Game Review: Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice

For those of you who haven’t heard of this game, please take a moment to view the amazingly epic trailer above.

There is a lot of different reasons why I love this video game.  I’m going to make a list.

  1. It features a Pict as the main character and while it stretches the religion of the Norse, it doesn’t really break it.  The myths themselves are accurate and portrayed fairly well within the context of the game.  The Norse are the ‘bad guys’ in so much as they are the ones who caused the events that set off the story that you play in the game.  The Norse themselves are absent from the game itself.
  2. The graphics were stunning, but what made those graphics so amazing is that the game was actually acted.  The graphics are CGI, but the animations are motion captured and boy does it show.  This is one of the few games where it felt like the characters were actual people, and not something created to behave like people.  The eyes are what usually break that illusion and in this game, they eyes are nigh on perfect.
  3. This game explores mental illness.  The creators actually studied mental illness and had a group of people who actually experience mental illness who consulted on the gameplay and effects.  It explores it in a way that doesn’t pass judgement on those who suffer from these things, but as a way to show folks what these people deal with on a daily basis.  I have yet to find a game that addresses mental illness in a similar way.
  4. It is a shamanistic journey.  Outside of the mental illness aspects, this is a story of a woman going on a journey to save her loved one.  It hits several basic core aspects of shamanism and mysticism in varying different ways.  Combine that with the nordic mythology and it’s no wonder why this game is one of my favorites.
  5. The puzzles were fun and engaging.  Each area required you to think a little differently, yet still allowed you to utilize the skills you had gained in the previous areas.

There are no levels in this game, so you didn’t have to worry about skill trees or equipment.  You immersed yourself into this world and just enjoyed the ride.  It was fantastic.  I didn’t have to worry about character build, the story told you all you needed to know.

It’s not open world, so there is certainly a specific path you had to take, but the story it wove made up for the more ridged outline.  It couldn’t have told the story with the same depth and engagement without giving you a little nudge every now and then.

They added a mechanic where there was a possibility of losing your game saves if you died too much.  I died a LOT and never lost the saves, so I don’t know what that threshold was but it was more than should be needed for sure.

If there was one complaint I had about the game and that was the fighting mechanics.  Senua is slow, and the monsters are fast.  That is okay but it means that in order to beat the fighting scenes you spend most of your time doing two things, dodging the incoming hit, and then following through with a slash of your sword.  No matter what you are fighting, that is pretty much the totality of the combat mechanics.  There is also no way to change target focus until you are hit, or you just so happen to hit the monster on your way to your current target.  It’s not a game killer, but it’s certainly less than ideal.  Luckily the combat was balanced by the puzzles, so in the end the clunky combat didn’t take up the majority of the game.

10/10  I would HIGHLY recommend this game.

Once you have completed your play through make sure to check out the little trailer included with the game, it goes into more detail with how the game was made and the various consultants that they had to make sure it was as true to life as they could make it.  Just be certain to do it AFTER you finish the game as it contains spoilers.

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Image Comics

Are you a fan of comics?  If you are Humble Bundles are your friends.  I’m not getting paid to say that, I just want to share a great way of exploring comics without breaking the bank.

So one of the hardest things for me to do is to justify spending money on a comic series if I don’t know anything about it.  What is it about?  How is the artwork?  Is the story worthwhile?  If you haven’t done any research on the series you won’t know.  This means that unless you do a lot of research, expanding your comic repertoire is difficult.  I want to explore comics!  I want to read off the beaten path stories.  I tend to shy away from your usual titles, Batman, Superman, The Avengers, X-men.  They are all great comics, but they aren’t what I’m looking for.  Give me the weird and unusual, give me the original and unique.  Tell me a story I haven’t heard before.

It’s really hard to find if you don’t already know what you are looking for, lemme tell ya.  So when Humble Bundle provides a group of comics I usually snap them right up, because hey, I don’t have to invest my life savings AND I get to explore comics I may not have heard of yet.  Win/win!

While not every comic I end up getting is a four star gem, there is still a few that are worthwhile that I hadn’t even heard about before I got the bundle.  Good stuff!

Back in January I downloaded their Image at 25 bundle hoping to find a few of those hidden gems.  I already knew about RatQueens (amazing), and Saga (WELL worth the read) and I had just finished reading The Wicked and the Divine (Beautiful and well written), so I figured they had a good chance of having even more comics I might enjoy.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.  I was right! Image Comics immediately jumped to my number 1 spot as my favorite comic publisher.

From the bundle I now have a list of comics I plan on following, or at least catching up on.

