Dawn of War III: Solid Campaign That Began in a Buggy Game

   It has been a while since I’ve done a game review, and this seems like a good way to kick off the year. I only review games after I’ve completed the campaign as I’m a hardcore completionist and can’t see the review as valid unless I have. Cheats don’t count, it has to be from ability and me learning how to play the game. The “Dawn of War” Franchise is also one of my favorite series. I’ve been a fan of Warhammer 40K and the universe it is based in for a few years now. My favorite factions being the Orks and Tyranids closely followed by the Tau. Xenos (the term in the game for aliens) are best.  The game was created by Relic Studios with Sega in partnership with Games Workshop.

So, how does “Dawn of War III” hold up compared to the ones who came before? It isn’t nearly as fun as the first game (and there are less starting playable factions) the game started out really buggy and used to crash everytime I tried playing the campaign when I bought it in a sale last year but the campaign has one of the best stories and enriches the characters and lore in interesting ways. What this means for my final score and overall appraisal I get into below.

The story follows the arrival of a giant Craft World (Eldar Planetship) that arrives out of the warp leading to Blood Ravens led by Gabriel Angelos, the Orks lead by Gorgutz and the Eldar lead by Macha vying for control of what is within as their competitors within their own faction (be they leader or same or similar rank) try to usurp them for the Spear that lies within.

SPOILERS ahead

The Cons:

The Bugs When I First Bought the Game – When I first bought the game I’m glad I bought it on a sale and for cheap, so to anyone buying it this what I recommend. This game will never be worth full price, especially not as it is currently. I was excited to play given I knew the characters from the first game, but the campaign kept crashing. This happened for a full week before I uninstalled and it took reinstalling months later for them to have fixed the issues. For those who are so devoted they beat the game with that bug, I have no idea how you did it. It doesn’t matter how beautiful or fun a game is if you can’t play the game.

Over-dependence on Hero Units – This is a game where you depend too much on Hero units but the build time isn’t as fast as “Warcraft III.” I pretty much had to adapt to playing the game more like “Dawn of War II” which is primarily units, heroes and upgrading them and applying that to a game that I enjoyed as an RTS. If they took more cues from “Warcraft III” this wouldn’t be a problem. In “Warcraft” your heroes help but they can lose on their own, it also takes more to bring them back to life so the cost is higher. If you aren’t giving them enough support, they will fall. I saw this in “Dawn of War III” but so much of it was waiting. If you could hold off long enough in any map you’d be unstoppable and in endgame that really shows. Heroes are fun, especially in the final mission but a company should never build a game off them. Even “Warcraft III” and “Starcraft II” knew the importance of your hero supporting an army.

Lack of Factions Compared to Earlier Games – The very first “Dawn of War” game had 4 factions. 4, reskin but different play-style of “Space Marines.” This game has none of that. You fight demons, but they are never playable. There isn’t any reason for this, given you can see units of the different factions being re-skinned to be the Demons being an option later on in the campaign. This was just lazyness. We at least got Chaos Space Marines through all of the first “Dawn of War” series and this game won’t even give the basic of the last 2 games where in each 4 were at least playable in multiplayer. This is cheap, I don’t care how beautiful the game works if you can’t even do the basic of the series that started your franchise in the first place with at least something to counter it that matters.

The Pros:

The Graphics and Cinematics – This is a beautiful game. I’m putting this as a pro because even though it is small I do enjoy how this game works. Hell, a better version of this game would be a re-vamped version of the first game. So I will give credit where it is due. The graphics in this game look like how I imagine the characters to look. It is “Starcraft” versus “Starcraft II” in appearance and I do appreciate that. It also leads to better graphics in regards to storytelling and the story is the strongest part of this game. I think they were going for what “Starcraft” and “Stracraft II” had with 3 factions but they had already set base expectation of 4. If 4 was even in multiplayer and the Daemons or another faction were included more that would have made this game go from enjoyable to good.

