Month: May 2015

Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 7

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RIP Old Flaydy.

HkoQwLt - ImgurSeason 5 of Game of Thrones has indeed been a rollercoaster of mixed emotion to some. Whilst certain areas have most definitely dipped due to bad writing, directing or acting, I think that it is important to note that the good outweighs the bad. After season 4’s GO-GO-GO action packed attitude, it’s easy to look at 5 as being nothing but filler. It’s slower, definitely, but not slow. Personally, I thought that this episode was one of the better – they seem to be going in a bit of a pattern: good, ok, good, ok, good etc. The title The Gift is a bit of an odd one; it’s apparent that towards the end of the episode numerous characters have mentioned “gifts” – Ramsay’s ‘gift’ to Sansa, and obviously Jorah’s gift of Tyrion to Daenerys. However, the Gift is also the name of a stretch out land south of the Wall given to the Night’s Watch by an old Stark king. Funny that that wasn’t mentioned at all.

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Let’s kick off by addressing the death of a fondly looked upon character, Maester Aemon. By now, we all know that Aemon was a Targaryen, so I thought I would provide a bit of information on his background, and “Egg.” At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Aemon is already one hundred years old – an outstanding age to reach even by today’s standards…even more-so in cutthroat Westeros. Aemon was the third son of (who would later be king) Maekar Targaryen, who himself was a fourth born and only became king due to a string of unexpected family deaths. As a third born son, it was unlikely that Aemon would inherit the throne (that, and the Targaryen family tree is so complicated that there were tens of potential heirs). As such, he was sent to Oldtown, to the Citadel, to train to be a master at the age of nine or ten. When he completed his training, Aemon was sent back to sit on his father’s small council. However, good natured Aemon thought that this would undermine the current Grand Maester, and so he retired to Dragonstone to serve his older brother, Daeron. After Daeron’s death, many urged that Aemon take up the throne and become king. Aemon refused, and the recommended the crown go to his younger brother, Aegon (or “Egg” for short).  Aemon then took himself to the Night’s Watch, thus quelling any uprising or rebellion that might be sparked in his name against his brother. Aemon served in the Night’s Watch for over fifty years, seeing many commanders rise and fall, including Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen bastard, who went on to become the Three-Eyed Raven (Crow in the books) that Bran seeks out. Aegon’s adventures can be read about in George R. R. Martin’s prequel novellas Dunk and Egg. So, all in all, Aemon Targaryen was a very nice man who gave up the throne and heard about the decline and decimation of his house from thousands of miles away. And now his watch has ended.

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Further on south, we see the Sparrows orchestrating their own decline and decimation of not one, but two great houses. Whatever the outcome of these trials, you can bet your bum that the Tyrell’s name has been tarnished, as emphasised by Olenna’s lack of words during her exchange with the High Sparrow, who is revealing himself to be an extremely dangerous man. If found guilty, Loras and Margaery will be given the Mother’s Mercy, whatever that is. Additionally, if found guilty, I imagine that that’s the end of Margaery’s queenship right there! Similarly, the Lannisters now find themselves in a similar pickle. You may remember that cousin Lancel has a lot of beef on Cersei – including their own incestuous relationship, as well as hers and Jaime’s. This is where the religion of the Seven falls slightly short, though, as Targaryen families would often wed incestuously (causing some ill-fated offspring), and no one really bat an eyelid…not openly, anyway. If the accusations against Cersei prove true (I mean, we know they are), then you can bet your other sweet bum that Tommen’s kingship will be null, resulting in the throne passing to Stannis. This is purely speculation, as the books haven’t gotten that far yet, but I can’t help fearing a little for Tommen’s life. Myrcella’s too, though she is protected in Dorne and I don’t really care about her because this new actress is a bit pants. If Stannis is declared rightful king though, how will the Sparrows respond to his newfound Red God religion…? Either way, karma’s a bitch, Cersei.