Limbo

A detective with no memory, no identity, and no manners. A femme fatale seeking escape from a powerful crime lord. A voodoo queen with a penchant for mixtapes and hi-tops. A goat-eating TV… A surreal neon-noir fusing hardboiled pulp with an 80’s VHS visual aesthetic, dripping with neon and static.

This trippy little gem is sure to keep you guessing to the end, and while it’s full of magic and realm hopping it’s presented in a way so it doesn’t become confusing.  Love it.

East of West

This is the world. It is not the one we wanted, but it is the one we deserved. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the Earth, signaling the End Times for humanity, and our best hope for life, lies in DEATH.

I’m not a big fan of westerns.  Not really my type of story.  So when I first opened this one up I was kinda, meh.  But it isn’t a western, it is SO much more.  It ropes you in early and keeps the pages turning to the end.

Black Road

1000 CE. When a Vatican official under is murdered on the infamous “Black Road” while under the care of Magnus The Black, Magnus uncovers a secret so big it threatens to change the balance of power in all of Europe.

Historical Comics are something I have explored only briefly as my usual comic of choice is sci-fi or fantasy.  This comic will be on my list for a number of reasons.  It is a slowly unfolding saga that, when paired with the artwork, tells a gripping story you won’t want to put down.

Pretty Deadly

KELLY SUE DECONNICK (Avengers Assemble, Captain Marvel) & EMMA RÍOS (Dr. Strange, Osborn) reunite to bring you an all-new ongoing series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher. Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her tale of retribution is as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

This one caught me by surprise.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this one as it starts out as a another Western-like story.  But just like East of West it really isn’t a western.  Add a couple of strong female characters and you’ve got me hooked.

Prophet

On distant future Earth, changed by time and alien influence, John Prophet awakens from cryosleep. His mission: to climb the the towers of Thauili Van and restart the Earth empire. But, news of the Empire’s return brings old foes and allies out of the recesses of the vast cosmos.

Aliens that aren’t remotely human?  Strange worlds that aren’t anything like earth?  A story that keeps you wondering what the heck is going on?  Ooooo boy, I’m gonna be reading this one for a while.

These are just a few of the titles that made Image Comics a fascinating follow.  Anyone else have some comics from Image that they recommend?  Let me know in the comments below!

Midwinter 2017

I spent the weekend at the Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee.  Let me see if I can fully express how I feel about it.

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Hm.  The Doctor is cute, but not nearly excited enough.  The quality of LARP that I got to experience this weekend deserves much more than cute.  I played Tron and A Series of Hauntings this weekend and I have to tell you, both LARPs brought something different to the table.  Tron allowed me to play Alexa, the overly helpful program with minimal access to the forbidden ‘Users’, and A Series of Hauntings was emotionally intense, ridiculously dark and ultimately very satisfying.

The Dystopia Rising mod we ran on Saturday afternoon was fun, and I didn’t even get to play! (I ran the Logistics table, as you do when you are Coordinating Director.) Just watching the players as they left and listening to their excited comments was worth it.  We had 61 players total at the game and 24 of them were new!  I’ve already got emails from the new players who want to come to game.  It is all the little things that make this gamer girl happy.

Let’s not forget the Tabletop events too! I got to play 7th Seas tabletop with John Wick himself!  The new rule set makes playing a lot more fun.  Ussura is still my favorite country!

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There we go.   Thank you Jack, you hit the nail on the head.  I was delighted to be able to hang out with friends I don’t normally get to hang out with and even swing through the vendor room to do some geeky shopping.

Sunday VIP brunch was delicious, and allowed for even more great conversations with good company.

TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I am looking forward to next years Midwinter!

YAY!

 

How did I miss this?

This month’s Humble Bundle is DOCTOR WHO COMICS!

If you love Doctor Who (I do.) and you love comics (obviously), this is a wonderful thing to check out.  If you aren’t familiar with Humble Bundles its a great way to score some amazing books/comics/games on the cheap with a portion of the proceeds going to a charity of your choice.

I have gotten SO many wonderful comics this way.

Don’t miss it!

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I did *not* get paid to post this.  I just really love Doctor Who and comics and figured you might too!

 

Looking Forward Though the Darkness

So for those who don’t know.  I have rather severe anxiety attacks.  Shaking, posturing and blackouts happen if I don’t catch them in time.  It was pretty scary when I first started having them a few years ago, now it is just painful.  The shaking and posturing is really hard on my muscles and it makes me very sore when I wake up.

Yeah, I’m one of those who takes pills for her anxiety, it’s one of the few ways I can catch this train-wreck and stop it before it hits the proverbial wall.  Blacking out isn’t fun.  I don’t enjoy it.  So I take a pill to make sure it doesn’t get that bad.  No shame on my part.  It helps me cope, and I am happy to use whatever means I need to in order to be able to.