The Overall Gameplay – The gameplay is solid. Hero units are key to fighting (I can see them trying to be “Warcraft III” and “S In “Dawn of War III” the heroes drive the narrative and that creates a lot of fun for the missions. I liked what happened with playing as the heroes and what you unlock as they level up (it is much more slowly so when I play the game further in the future curious to see what that means). I like this got back to the RTS roots of the “Dawn of War” franchise in the end. This was why I finished the campaign. There is still strategy in how you use your units to defeat the mission and I really enjoy coming up with strategies to complete objectives in these types of games.

The Campaign – The campaign was my favorite part of the game. I’ve enjoyed this series since the first “Dawn of War” and the expansions that came after it. I’m still trying to get “Ultimate Apocalypse” mode to work but once I do I will eventually have a review for you there too as I get more enjoyment out of an RTS than the squad based combat of “Dawn of War II.” Without giving too much away the 3 faction leaders mentioned above (Macha, Angelos and Gorgutz) face off against a Daemon Lord as they (in the case of Gorgutz) or the faction leaders (Macha and Angelos against the ones who had brought them to the Craft World where the showdown takes place) lead to the feeding of the Daemon’s power and awakening it. This is Warhammer 40K so it goes all in on how crazy things get. This leads to some amazing gameplay in the later missions and a final battle between Macha, Angelos and Gorgutz against the weakened Daemon Lord. Defeating it felt amazing and as someone who has always loved the Orks, I loved seeking Gorgutz take the Speer that triggered it all when it no longer had power. The campaign made the game worth it for me as I enjoy the lore so much.

This is a game that could have been so much more. There is a reason I keep recommending it as something to buy cheap. To fix the most basic of problems they could have solved all the bugs first so someone buying it months after the fact wouldn’t have the campaign crashing every time and they could have added the Daemons as a factions. All you have to do is reskin some Orks and Eldar and add some Daemons and hero units and you are set. Beyond laziness I can’t imagine why they did that. I still love RTS games and this is the last RTS game that was “Dawn of War” since the first one. “Dawn of War II” was all about the squad which I’m still getting used to (reason you haven’t seen it reviewed yet). I appreciate building armies in an acocalyptic universe and giving my all. This one had this with the heroes and the last half of the campaign and I did enjoy it…but this is a game only for fans who are a part of this universe. It doesn’t rise above the fans of 40K and even cheapens them out. Buy this game cheap and you’ll have a good time but NEVER buy this at full or even half price. This was Sega and Relic going basic and giving the most basic of fans of wanted who have been following the series. Still enjoyed the game, but it never reached good. This game is enjoyable and nothing more. I would only recommend as a sale for fans of this universe. The campaign made the game worth after the bugs were finally fixed.

Final Score: 7 / 10. Would have been a solid 8 if it hadn’t been so buggy and they had a 4th faction like the last 2 “Dawn of War” games.

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Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews – Episode 4 – The Protoss Campaign – The Survivors’ Story

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We begin the “Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews” with the Protoss campaign and right where we left off at the end of “Starcraft.” The Overmind has been destroyed but the Zerg are running  rampant across Aiur.

The story begins with Judicator Aldaris wanting to stand and fight against the Zerg, but Zeratul offers an alternative as the Protoss Conclave was destroyed fighting the zerg. His alternative is to escape with the Protoss to the Dark Templar homeworld of Shakuras being lead by Zeratul and the new Executor Artanis. Fenix and Raynor defend the Warp Gate on Aiur side for them to make their escape. Once there they find the Zerg followed them through the Warp Gate. From here they find the Dark Templar they are brought to the Dark Templar Matriarch Raszagal. She works with them to wipe out the Zerg and says she forgives but will not forget what the Conclave did in persecuting her people.

From her they learn they can use a Xel’Naga Temple to destroy the Zerg on Shakuras but they need two Crystals, the Uraj and Khalis to do so. They destroy the Cerebrates guarding the Temple and Kerrigan arrives warning of a new Overmind. When the Matriarch chooses to listen to her Judicator Aldaris leaves and Artanis, Zeratul and the Templar work with Kerrigan with getting the Crystals from the United Earth Directorate (one of the new Terran threats that has arrived) and Daggoth’s Swarm and the Infant Overmind who are using one of the Crystals to help the new Overmind incubate. After getting the Crystals they return to Shakuras.

