  It's the Illusive One's Review of Dragon Age Origins, Part 2.

           The combat gameplay of this game is not unlike that of World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XII, where the basic attacks are done automatic with you triggering special attacks and the usage of potions.  In truth, I'm not much of a fan of this kind of gameplay and it nearly made me regret buying it but it made up for it in everything else that it had.
            As you level up in this game, as with most RPGs, you gain different sets of skill points that you put towards your character.  For starters, you have your skill sets which allow you to select the skills you want.  These include, but are not limited to, speech abilities, trap making abilities, poison making abilities and potion making. Next there is the talent area.  These are determined by what class of character you choose.  For example choosing a mage will give you spells for your talents while being a warrior will go towards how you use your weapons.  The third to note are you attribute points which go towards your strength, dexterity, willpower, magic, cunning and constitution and the way you choose to use these determine which skill and talents you can use.  Finally, there are the specialization points.  Unlocking these gives you more talents to choose from and can make for some interesting and useful abilities.
           Next you have weapons and armor.  The kinds you can use are determined by your class and you can only use them if you have a certain number of attribute points.  For example, a warrior can only use certain kinds of weapons and armor if his/her strength is up to a certain level and a mage can only use certain staffs if his/her magic is up to a certain level.
            Then there is the companion system.  As you would probably expect from this kind of game, your companions are a diverse group of warrior, mages, and rouges.  Beyond your camp you can only take four people, including your character, out to fight.  Their leveling system is nearly identical to yours with only a few skill and talent sets missing, (you either obtain them on your own or your companions have no use for them).  How well your companions fight is determined by how much they like you, displayed on a meter on the characters' record.  Depending on how high your or low these meters are a companion may leave your group, may try to kill you, may consider you his or her best friend, or can become a romantic option.
           As the game progresses and you try to recruit the races to your cause, you always find the situation with potential allies worse then you could imagine.  This in turn leads you to make difficult decisions that have lasting effects on the regions and races and often makes you choose between what is good for the races you are defending and what is good for fighting the darkspawn.  As a result you fight a huger verity of enemies that include darkspawn, demons, werewolves, golems, and more organizations, cults and other enemies then I can remember.

           My God, I still haven't even gotten into the characters.  Now there are way too many characters for me to go into so I'll just stick with the companions and major supporting characters.  There are a potential of nine different companion characters to recruit to your cause.  The first is Alistair, another new member of Gray Wardens who is a funny but idiotic warrior and has a black and white view of good and evil and makes for interesting companion.

           The second is you dog who you get to name.  As a noble, he is your dog from the start or you recruit him in Ostagar after helping him with a sickness.  Part of a breed of dogs known as the Mabari, your dog is extremely intelligent and, while a ferocious fighter, makes for comedic gold with your other companions and different situations.

           Next is Morrigan, a witch raised outside of the Circle of Magi, who tends to have a darker view of things.  She is recruited after her mother rescues you and Alistair from the battle at Ostagar and asks you to take her with you for unknown reasons.  She often favors evil actions and her bickering with Allistar is just hilarious.

           Then there is Sten the Qunari, a member of a race of abnormally tall humanoid creatures with bronze skin, who comes from an unknown land south of Thedas.  He was imprisoned after he was found and confessed to the slaughter of a farm family who helped him when he was near death and you recruit him, promising a chance at redemption.  He is a silent, stoic type of character and finds Ferelden strange and is frequently homesick.  His confusion and bigotry towards Feraldon makes for hilarious dialogue and is worth recruiting him just for it.

           Recruited in the same town as Sten is Leliana, the lay sister of the Chantry and former bard.  Like Alistair she has a black and white view of the world and believes that good must and will always triumph over evil.  While initially she isn't very interesting her, background adds more depth to her character.

           Then there is Oghren in warrior dwarf.  You recruit him in the dwarven city of Orzammar after you help him try to find his long lost wife.  His character is a complete drunk and this makes for the best and funniest dialog in the entire game.

           Recruited at the Circle of Magi Tower is the old mage Wynne.  You recruit her after dealing with the problems at the Circle tower.  A veteran of the Magi Circle, she often offers you words of wisdom and tells you stories of allegory that make you think about your actions in Ferelden.

           Then there is Zevran, the assassin elf.  He is sent by Loghain to kill you but ops to join you after sparing his life after a battle.  While he is my least favorite of the companions he is still a good character with a disturbing take on the world.

           Finally, there is Shale the Golem.  The only downloadable character, you recruit Shale after finding her control rod but find it no longer directly controls her.  She ops to join you after you release her from a decade’s long state of suspended animation.  She seems to believe that people are of an inferior race and has a hatred of pigeons as they used to poop on her while she was suspended.