These last few weeks have been pretty rough.  Not only on the home front, buying a house is never stress free, work concerns, the declining health of important family members and the like, but also when I look at what is going on in the world.  Sometimes when you are in the midst of darkness, it is hard to see the light.  Police brutality, domestic violence, harassment, and don’t even get me started on the mess that is politics.  It’s all pretty nasty these days.

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Cute little piggie butts!

But if I want to combat the darkness, I have only to look at those people who love and cherish me for who I am.  I only have to look at the beauty that I create with my jewelry and yes, this comic.  I get a smile from a friend because they are looking forward to the next game we host, and the pictures of folks crafts as they prepare their costumes.  All of these joys happen despite the negativity in day to day life.  Little joys like snuggling on the couch with my husband and discussing how we are going to make the new house our own, or watching my husband scroll through the humane society’s puppy pages, dreaming of the pup that we will bring home to join our little family.  It brings me joy to watch as my guinea pigs popcorn all over their cage as we get out the lettuce for them.

Sometimes when the anxiety gets to bad, I focus on those things that remind me that life is actually worth living, and that despite the fact that there are a lot of people out there working to make the world a shit hole, there is still more that are working to make it a better place and I can only hope that when all is said and done, I am counted among the latter.

Speaking of Comics – Lackadaisy

This is my hands down favorite webcomic.  It’s right up there with the Sandman and Fables series in print comics as well.  If you haven’t seen this comic, you are seriously missing out on one of the most well done, beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Have I got your attention?  Good.

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I am a huge fan of the art nouveau style of artwork.  The turn of the century was one of disparity.  Poor people were horrifyingly poor, working in terrible conditions, and yet the rich were living opulent lifestyles that would rival most royalty.  Art Nouveau was born out of the need to blend natural curves and topics to a more modern style set.

It’s beautiful.

Lackadaisy takes that time period and runs with it.  The art is stunning, the line work and the colors are beautifully done, and always fit the mood of the scene.  The details are intricately drawn and draw you into all the little nooks and crannies of the picture.  The artist, Tracy J. Butler, has no problem showing you the grand luxuries of the time period as well as the darkerside.  And they do it with cats.

Yup. All of the characters in the Lackadaisy comic are cats.  Cats, I may add, with amazing facial expressions.  You always know what they are feeling despite not having human facial features.

Tracy is prolific.  They are always putting out comics, teasers, illustrations and a vast array of extras.  They even have tutorials!  I can’t express how much their website is a treasure for artists and comic lovers alike.

The story is about Mitzi May, a young widow who is desperately trying to keep her deceased husband’s speakeasy business open in a time of prohibition.  She and her merry (and not so merry) band of minions work tirelessly to avoid cops, warring factions and angry mobsters, sometimes less than successfully, to keep the Lackadaisy open and profitable.

The cast of characters is large and varied, reflecting the oddities of the world they live in, working class folks, farmers, thugs, socialites and more make the world Tracy writes in as deep as the trouble the characters always seem to get into.

You need to read this comic.

Tracy has one book out and available for sale.

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Speaking of Comics – Blindsprings

If you have ever wanted to read a beautiful comic with a great story, Blindsprings is it.

Kadi Fedoruk is the author and artist on this lovely little comic and it’s clear she puts her heart and soul into it’s creation.  It’s a story about a world torn between logical Academics and magical Orphics, though sometimes that line is blurred when you get right down to the human side of things.

The artwork is stunning, very detailed and super cute without being sickening (I love the way she draws the spirits! Love, love, LOVE!), the coloring expertly done with attention to mood and lighting, and the storyline is interesting from the very beginning.  She is on chapter five as of this blog post and each chapter only makes you want more.  I, personally, can’t wait to see where this story will take us.

If you haven’t made Blindsprings part of your weekly reading, you totally should.

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Speaking of Comics – The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey

Lisa Walker England is a storyteller and artist who inspired me to create this comic.  She started her comic, The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey, several months before I started this one. Her comic is a steampunk tale about Alethia Grey, a woman with a mysterious past.

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In 1880s Milwaukee, a reticent heiress finds herself forced to step into society upon her father’s untimely death. But with her newfound visibility comes a bizarre mystery around the real source of the manufacturing fortune she’s inherited. Will her discoveries destroy her . . . or remake her altogether?