At Shakuras they learn that Aldaris has rebelled and go to take him out, but right before Zeratul and Artanis do Kerrigan kills him before he can reveal something about the Matriarch in how they have all been manipulated by Kerrigan. Kerrigan is thrown off Shakuras but promises she’ll meet them again soon.

Last is the final assault and Raszagal is acting crazy, saying all non-Protoss will be destroyed who are threats against them. Zeratul calls her on it and she calms down before the final assault and protecting the Temple from the Zerg before it activates and destroys the Zerg threat on Shakuras.

Brood War Protoss Mission Brief

Here is the assessment of the campaign:

The Pros: The Gameplay – The Gameplay is even better than before this time around, though the original missions flowed better in regards to Episode 3 of the Protoss Campaign in the “Original Starcraft.” The addition of the Dark Templar as a playable unit is fantastic though and they make the campaign even more fun as they are extremely deadly and create Dark Archons who can mind control units.

The Cinematics – The cinematics are better than the Original as well, though there are less of them. The only one we see is when Artanis and Zeratul activate the Xel’Naga Temple to destroy the Zerg that are surrounding them. It is a great scene and reminiscent of Tassadar’s Sacrifice.

The Characters

Zeratul – Zeratul is the best part of the mission still, he’s complicated and has a deep devotion to his Matriarch even if he questions her. He is also leading the Protoss from Aiur who were trying to capture and kill him in the last game. He is very much a big picture kind of character still, but not perfect as he gets used by Kerrigan to destroy some of her rival Cerebrates.

Judicator Aldaris – Aldaris is there as the warning sign, he knows what Kerrigan’s up to from the beginning but because of his pride doesn’t tell the others. This costs him his life in the end as Kerrigan kills him, but he leaves a legacy of things to come as he was the only Protoss not in Kerrigan’s pocket. He dies a hero in the end.

Fenix and Raynor – These two are best buddies and Zerg Hunters. There interactions are fun to watch as they risk all so the Protoss can escape to Shakuras, I do wish we could have seen more of them. Fenix was one of my favorite from the original game.

Kerrigan – She is a great threat in this. She manipulates everyone and there are hints she has further designs as she tells Zeratul she will see him again soon. She also is shown to have some sort of influence of the Matriarch Raszagal of the Dark Templar. We get the beginning of her plans in this mission as the end of the “Original Starcraft” had warned us about.

Okay/Good: The Ending – The Protoss are finally safe, except for the fact that Kerrigan said she would see them later. One Zerg threat dealt with, another still remains and has the upper hand…

Okay: Executor Artanis – Way too idealistic. Guy wants to be Tassadar but doesn’t have much of a character. I hope he gets development in “Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” right now he is neutral, not much is known about him or his motivations except his idealism. Tassadar was for more interesting as he had to make choices and was an outsider among his people. Artanis is just a standard idealistic Protoss.

Matriarch Raszagal – We never know why she forgives Kerrigan but can’t forgive the Conclave as both were killing her people. This was a major plot hole and it hurts her character. She is still okay as she is the eldest of the Dark Templar and her friendship with Zeratul feels real. The problem is not knowing how deep Kerrigan’s manipulations are on her which limits her character and character development.

This is a fun campaign but not as good as the Original. The politics don’t feel as real and Aldaris just disappears before he is an enemy, Raszagal’s motivations aren’t fully explored and Artanis is a flat character. It was still fun, but the last Protoss Campaign was better. This was good though, even with those story problems.

Final Score: 8 / 10

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Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews

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After finishing up the “Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews” I decided it was time to move on those of the expansion. They, like the original will be posted sporadically as this is for fun and a chance to review one of my favorite games…while at the same time seeing if the story holds up.

Blizzard has always been very good at expansions, “The Frozen Throne” of “Warcraft III” was better than the original “Warcraft III” in my opinion, and I remembered “Brood War” being better than the original Starcraft. Whether that is still the case now remains to be seen in both cases.

The characters of “Brood War” like the “Original Starcraft” are pretty amazing and part of what pulled me into the story, beyond the fun gameplay and civilizations. Blizzard has always done politics and mythology well.