           As far as good supporting, non playable character's go, the only one worth noting is Duncan.  The head of the Gray Wardens in Ferelden, Duncan was everything a mentor character should be.  He was smart, dedicated to his order, and was a kind but firm man.  He is definitely one of my favorite mentor characters and I felt it was a bit of a shame that he wasn't in the game longer.   

           As far as villains go, the Arch-Demon was just your typical dragon that had to be slain but the human antagonists were far better.  The one worth noting, however, is Loghain.  While he did betray Cailan and the Gray Wardens, his reasons for doing so are complicated.  It's obvious he loves his country but is wracked with paranoia that everyone is trying to hand it over to their former enemies.

             The last character to mention is Flemeth, Morrigan’s mother.  A mysterious and ancient witch of the wilds, Flemeth's reasons for helping you are completely unknown to you until the end of the game.  Even then you are not entirely sure what her ultimate goal was and seems to be something that will be addressed in the sequel.
            As my stuff has suggested, the characters of this game are great.

The Verdict
            Wow!  That was my longest review ever and I still have five more post to go before I'm done.  But relax; they won't be nearly as long so please bear with me a little longer.  While I'm not a big fan of the combat system of this game or its collection of fantasy clichés, it is still probably one of my favorite medieval fantasy games of all time.  It's a great game so don't miss out on it.

On the Main Game

The Characters

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Illusive One's Dragon Age: Origins Review, Part One

           Back in December I gave you a general look at the games made by the gaming company Bioware but I barely even scraped the top layer of their games and why I enjoy them so much.  With Dragon Age 2's release date rapidly approaching I decided this would be a good time to do a review of Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings, and the pieces of downloadable content that came out for it.  Rather than writing one long review, this one will be divided into seven parts so I can properly address everything.  But for now this is the Illusive One's review of Dragon Age: Origins, Part 1.

The Plot
            The game takes place in the medieval fantasy type world of Thedas, in the country of Ferelden.  The game features six different Origin stories for you to choose from that range from a human noble to an elf commoner, but I'll get into more details of them later. 
            Early in the game your character is recruited by a man named Duncan to join an order known as the Gray Wardens who do everything they possibly can to stop creatures known as darkspawn from overrunning Thedas.  Once every few centuries a demonic dragon know as the Arch-Demon organizes these creatures into huge armies that go on a campaign to destroy everything.  These huge armies of darkspawn are known as Blights and a new one has just begun.
            After proving your combat skills to Duncan he takes you away from whatever life you led to fight the darkspawn.  Your character and Duncan go to the fortress of Ostagar where King Cailan of Ferelden, his army, and the Gray Wardens have been successfully holding off the Blight.  Unfortunately another battle takes place after you arrive and things don't go so well.  Cailan and the Gray Wardens are betrayed by Cailan's uncle, Loghain when he pulls his forces away from the fighting and Cailan and Duncan, along with most of the Gray Wardens, are slaughtered.  Thanks to both luck and help from a mysterious witch, you survive and have to build an army to fight the darkspawn, reveal Loghain's treachery, and somehow slay the Arch-Demon.

The World of Dragon Age
            While this game did, at times, seem like a collection of all the old fantasy clichés rolled up into one game, there were several things that separated this game from the other pieces of fantasy media that I feel I have to address.  There are, however, many different things to address about the world of Dragon Age so I'll just stick to the more interesting and essential things about the world.  The first thing to note is the way mages are treated in this game.  While most fantasy stories have mages being some kind of overlords of the land, in Dragon Age just the opposite is true.  They constantly live under the shadow of the Chantry, (the church of Dragon Age), and their warriors, the Templars with their itchy sword hands who will kill any mage at the slightest sign of “evil” practicing of magic. 
             Another thing to note is the way the elves are divided in this world.  First you have your city elves that live in slums and are treated as second class citizens.  Then you have the Dalish Elves, a kind of wood elf group who live in clans, constantly wandering and are ever at odds with humans.
            Then there are the dwarves who have a strict caste system that separates the warriors, the nobles, the merchants, the blacksmiths, etc.  Unfortunately, there is also the group known as the casteless who are treated like dirt just for being born.  As a result, they often form the back bone of criminal organizations and the underworld of dwarven society.
           The last thing to note with the races is the way the Gray Wardens treat them.  To put it simply, in the eyes of the Gray Wardens, they are all equals.  If someone can fight well enough then they can join the Wardens, whether they are nobles, commoners, champions or criminals.  They also reserve the right to draft anyone into their ranks which can sometimes cause hostilities but makes the recruiting of criminals easier.