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As a side note, the terrifying women that imprisoned Cersei are known as the Most Devout. These are different from the Silent Sisters, who you may or may not know about: Silent Sisters are women who take a vow of silence and swear to serve the Stranger – the god of death. We have seen them quite a few times throughout the show’s history, tending to the dead. Usually they dress themselves in robes and bare a standard with the seven-pointed star on it. If you rewatch the series, have a look at the background detail and see if you can spot them. Make a game out of it. Most Devout, however, are the ruling council of the Faith. They used to serve the High Septon, but since his imprisonment they have become supporters of the High Sparrow. The only named Most Devout in the series so far is Septa Unella, the one that actually grabbed Cersei. Think of them as strict nuns.

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Before I end, I think it’s important to comment on Theon/Reek’s position and why he told Ramsay about Sansa. Reek isa broken man – completely. We have seen this multiple times throughout season 4, such as when he was shaving Ramsay and Ramsay told him about the Red Wedding, or Yara’s awful rescue mission which I pretend never happened (she should have taken a leaf out of Sansa’s book and shouted “YOU ARE THEON GREYJOY!!!”). Theon is petrified of the Boltons. We know what Ramsay did to an extent – physically – but the emotional damage goes a lot deeper. He’s trained Reek like a dog: rewarding good behaviour, but severely punishing any sort of bad behaviour. This is why, I think, he has not told Sansa that Bran and Rickon are still alive – he knows what will happen to him if Ramsay finds out he told. Bad things. Very bad things. But Sansa is strong. She has endured this much, and with Stannis coming in from the north and Brienne watching from the south, I am really hoping that she gets what can only be described as a Game of Thrones happy ending.

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That’s all for this week – nothing else really needs to be touched on. Jorah and Tyrion’s escapades were pretty self-explanatory, with the slavery and fighting pits mirroring that of ancient civilisations such as the Romans (see Gladiator). Meanwhile Stannis continued to become more and more likeable by refusing to burn his daughter. What a nice guy. Though I’m still certain that his batshit wife is going to do it. And Sam…..Sam became a man! Oh my. And even the Dorne scenes weren’t too bad this week! Of course, the real MVP is that brute that cut Tyrion free and Dany’s perfectly ironed dress.

So soft.
So soft.
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Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 6

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Littlefinger….what is your endgame? You crazy man.

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Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, or, Burning Cersei, is the sixth episode of season 5. Gosh we’re already over half way through! Interestingly, this is the third episode to feature a house’s words as its title, the first being the very first episode Winter is Coming, and the second being the end of the first season Fire and Blood. Fun fact. Anyway. Whilst some argue that season 5 has been a bit slow, I think the biggest disappointment is some of the plot changes. Now, this isn’t a book-fan complaining because there are changes; this is a book-fan complaining because some of the changes are absolute crap. For example, Loras’ trial. I have already expressed how they have ruined this bad-ass knight’s character, but what the hell was the trial? Granted, the outcome is interesting, and leads itself into a book-based plotline. However, the way it was executed was absurd: let’s listen to this one lower-class brothel worker against the whole of the royal family. Squires may be required to bathe their knights, which is a perfectly plausible reason for seeing this birthmark. The whole scene just felt rushed for the sake of moving the plot along. And what will happen to OlyvAR now that he has confessed? The Sparrows are ridiculously militant – which means that they should probably kill or torture him (the latter being part of their confession technique, in a fashion). And what was OlyvAR’s motif for confessing? Perhaps Cersei (or maybe Littlefinger?) paid him off? Nevertheless, one man against the entire royal family with no real proof? Not even the Sparrows are that insane. Guess we will see how this plays out…  We alsoOl once again got to see how wet Tommen is, bless him.

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My next aggression is with the Sand Snakes, again. Bronn aptly sums it up: “oh, for fuck’s sake”. These daughters of Oberyn are just ridiculous. Book Sand Snakes, whilst equally annoying, do at least have some logic behind what they want to do – albeit flawed. These guys? No idea. Oberyn repeatedly said that in Dorne, they do not hurt little girls. What do the Sand Snakes want to do? Hurt Myrcella. I think. I don’t even know. What I do know is that fight scene was all a bit too silly. Yes, yes, we understand that these are your trademark weapons, you two-dimensional shits, but really? A whip? REALLY? And Obara, the spear one…Jesus it’s just a bit cringey really! And if that cut somehow festers and kills Bronn, I swear down…! They’re misguided, I get that, but to the extent that I just want them all to die – Ellaria included. The Martells are my favourite family…in the books, but now it just seems to be show-Doran I like. Their resilience, patience and cunning has been replaced by misplaced vengeance and bad acting. As a side note, the setting of the Dornish scenes, the Water Gardens, is a small palace just down the road from Dorne’s capital, Sunspear. Oh, also, how the hell did Jaime and Bronn sneak into the Martell’s PRIVATE gardens in blood stained uniforms? JUST as, coincidentally, the Sand Snakes were doing their…thing. God I’m angry.