After I complete the “Brood War Reviews” I’ll be doing a compare and contrast with the Original and giving them both a final score in finding which one is better. Reviewing videogames can be quite fun, especially when the storytellers are those at Blizzard. Thanks for joining me for the next adventure. Here goes the “Starcraft: Brood War Campaign Reviews.”

Wreck-It Ralph (2012): The Story of Outcasts, Healing and Purpose

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Talk about nostalgia, as a gamer the references to specific games and types of games alone was enough to find joy in this film, and to top it all off it had a great story. Before I go into more detail though, the film is “Wreck-It Ralph.” As a kid who used to love arcades and a person who still loves arcades this film captured part of what makes arcades and gaming as a whole so wonderful.

“Wreck-It Ralph” was directed by Rich Moore, who was also one of the story writers. It was produced by Clark Spencer and the screenplay was by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, with the story by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon. As can be seen, there is a lot of overlap on folks who helped make this movie happen which is why I think the world and story were so solid going in. It looks like a collaboration.

The story of “Wreck-It Ralph” is that Wreck-It Ralph is tired of being the bad guy and outcast in his game and when he’s told by the townsfolk he’ll be accepted if he gets a medal he jumps games in the arcade and goes Turbo, from here the story unfolds as he shakes things up in the worlds between the arcades and Fix-It Felix is sent to bring him back.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The animation – The animation is amazing. It flows, it captures retro games when it needs too and the characters in 3-D look great (Sonic, Bowser, Pac-Man Ghost, etc.) it is a beautiful film to look at, especially the dark world and shooter of Hero’s Duty and the whimsical color of Sugar Rush.

the Music – The music has electronic feel to it and is memorable and fun. I loved the soundtrack, Henry Jackman was good at integrating video game music throughout which further enriched the world that had been created.

The World – All video games are connected and the characters interact when the arcade is shut down. It is kind of “Toy Story”like that way. There is interaction between characters and you understand people’s fear of getting shut down as they are left homeless or destroyed as what happened when Turbo tried to hijack a new racing game and what he does later.

Sergeant Tamora – A character designed with a traumatic backstory who over the course of the film deals with the loss of her husband on their wedding day. She actually reminds me a lot The Bride from the “Kill Bill” films. Jane Lynch is fantastic and she has to be one of my favorite characters in the film. She is the one who teaches us about the threat of the Cy-Bugs (bugs that adapt by becoming whatever they eat and who are programmed to expand like a virus). She is a wonderful character, though her romance with Fix-It Felix was kind of unnecessary.

Vanellope – Is a glitch in sugar rush who is persecuted because she is different. The Candy King sees her as the biggest threat and she is the rebel who helps Ralph find his heart. She reminds him of something more to fight for and is the one who is willing to risk for others in the end too. She is the most selfish initially outside of Ralph, but both of hteir arcs involve finding each other and caring for everyone else when they find they are or were alone. Sarah Silverman was not annoying and did the kid sister role really well.

Fix-It Felix – He doesn’t really have an arc beyond getting awareness outside of himself (a theme of this film) but he still doe a good job. He eventually gets beyond his privilege and peer pressure from the townsfolk’s tower he always fixes when Ralph wrecks it in the game. I think Tamora helps him realize this when he sees just how lucky he’s had it when her back-story is referenced. He has funny expressions in his speech that make him adorable and he is a kind guy.

Wreck-It Ralph – Ralph reminds me a lot of the character of Shrek, except without all the cynicism, he genuinely wants acceptance and will go to any lengths to get it. It makes him interesting as he isn’t the guy who doesn’t care, he cares but goes about it the wrong way as well as having his code against him in regards to his awkward size that destroys things. When he finds his heart at the end it is fantastic as he puts himself at risk for Van and she does the same for him. He finds community in the end and it is done in a believable way. John Reilly was perfect for this role, though at times i thought it was very John Goodman like too.

The Themes – The themes of the outcasts finding acceptance and love is beautiful and done really well. There weren’t any characters I didn’t like and it was good at showing how wanting to be accepted and fit in can lead to selfish and selfless actions.

The Final Fight – Cy-Bugs, Van glitching to save Ralph has he activates the Mentos volcano.