           As I mentioned, there are six different origin story lines, each adding a different subplot for  your character and determines how people will react to you throughout the game.  For starters you have your human noble origin story.  In it, you are the youngest son/daughter of a high class noble who joins the Wardens after tragic and treacherous events befall your family.  The second is the mage story where you are recruited into the wardens after helping a friend try to escape the magi tower.  The third deals with an elf commoner who is drafted into the wardens after he kills a noble.  The fourth deals with a Dalish elf who is infected with the taint of the darkspawn taint and has to join the Wardens to avoid a painful death.  In the fifth you are a dwarven prince who is forced to join the Wardens after being framed for the murder of your elder brother.  In the sixth and final you play as a casteless dwarf who proves he can fight just as well as anyone in a social class above him and is forced to join the Wardens after he kills a local criminal boss.
            And that's all I got to say about the world itself.

            Well, that's it for Dragon Age: Origins, Part One.  For info on the gameplay, characters, and my final verdict on the main game, please look at the upcoming article, Dragon Age: Origins, Part Two.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Other Great Games of 2010

           Although they didn't make my top five list, there were many games that came out in 2010 that I feel I have to at least mention and give a small take on.  They won't be in any particular order as they are all from different genera’s and some I never beat.   So this is the Illusive One's Other Great Games of 2010.

Darksiders.  Yet another hack and slasher that came out in 2010 alongside God of War 3, (still haven't played it and it killing me).  In it, you take control of War, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as he battles both Angels and Demons, trying to restore the balance between Earth, Heaven and Hell.  While it wasn't as over the top as the God of War games or as fluent as Lords of Shadow, it's still a hack and slasher worth picking up and playing through.

Final Fantasy XIII.  While the plot of this game was incredibly confusing, wasn't revealed until like halfway through the game and had mostly flat characters, it did have the best battle system of any Final Fantasy game to date.  You may like it.  You may not.  I personally never beat it but I did enjoy it.

Dead Rising 2.  Sadly, I never got the chance to play much of this game but from what I did play, it was awesome.  Running through malls and casinos, fighting endless hordes of zombies and people gone insane, putting together different object around the malls to make devastating, limb dismembering weapons; what's not to love?  And I hate myself for not playing it more.

Super Meat Boy.  Yea the only downloadable arcade game to make the list.  In it you play as...um....well...a square wad of meat named Super Meat Boy as he tries to save his girl friend, Bandage Girl, (yet another square only this time made of, you guessed it, bandages), from the evil Dr. Fetus, who is a fetus in a robot wearing a tuxedo,(I'm not kidding).  Sounds like the Game of the Year doesn’t it?  In it, you will literally die dozens, if not hundreds of time on a single level avoiding all kinds’ crazy stuff that has to be seen to believe.  Check it out if you ever get a chance but try to avoid chucking your controller at a wall.

Fable 3.  The latest in Lionhead Studios Fable Games, 3 takes place during the industrial age of Albion as you join rebels to over throw your older brother for the throne but find that the crown is, indeed a heavy burden.  While it still wasn't as good as the original and had a number of flaws it was still a good sequel and I would recommend picking it up if you liked 2.

Bayonetta.  Yet another hack and slasher that came out in 2010 alongside God of War 3, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Darksiders, and Dante's Inferno, (the latter of which was a big disappointment).  In it, you play as the witch Bayonetta as she tries put together her past, all the while killing hordes of angles to avoid being sent to Hell.  Delightfully cheesy, ridiculous, and over the top, check it out if you get the chance.

Call of Duty: Black Ops.  Yet another game in the long line best selling Call of Duty games, Black Ops was a Cold War based game that, like the Modern Warfare games, had a great plot and compelling protagonists.  In it, you play as various CIA agents as they try to prevent insane Russians from releasing a deadly virus in America.  It also featured a great cast of voice actors that included Sam Worthington, (I always thought he would make a good voice actor), Ed Harris, Ice Cube, and Gary Oldman reprising his role of Victor Rezsnov from World at War.  While the multiplayer was just the same crap we've been play since Modern Warfare the campaign was more than worth my time and had great references to films such as Apocalypse Now and Deer Hunter.  Because of the campaign, this is the only game on this list that almost made my Top 5 List.  Odds are you've probably already played it, but still check it out if you haven't.

And the last on my list.

Halo: Reach.  Definitely the best Halo game to come out sense 3, Reach is Bungie's final game in the franchise, (and could possibly be the last game in the series), and, boy, did they send it out with a bang.  The game is a direct prequel to the first Halo and tells of the destruction of Reach, a major military planet of the UNSC and in it you discover the origins of Cortana and exactly why the Master Chief is the only Spartan Left.  You play as the faceless and mostly silent Spartan known only as Noble Six, the latest addition to Spartan Team Nobel as they battle the Covenant on Reach and slowly but surely die off one by one.  Like a lot of other Halo fans, this was the game I had been waiting for since the end of 3, (although my reasons were probably different); a prequel to the first game that detailed the fall of Reach.  While it wasn't the epic story of a final stand I was hoping for it was a great game and well worth any gamer’s time.  Just don't expect a happy ending.