What even is this?
What even is this?
Deadliest warrior
Deadliest warrior


Moving on. Tyrion appeared to be the voice of reason, raising many good points as to how Daenerys would probably suck at ruling in Westeros. Jorah’s luck seems to go from bad to worse; not only did he learn about the death of his father, but has also contracted greyscale and been captured. ‘Tis not a good day to be a Mormont (though not as bad as Stark….). If you remember, the reason why Jorah fled Westeros to Essos was because he sold poachers into slavery – so it’s a somewhat ironic twist of fate given the position he is now in. His father was Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jorah’s crimes brought dishonour to his family, much to his father’s disappointment. In fact, the sword that Jon wields, Longclaw, was originally Jorah’s before he left.

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Some quite interesting parallels can be drawn between Cersei and Tywin in this scene. Firstly, we see that she has taken up residence in his old office (is she acting as Hand of the King now…?). Additionally, during her scene with Olenna, the Queen of Thorns (yay!), she uses the Jack Donaghy technique of making her opponent wait, mimicking Tywin’s letter writing performance. However, this doesn’t stop her from getting burned by both Olenna and Littlefinger!

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Before we discuss the ending I thought that I would touch on the Faceless Men. Essentially, these guys are elite assassins. This makes me doubt the Waif’s (the other girl in the House of Black and White) story, as Faceless Men cost an arm and a leg to employ. Only the richest can afford them. They can be hired to kill anyone, but at a lofty price. Furthermore, there is a theory that the Jaqen we see here is not the same as the one Arya met before; rather, Jaqen is just one of many faces! Oooh!

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The climax of the episode (no pun intended) saw an emotional end to Ramsay and Sansa’s dream wedding. Poor Sansa can’t catch a break. Her character has gone a long way since she was last at Winterfell – to the point where she is beginning to become a player. We saw how brilliantly she handled Myranda earlier in the episode. Whilst the consummation of the marriage was awful, I think that she knew what was coming (no pun intended). Now, I’m in no way saying that what we saw wasn’t rape; it was, and it was horrible. But I think that it is important to note that Sansa, to quote producer Bryan Cogman, “isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland.” It was horrible, unfair and quite emotional to watch (give Alfie Allen an emmy!) but she isn’t a silly little girl any more…she knew what to expect. The next question is, how will she react? I am just thankful that they changed this scene from the books, in which Ramsay makes Reek sexually…interact with his new wife (a cut character), which is extremely disturbing.

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To conclude, it seems like episode most counterbalance one good scene with one bad. As I said before, I’m completely happy with a lot of the changes being made (you know, because my opinion matters), just not when they are replaced with flawed, badly written shite. Bring on episode 7, which looks a lot colder…

FaHVORA

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell Review

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Like a Gat Outta Hell I’ll be gone when the morning comes…or in four hours, when you complete this game.

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After the funtastic voyage that was Saints Row IV, my faith in the series was restored. So when Gat Out of Hell, a series spin-off, appeared on sale on Steam, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. If you have played any previous Saints Row game, particularly IV, then you will have an understanding of what the gameplay entails: open world sandbox, lots of crazy guns and super powers. Gat Out of Hell sets off after IV concludes. At the celebration of Kinzie’s birthday party, the Boss is suddenly sucked into a warping vortex and transported to Hell to marry Satan’s daughter. Now it’s up to Johnny Gat and Kinzie to save him/her. As a nice addition, if you have any Saints Row IV data saved on your computer, the Boss will look like your playable character. The story itself will only take about three to four hours to complete…not very long at all. Fortunately, as with all Saints Row games, there are umpteen amounts of side quests…but not always for the better. The story as a whole is pretty funny, going as far as including a wonderful musical number. As you build up a plan to combat Satan, you’ll rally and encounter various deceased characters from previous games – although more could have been done with this – and notorious real life historical figures such as Blackbeard, Vlad the Impaler and, of course, Shakespeare. The cut scenes are also beautifully rendered, albeit with some minor texture issues. However, a lot of cut scenes seem to show what could have easily been a mission, for example, storming Satan’s stronghold. It’s a shame, as rendering these as missions would have provided a few more hours of gameplay, especially since many of the missions are copy-paste ‘go here, kill this, come here’ style. What’s also kind of annoying is that story missions are triggered by the amount of carnage you create in the streets. That is to say, you could be doing one of the many side quests when suddenly you are informed that you have peaked Satan’s interest and are suddenly transported into a story mission. Not a major issue, but a bit of a nuisance.