Okay: Candy King/Turbo – He was an okay bad guy, I don’t get why he wanted to go Turbo and conquer all the games given he had things pretty good in the Candy Kingdom. His issue with Van I didn’t understand either. Did he expect to always win? He wasn’t a horrible villain but I wouldn’t call him great either. There hasn’t been a good one of those that wasn’t Pixar and from Disney though since…since Disney did 2D animation. None of their 3D villains really stand out if they aren’t made by Pixar. Cool design after he absorbs the bugs (how did he absorb the Cy-Bugs?) for the final is cool though and he does feel like a real threat in the film for what it’s worth. I wish Alan Tudyk had been given more to work with.

Cons: Some of the puns – Some of the food puns got a little out of hand…again this is from a guy who makes tons of puns and generally likes puns. At times this movie made too many.

I got to say, I loved this film. The characters were fantastic, even if the villain wasn’t great…the world and music were amazing…if you’ve ever played video games you’ll find a lot to love about this film. It’s not as great as “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” but still a favorite nostalgic film after today. I highly recommend it.

Final Score 9 / 10. Solidly great.

The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 3 – The Protoss Campaign – The Journey of Tassadar

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“You speak of knowledge, Judicator? You speak of experience? I have journeyed through the darkness between the most distant stars. I have beheld the births of negative-suns and borne witness to the entropy of entire realities… Unto my experience, Aldaris, all that you’ve built here on Aiur is but a fleeting dream. A dream from which your precious Conclave shall awaken, finding themselves drowned in a greater nightmare.” -Zeratul

We continue the “Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews” with the final episode in Original Starcraft. The episode picks up where the Zerg campaign left off with the Overmind established on Aiur and how the protoss try to defeat it.

The story begins with the Judicator ordering you and Fenix to protect Antioch, after your defense Tassadar appears and tells you and the Judicator that the Cerebrates control the Zerg. You as Fenix attack but are unable to defeat it as it reincarnates. Fenix is left to defend Antioch as you are asked to free Scion as Fenix falls in Antioch. There is a cinematic here of the Fall of Antioch of Fenix standing alone against the swarm.

Feeling comfortable in their power the Conclave (the Religious Order who runs the Protoss Government) asks you to hunt down Tassadar and bring him to justice. You find Tassadar on Char with Raynor and join with them in order to find and free Zeratul and his Dark Templar who are being held captive by the Zerg in an infested Terran facility. After you save him you are attacked by the Conclave and denounced for siding with the heretics as Raynor and Fenix who has been put into a Dragoon shell fight with you agains the Conclave. After a fight with the Conclave Tassadar gives himself up for justice to stop the Civil War.

After the fight Fenix and Raynor rescue Tassadar from execution with Zeratul and his people arriving at the end to facilitate the rescue and to show Judicator Aldaris how blinded he and the conclave are by tradition. For Zeratul is ancient and has seen the darkness between the stars and the full danger of what the Overmind has planned.

Next is preparation for the final assault, you, Zeratul and Fenix are tasked with killing two Cerebrates with Zeratul’s Dark Templar energy (the only thing that can kill them) to weaken the Overmind’s defenses. After you do this it is the final assault.

It is here we learn more of the mythos and the Xel’Naga quest for the perfect life form which the Overmind plans to become by consuming the Protoss and after consuming all sentient life in the Universe. Judicator Aldaris calls you to apologize as he saw how the Dark Templar destroyed the Cerebrates and only wishes that he and the Conclave had been smarter sooner as they call Tassadar the best of them. This is the last stand to stop it as it has established itself as the greatest threat. In order to defeat it Tassadar uses his Templar and Dark Templar energy to kill it after your assault destroys it’s outer shell. From here there is an awesome cinematic and we are left with the epilogue.

The epilogue says that Aiur is destroyed even though the Overmind is stopped and that the Queen of Blades Kerrigan now sees this opportunity to rise in power. Setting up “Starcraft: Brood War.”