           Well, that's it for my favorite games of 2010.  Now, you might think it's time to move forward with my game review; start reviewing games of 2011.  Unfortunately that's not going to happen just yet, as I have one last epic review of a game and its DLC and expansions.  And that's coming up next, on the Illusive One's Reviews. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Call of Cthulhu

            Well it's time for another Lovecraft review.  As you may remember, I did a review on At the Mountains of Madness earlier this month and stated that it was one of Lovecraft's best known stories.  While this is true, it's not his best known work and it's his best known work that I'm going to address today.  This is the Illusive One's Reviews and this is The Call of Cthulhu.
            The Call of Cthulhu was published in February, 1928 and I guess you could say it started the Cthulhu Mythos.  The Cthulhu Mythos is more or less a universal term for Lovecraft's stories that have the same characters, locations, organizations, or creatures.  Even if you've never heard of Lovecraft, odds are you have heard of Cthulhu or the Cthulhu Mythos in some form of media or another.  The Mythos' influence had reached beyond Lovecraft's stories and has been featured in film, video games, T.V. series, various forms of merchandise, and, believe it or not, actual cults that follow the Mythos' creatures and ideas.  But was the story that started it all really that good?  Well here's my opinion.
            The story takes place in New England during the 1920's and is told through the point of view of Francis Wayland Thurston, (although I'm not entirely sure they ever say his name).  After the death of his great uncle, he discovers that he, at the time of his death, had been looking into a mysterious cult that worshiped a creature known as Cthulhu.  Thinking he may be able to uncover more about this mysterious organization, Thurston picks up where his uncle left off but finds much more than he ever expected.
            On the positive side, it was a well written story with good pacing and kept you intrigued with the cult and what Thurston would find at the end of his road.  Oddly enough, he never actually sees any of the things described in the story and only tells what other people had written down or told. 
            There were quite a few negatives to this story however.  What some people may or may not know is that Lovecraft was incredibly racist during much of his early life and this transit to many of his early stories, especially Call of Cthulhu. 
            With that aside, there were a number of plot gaps that existed in this story that most hard core critics would use to tear it to pieces.  For example, at the very beginning of the story, Thurston says that he hopes that no one will ever again gain the knowledge he now has.  If that's true then why the hell is writing about all of his discoveries concerning the Cult of Cthulhu?  Another had to with the way he discovers the last piece of information he finds.  He didn't look it up.  He didn't spend weeks on end obsessing over this cult.  He just happens to see a newspaper article in a museum that a friend of his just happens to be the curator of.  If that isn't a major stretch I don't know what it.  The final plot issue had to do with the ending.  I won't spoil the actual ending but it ends with Thurston just waiting for death.  And once again, why is he writing this story if the information is dangerous?           
            All around though, it was a good story.  Despite all of its flaws, it was well written, well paced and kept you wondering what would happen next.  I'm still not entirely sure how so much stuff could have spawned from this simple short story series but it is what it is.  It's not perfect but absolutely worth reading.
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            Until next time this is the Illusive One saying, In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming...

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Prestige

            By now, I'm fairly certain everyone knows who Christopher Nolan is.  In the past ten years he's established himself as one of the greatest directors of the decade and I have yet to see a single film by him that I didn't enjoy.  The film, however, I want to talk about today is one of his more obscure ones that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, especially in the wake of the Dark Knight.  It was the film released in 2006, in between his Batman movies, and in my opinion, is just as good as his others.  This is the Illusive One's Review of The Prestige.
            The film was based and the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest and stars Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie.  It takes place during the late 19th, early 20th century and revolves around two rival magicians as they attempt to steal each other’s secrets and try to outdo each other as their illusions and rivalries turn dangerous and deadly.
            There are a lot of positive things to say about this movie.  It had a great plot, full of twist and various things that kept your head spinning they way Nolan's non Batman movies always do.  Great performances were given all around by both the protagonists and the supporting cast.  What really made this film, however, were Jackman's and Bale's performances.  Both played compelling but flawed characters and throughout the movie you really weren’t sure which you wanted to be the victor.
            The only negative thing I have to say about it is the way the film was put together.  Much of it had a character reading the dairy of another character while this character is reading the dairy of the first character, giving it a nonlinear narrative structure and this can make your head spin and can sometimes be difficult to keep up with.  The last has to do with the ending as it never fully explains the final twist of the movie.  Maybe that's for the better but it never fails to irritate me.
            All around, I would highly recommend this film to any movie lover.  It had a great plot, great acting, and great twists.  It's just as good as his other movies like Memento and Inception so don't miss out on it.

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