And Terry Crews-lookalike as Satan.
And Terry Crews-lookalike as Satan.

As mentioned, there is a large number of side quests (or ‘diversions’) to partake in too, such races, mayhem, insurance fraud etc…all the regular Saints Row kinda stuff, with a Hell-y twist. Accompanying these diversions are over a hundred challenges, providing some extra play time…if you’re a completionist. And I mean, a real completionist. Many of the challenges are merely “kill X enemies with weapon A”, “kill Y enemies with weapon B”, which is pretty darn tedious and boring if you ask me. Especially because killing a certain number of enemies triggers a mini-boss, whom when they are killed, removes all enemies from the area, meaning you have to build up more once again. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, but will add a fair few more hours onto your playtime. There are also over 900 collectibles so…yeah.

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As mentioned, gameplay follows what you would expect from Saints Row. Like IV, you unlock various super powers (or ‘halo powers’ in this one), allowing you to perform interesting Hell-themed elemental attacks and even fly. This, of course, makes cars completely useless, which is fine because the driving aspect of the game seems to have deteriorated even more since the previous instalment. The weapons are, of course, pretty brilliant. These range from locust shooting SMGs, lightning hammers, stake-shotguns and, naturally, an armchair-minigun-rocket-launcher. There are also seven special weapons embodying the Seven Deadly Sins, such as a flaming sword and compassion gun. You can imagine what that does.

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You can switch up between Gat and Kinzie at any time during the game, however neither characters play any differently. The only difference is in the conversation. Sadly, this also means that Saints Row’s epic customisation has completely gone – there are no clothes shops, tattoo parlours or plastic surgeons. Despite this, the map is fairly large and, although black and bleak, seems to offer quite a variety of exploration. What was disappointing was discovering various huge tunnel ways under the setting city (New Hades), which has absolutely no use whatsoever.

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Gat Out of Hell is a cool concept, and a nice addition to the Saints Row franchise. However, due to its short life and similarities to Saints Row IV, this feels more like DLC than an actual game in itself. For that reason, I couldn’t really recommend paying more than £10 or so for it, but if it appears on sale then definitely purchase it. If you enjoy the Saints Row games and what they have to offer, then this is a worthy addition to the library. To see my previous Saints Row IV review, click here.

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Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 5

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“Promise you’ll protect me” – Shireen Baratheon to Davos….my God, please don’t be foreshadowing!

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After the rollercoaster ride that was last week’s episode, Kill the Boy, with its ominous title, was a brilliant reminder of how great this show can be sometimes. Apart from the fact that, on the intro map, the Water Gardens is listed as Dorne. I…um…not sure what happened there. Anyway, without any King’s Landing drama, this week’s episode saw us spending a lot of time up North and across the sea. So let’s start at the Wall.