Protoss Campaign Mission Screen

Here is the assessment of the campaign:

The Pros: The cinematography – This one has the best cinematography, largely because we get character moments…from Fenix’s fall at Antioch or Tassadar’s sacrifice to destroy the Overmind. We also see Fenix and his fleet working with Raynor and his Raiders at one point too during the quest to free Tassadar.

Gameplay: The is the most difficult campaign up to this point, which is good. It lets you feel the full threat of the Conclave and the Overmind and each mission provides unique challenges and resource management in order to defeat the larger more powerful enemy.

Judicator Aldaris – The Judicator is awesome as the voice of the Conclave, he is a traditionalist who believes in the assigned roles within Protoss society, and truly cares for Aiur and his people. We see that he is capable of growth too as he realizes he was wrong about the Dark Templar and Tassadar at the end and sends his wishes with them. Tassadar is always a counter to him throughout most of the missions as he sees the bigger picture and Zeratul is there to how just how out of his depth this character is as he has no retort against everything Zeratul has seen in his travels. I liked this character as he wasn’t a villain, he was your ally, antagonist and once again ally at the end in the fight against the Overmind.

Raynor – Joins with Tassadar to save Zeratul and later with Fenix to save Tassadar. You get the feeling that after being used by Mengsk he was looking for a higher calling and he found it in the fight to save the Universe. He has his Battlecruiser at this point too and it is great to see his friendship and respect grow through working with the Protoss. He is the only human  we’ve seen so far to do so.

Fenix – Fenix is the soldier and grunt who is one of the military leaders on Aiur. He is noble but has an open mind as he becomes friends with Raynor after fighting with him against the Conclave and the Zerg and works with the Dark Templar even though they’ve been deemed heretics by his religion. He has a great design too, in both his zealot and dragoon form.

The Overmind – We never see it’s perspective but we feel the threat of it, as well as learning of it’s quest to become Perfect by consuming the Protoss and later consuming the Universe. It is pretty awesome and gives us even more of a reason to fear and respect it than we did playing for it during the Zerg campaign. It is for this reason it’s defeat feels real and Tassadar’s sacrifice actually means something.

Zeratul – Zeratul is the dark wizard of this mission. Which is interesting since when you meet him he needs to be rescued from Kerrigan’s Zerg assault we witnessed last campaign. He is a rogue element to the protoss but always comes through. He believes that the Dark Templar need to protect the world that was once their home even though it is painful in the process. He is also the only one who can kill Cerebrates and is the one responsible for training Tassadar how to use both Dark and Light Templar energies. He is one of my favorite characters for sure. By his nature he is the refugee trying to survive, but he is able to be more as it is thanks to him they can defeat the Overmind, and sadly thanks to him the Overmind discover Auir in the first place when they shared minds when he killed his first cerebrate.

Tassadar – There is a reason I made Tassadar part of the title. This is his story. We saw him the Zerg campaign learning the ways of the Dark Templar, we saw him in the Terran campaign destroying infested planets and learn later he chose not to destroy ones that could fight back on their own…both of which got him blacklisted by the Conclave. From here he is seeking balance. He wants so badly for there to be peace on Aiur but is attacked by the Conclave up until Zeratul, Fenix and Raynor free Tassadar from them and they defeat two of the Cerebrates together. You see his sadness at what the Civil War in his people wrought and the loss of his planet of Aiur. It is for this reason you can understand his sacrifice. He cares for those who persecuted him and he isn’t perfect…as he thought any protoss could defeat the Cerebrates at first (didn’t realize until later only Dark Templar energies could) and he gives himself up for justice, which almost leads to the cost of the Universe as he is the only one who wields both Dark and Light energies.

Okay: General Duke – He appears on Char and says that it is Dominion Space. Tassadar threatens him and comes off pretty cruel as he says he maybe should have glassed some planets if there were people like General Duke around. They fight and you don’t see him again, there isn’t much there.