The comic is done in a simplistic pencil drawing and the story is a fun exploration of Alethia’s life. She has done a lot of research into the history of Milwaukee in the 1880s to make sure that her comic is full of life and interesting little details. Currently it only has one chapter up and she is accepting orders for a print book, but word has it she already has plans for the next chapter.

Lisa is also working on exploring different styles of storytelling and her telling of The League of Marvelosities combines quilting, audio and written words to create a full storytelling experience.

Lisa’s enduring bravery when it comes to exploring her art is inspiring, and her smile infectious.

I can’t wait for the new chapter!

 

Speaking of Comics – Next Town Over

Howdy Folks!

Today I want to talk about “Next Town Over” a neat little comic that I found thanks to a friend and absolutely devoured the archives.  One of the things that caught my attention (other than the story, which we will get too in a minute) is the layout.  It’s not laid out like your normal comic.  Erin Mehlos, the creator of the comic has made sure that each panel is unique in frame as well as content.  For instance, if it’s raining, the frame reflects that.  If it is set in a forest, the frame is made of branches and grass.  It is a lovely change of pace from your thick black line that is found in so many comics.  But that is hardly the only interesting aspect of the comic!  The artwork is distinctive and colored beautifully, the characters are well drawn.  The characters are interested and well fleshed out.  They all have a mystery about them, yet are approachable despite that secretiveness.

The story is one that draws you in and makes you question everything.  Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?  Is there even such a thing?  It’s a steampunky western comic with elemental magic overtones, though the true story behind those magical elements has yet to be fully revealed.  To be truthful, very little of the story has been fully revealed and it’s lovely.  There is just enough information to keep your interest, but not enough that you feel like you can stop reading.

Next Town Over is a weekly western, liberally spiced with sorcery, secrets and steam, updating Sundays.  It primarily chronicles the curious rivalry twixt laconic, mechnically-inclined Vane Black and sorcerous rogue John Henry Hunter … and no: it most certainly does not take place in the historical American west.

Next Town Over Webpage

If you are interested in reading a steampunky western comic with strong lady characters, wild adventures and stunning art, you will love Next Town Over, by Erin Mehlos.

 

Speaking of Comics – Girl Genius

Howdy folks!

When one thinks of steampunk comics one of the first ones that comes to mind is the long running Girl Genius.  The first comic on their website dates back to November 2002 so it’s been around a long time.

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Girl Genius is an ongoing “gaslamp fantasy” story by Phil and Kaja Foglio. It started out in 2000 as a periodical comic book, which is collected into thirteen (and counting) larger volumes, and has now won three Hugo awards for Best Graphic Story. Girl Genius follows the career of Agatha Heterodyne–a hapless student at Transylvania Polygnostic University who discovers that she has more going for her than she thought.

This comic has so much going for it.  Reading through the archives you can see massive improvement in the artwork as the story progresses and the artwork actually started out really nicely.  It is fully colored and comes out Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.  Yeah, you read that right.  It comes out three times a week!  It is also printed in 13 (and counting) graphic novels!

It’s story is gripping and wide ranging with a unique world that they have really made their own.  Here is a brief synopsis of the plot without giving too much away.

In an alternate-history “Europa”, mad scientists called Sparks turned the Industrial Revolution into a full-scale war that ravaged the continent, until Baron Wulfenbach clamped down with an iron fist… Enter Agatha Clay, an “adorkable” student who can’t do anything right – until she learns of her “Spark” heritage. She’s the long-lost daughter of storied hero Bill Heterodyne and villainess-turned-good Lucrezia Mongfish. For the first time in a century, hope springs in the hearts of common people as our heroine, now Agatha Heterodyne, learns to mix scientific genius and kindly compassion to regain her heritage and free Europa from mad sparks and tyrannical dictators.

Wikipedia – Girl Genius

In other words… IT IS AMAZING.  It has enough victorian flair to be steampunk, but it just blurs the line between science and magic.  But not enough that the whole thing becomes campy.  It leaves you asking the question, Is it science?  Is it magic?  Who knows, but it’s fantastic.  Some of the two page spreads are absolutely stunning.  The writing can be a bit slow in places, but the dialogue is witty and engaging.  With the main protagonist being an adorably geeky woman who is drawn with a fairly normal body type and is damn intelligent to boot, I was immediately drawn in.  The romance storyline is handled well.  She doesn’t lose all her brain cells when her focus of affection enters the room, in fact, the reason she’s so attracted to him (them…) is because they click on an intellectual level.  I find intelligence SO attractive so this really hits home for me.

The creators balance action, adventure, romance and humor well enough they have kept me hooked for a few years now.  Hard to do with such a long lasting serial.

I highly recommend this comic to anyone who enjoys steampunk comics of all sorts.