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Jon’s always been a fan favourite, but it’s interesting to see him really take a deserved leadership role, whilst encountering hardships. Moreover, it’s great to see that the King of Grammar, Stannis, is becoming more book-inspired; hopefully, fans of the show will now be able to see why he is such a favourite to book readers. It was even more refreshing, like an ice-cool glass of OJ, to hear Stannis’ ulterior motives instead of just “it’s mine by right” – in this episode, he actually mentions saving the realm from the White Walkers. Previously, it’s just been Melisandre banging on about this, with Stannis uttering his aforementioned mantra. Finally, now, we see that the One True King really does care about protecting his people. However, if TV has taught me anything, it’s that when we get an expositional monologue, or develop a sudden fondness to a character, it probably means they are going to die. This is purely speculation, as book Stannis now spends a few hundred pages trekking through snow, but I fear for the Mannis’ life. Fingers crossed. Will the season end with a Bolton/Baratheon brawl? The title of the episode, Kill the Boy, is taken from a rather pithy quote from Maester Aemon: “kill the boy and let the man be born”. He says this, as we know, to Jon. The meaning of this is pretty straight forward: to become a true leader, Jon must overcome any inhibitions he has about himself (think back to an Alliser Thorne quote – “if [a leader] starts second-guessing himself, that’s the end”). He must metaphorically kill this boy, so that the man inside him may flourish like a flower. But more bad-ass. Of course, with all episode titles, this probably refers to something else. But what….

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Before we move on, I thought I’d give a bit of information about the Citadel, which Sam mentions. In the southwest of Westeros lies the oldest known city: Oldtown. This beautiful port city houses a population of around 500,000, equal to that of King’s Landing, but lacks to squalor of its somewhat sister city. Oldtown is governed by the Hightowers, who are powerful allies to the Tyrells. Notable Hightowers include Ser Gerold Hightower, who was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during Aerys Targaryen’s rein. Oldtown is home to a structure known as the Citadel. Well, multiple structures to be technical. These buildings act as a college of sorts where maesters are trained. I’m sure we are all familiar with maesters now – essentially the doctors, scholars, scientists and academics of Westeros. You may have noticed, through watching characters such as Luwin, Pycelle or Qyburn, that they wear chains. Each link of the chain symbolises an accomplishment, for example, a bronze link represents knowledge of astronomy, where steel is smithing. As you might imagine, the Citadel also houses the largest library in Westeros.

Artist's rendition of Oldtown.
Artist’s rendition of Oldtown.

Anyway, Bolton/Baratheon brawl, etc. etc., “kill the boy”…oh yeah. So I thought that this could also tenuously link to Ramsay’s motifs after Roose announces that his wife Walda is preggo. Ramsay is obviously very worried about his position, but through a heart-warming speech about rape and murder, we learn that Roose does actually kind of care for him. It also allows us to see how evil Roose actually is. Cold, calculating; you would be mistaken for thinking he was a lot like Tywin. But Roose doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty – and beyond. In fact, he rather enjoys it. And so Sansa’s torture begins….

"I'm literally going to kill you maybe."
“I’m literally going to kill you maybe.”

Across the sea then, sad to see that Barristan Selmy is indeed dead. Like I said before, this doesn’t happen in the books, so his death was greeted with a mixed response from many. I am pleased, however, that they addressed how awful it was in the episode – Daenerys says something about him being cut down in an alleyway. But at least Grey Worm still lives! Having served the Mad King Aerys, Barristan served as a font of reason for Dany…but with him gone, one wonders what slightly mad decisions Daenerys might make. Like, you know, burning a possibly innocent man alive. Her quote “we’ll let the dragons decide” could well be a throwback to Aerys, who would often ‘let fire decide’ the fate of those who upset him. Nice to see a bit of gore though, wasn’t it? Feels like it’s been a while. By marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq, Daenerys hopes to bring an end to the bloodshed caused by the Sons of the Harpy. But who is/are the Harpy? Will this appease them? Her story currently parallels what is going on in the books: book Hizdahr, in a similar manner to the show, continuously bugs Daenerys about reopening the fighting pits. Eventually, he outright buys them. Daenerys still proposes marriage, though in a more roundabout way, and he seems a little more eager than he does in the show to accept.

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FATALITY!