I can’t think of any cons to this campaign beyond Duke not getting much character time. There is politics via the Conclave versus Tassadar in the Civil War on Aiur as Aiur burns…there is the mythos of the Xel’Naga and the Overmind’s quest for perfection in order to consume all (and the fact that the Xel’Naga are not recognized as good since they were trying to create the perfect life forms (their elevating of the Protoss), and Raynor, Fenix, Tassadar, Zeratul and the Judicator are amazing characters…and the Overmind is the biggest threat. You understand why it was the end boss fight after everything it destroys in the Terran, Zerg and Protoss campaigns. It is the only consistently valid threat that has Universe changing consequences. Character actions mean something and characters change. Zeratul stands in the light, Tassadar stops running, Judicator stand with the Heretics and Jim finds a reason to fight.

Final Score for this campaign is 10 / 10. Does everything it needs to do and what I want out of a story…as well as establishing a future threat via the loss of Aiur and the rise of Kerrigan.

“En Taro Adun!”

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Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 48 – What is Reality? – The Riddler’s Game

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“What is Reality?” is an all around great episode and one of my favorites. The premise begins with the return of the Riddler who is stealing money from all electronic sources and erasing all records of the existence of Edward Nygma. It comes to a head when he leaves virtual reality game that he traps Commissioner Gordon within and Batman and Robin have to rescue him.

Pros: Robin – Robin is great in this episode. Once again we see why he is Batman’s protege with him being the puzzle master who is able to help Batman through the games that the Riddler poses. It is implied together they would have beat the Riddler if the Riddler hadn’t locked him out of the game.

Commissioner Gordon – Gordon is fantastic in this one too and is the one who needs rescuing…which we haven’t seen for a while. This is the time we see him powerless before the public as the Riddler is taking everything without consequence. We also see his inquisitiveness get him into trouble when Riddler uses it to trap him in the game.

Batman – Batman’s deductive skills are on display here as he solves every riddle the Riddler poses and uses to defeat the game and remain in control of himself as well as find where the Riddler was controlling everyone from. He even manages to trick the Riddler to getting stuck in the game himself.

The Riddler – This episode shows what I hope we see of the Riddler when he appears once more on the big screen. In virtual reality the mind is the greatest thing and we see that here as he uses it to trap Batman and Gordon and keep Robin out of the game. He manages to wipe away all record of his existence as Edward Nygma too fully becoming the Riddler. This version is by far the greatest of all the Riddlers and the one I hope is used as inspiration when we see him again in the movies (using hacking to reek havoc and trapping the heroes in a virtual reality game). His defeat is sad (trapped in his own game in a coma) but we know he gets out of it at some point.

The music – Captures the mysteriousness of the Riddler. Also, I love the Riddler’s theme music.

Puns – The Riddler’s are largely world play and puns but never overused…and quite intelligent when said puns are enemies in the game used to try and kill you. Hats off to the Riddler.

I highly recommend this episode. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect is the Riddler not being able to escape like he did in his first appearance. Still a sold story though that I’m going to give full points too. It was a fun ride and showed why Riddler is one of the greatest rogues and what made this Riddler so memorable.

10 / 10.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014): A Great Approach to a Space Marines and Alien Invasion Story

Edge of Tomorrow

“Edge of Tomorrow,” directed by Doug Liman has along with “Pacific Rim,” helped re-establish my faith in original Sci. Fi. stories in regards to Hollywood. I’ll get into the why in the assessment, but first the premise which in and of itself is promising.

It is loosely based off the Japanese light novel “All you Need is Kill,” where Rita’s name comes from as well as the origin and name of the mimics and the UDF (United Defense Force). After watching the movie I look forward to reading it in full.

Edge of Tomorrow is about Cage (Tom Cruise) a corrupt army officer who is conscripted into the final battle against the mimics (the aliens who have conquered nearly all of Europe), resisting every step of the way he is on the battlefield and it is there he kills an Alpha (mimic general) and get’s it’s blood in his system which allows him the powers of the mimics to repeat each day. From here it is him being trained by and working with Rita (Emily Blunt) to stop the mimics conquest of Earth.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The premise – Is awesome! He’s basically living in a videogame, but the A.I. (other characters) can end his infinite lives if they give him a health pack (Blood transfusion) rather than killing him…it makes thing at stake, not to mention the trauma of having to die again and again “Groundhog Day,” style. The premise is fascinating since it’s ties to videogames are more subtle than other movies (“The Gamer,” etc.).

The technology – The United Defense Force (UDF) has a unique take on Space Marine outfits. They are mixture of modern day but also have new and old things (robotic arms that can fire attached to the back, and in the case of Rita’s character – a sword). You can tell they took tribute from Warhammer 40K and Starcraft (two of my favorite sci. fi. worlds).

The Characters – It would have been easy to make all the characters stereotypes…but the movie resists that. Tom Cruise’s Cage being a media relations slimy coward (reminiscent of Wikus from “District 9,”) is great. Cruise usually always plays likable characters so it is nice seeing him play someone who will die a bunch of times before he finally learns to be a decent human being.

Rita – Emily Blunt’s character Rita is awesome. Nicknamed “The Full Metal Bitch,” she is tough and complex…a commander worth following and someone who has been hardened by war but can see the bigger picture because of her getting the ability that Cage had at one point earlier before the film takes place.

The Squad – Cage’s squad of criminals is pretty awesome. They each have interesting quirks that set them apart from others in this genre. From the guy who doesn’t wear pants and lets it all hang out, to Ford who took his friend’s place after his friend was killed, to Nance who is a bit crazy.

The military/United Defense Force – Isn’t perfect in this, it isn’t some jingoistic tribute to them like most Michael Bay and Oliver Stone movie…it is a bunch of human being in a tough situation trying to deal with it as best they can. You see this in their fear of Rita and Cage when they find out about their abilities and to their following “The Plan” of the invasion of Normandy even after Cage and Rita have proven they see that it will fail. The good (heroism against the invasion) and bad (unquestioning loyalty above all else, distrust of new ideas or things) is shown really well in this film.

The tribute – The invasion of Normandy as a tribute to D-Day is handled well too. The human cost is shown by Cage living the failed invasion (in this universe) each day. You get to know the characters and what drives them. Their, “So what’s?” in regards to what they do.

Okay: The script – Didn’t have fantastic writing, but was okay. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t elevate anything since it tried going for a pretty weak trope that I’ll go into in the cons.

The cinematography – The cinematography isn’t anything special. It is better than Doug Liman’s other stuff (the Bourne Series) but that isn’t saying much. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great.

The Mimics – A lesser version of the Tyranids and Zerg. There were some interesting ideas with them but like the Muto in “Godzilla,” they weren’t fully realized. Found the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim,” more compelling. These guys weren’t bad…but the Tyranids and Zerg (where I think the inspiration came from) have a lot more complexity as a species. The Mimic’s Omega (Think Zerg OVermind – controlling brain), is just kind of their and we don’t get their motivations. Cage says their motivations don’t matter at one point, but I disagree – motivations make a peoples or individual compelling.

The Ending – It leaves you thinking if it’s all just in his head and if the Omega came back…since it never explains how he’s repeated the day with them victorious. This kind of takes away from the sacrifices and they go with the implied romance at the end again…when that was one of the weaker parts of the film.

Cons: The Romance – Rita (The Full Metal Bitch) falls in love with Cage (Tom Cruise). What the hell? We see no reasons for this, since she is a pretty asexual character, devoted fully to her cause. She saves his him multiple times, but also kills him multiple times. The friendship eventually makes sense…it is her learning to trust again, not the romance.

The sexualization Rita – A lot of times her character is shot in such ways that sexualize her for Cage. From her doing Yoga (and you hearing a really strong breathing in) to her kissing him at the end. Again, she’s the Full Metal Bitch…Cage is never comparable to that…in the end he is an average corrupt Joe who becomes more…but not someone who seems to interest her in any way at all. It was tacked on and brought the film down. If they wrote her differently it would be more believable, but not for the character we see and come to know.

I recommend this film highly. It is no “Pacific Rim,” (see how Rita was handled) or “District 9” (Tom Cruise is no Sharlto Copley) but it is a really good film. Not the best this summer (that still goes to “Captain America: Winter Soldier” – Which I saw months before starting this blog) but it is an enjoyable experience and manages to change some tropes and handle other sci. fi. tropes in such a way to create a really compelling story. One of my favorite films for sure and the best Tom Cruise Sci. Fi. film since “Minority Report.”

I give this film an 8.4 / 10.