 

The episode concluded with a Tyrion/Jorah scene. If you look at a map of Essos, you’ll notice that between Volantis (where Tyrion was captured) and Meereen (where Dany resides) is Valyria. You probably have an informed knowledge of Valyria, but the gist of it is this: Valyria was a metropolis of advancement. Years ahead of any other city in the world, Valyria was the grandest of its time. Dragons flew about the skies, and it was also the ancestral home of the Targaryens. One day, however, the Doom came. Nobody really knows why, but a chain of volcanos suddenly erupted, destroying the city and desolating the land for miles around. Now, it’s a wasteland, with many people believing it is cursed and haunted. Jorah choses to navigate part of the waters for two reasons: it’s quicker, and there are no pirates. There is, however, a more serious threat: the Stone Men. We have been introduced to the disease of Greyscale through Shireen Baratheon. She, however, was cured…albeit horrifically scarred. Some aren’t so lucky. Many of these are taken to this region of Valyria, known as the Sorrows, and left. These Stone Men eventually succumb to the disease, robbing them of their wits and, eventually, life. The disease is contracted if they touch your flesh. Think a zombie bite. Oh Jorah… We see here that he is taking on the mantle of a book-only character called Jon Connington – whose story has been completely omitted – who contracts the disease whilst travelling with Tyrion before he is kidnapped. Phew. Anyway, next week’s episode is titled Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, which, as well all know, are House Martell’s words. Fingers crossed we get to see why they are the most awesomest of the Westeros houses!

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Mortal Kombat X Review

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Over the next 1400 words, I’m going to show you that all of your problems can be solved by punching.

download“Beat ‘em ups”, as a young Jamie used to call them, have always had a twisted place in my heart. I have dabbled in a few Tekkens, Street Fighters and Marvel Vs Capcoms. But, deep down, I’ve always been a Mortal Kombat kinda kid. The game has come a long way since the SEGA Mega Drive days, when I very nearly weed myself in fear after accidentally performing a fatality, to create what is one of the best looking fighter games in years. You know, in a gory, intestiney kind of way.

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…oops.

Mortal Kombat X is a direct sequel to the brilliant Mortal Kombat (2011), so it’s impossible not to compare it to its predecessor. In short….it doesn’t quite weigh up. Not to the 2011 game, and also not to NetherRealm’s 2013 release, Injustice. As with many fighting games, MKX features a story mode. Now, whilst some people may argue that story modes don’t belong in fighting games, I respectfully disagree (and will fight you to defend my point). The story mode adds a bit more bang for your buck, which in this economic climate when games cost £45 you need! Story mode will only take you about three hours or so to complete, but it’s a nice way to expand on the intriguing Mortal Kombat lore. It picks up pretty much where 2011’s MK ended: pretty much everyone is dead, and the fallen Elder God Shinnok is trying to restore his power. The thing is, no one really is dead; it’s revealed pretty early on that pretty much every playable character that was brutally murdered during 2011’s story mode has essentially become a zombie working for sorcerer Quan Chi. It’s kind of ironic that, in a game that thrives on the gory deaths that it creates, death isn’t really an issue. In fact SPOILER ALERT some characters even gets un-zombified and restored to normal, rendering everything redundant. Compared to 2011 MK’s nostalgic reboot, MKX’s story certainly falls short. The whole premise, as mentioned, is trying to stop Shinnok…but, I’m sorry, I just don’t feel threatened by a bad guy that looks like the Monarch. There are some interesting, new characters, but the best ones such as mercenary Erron Black are just side-lined – instead, you are forced to play as tween hero Cassie Cage and her lame friends (apart from Takeda…Takeda is awesome).

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Yes, four of the new characters introduced are some sort of offspring/cousin/milkman of previously existing characters. Mortal Kombat’s character birthday list is ever extensive, with now over 70 characters featured collectively throughout games. You wonder, then, why they choose to bring back characters such as Reptile but leave out fan favourites Noob Sailbot and Smoke? It seems completely ridiculous. With today’s technology, you would imagine that they could perhaps give us an even bigger roster, like that which we saw in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. Fans who pre-purchased the game have been treated to Goro, who non-loyal fans can now buy (shame on you!), which is an issue I will cover later. Fortunately, characters are diverse enough that each one plays differently. Additionally, every character comes with three variations that alter their special skills slightly. They’re not vastly different, but offer enough to change up the flow of combat (sorry, kombat) from fight to fight. The x-ray skill also makes its return, with some very creative ways of breaking your opponents’ bones and testicles. But I find myself more reserved when using them – I’m not sure why, they still appear to do the same amount of damage as they did in the 2011 game (around 30%), but they just don’t seem as awesome. Mortal Kombat’s trade mark Fatalities make an obvious return too. Some of these are absolutely fantastic and tongue-in-cheek, full of gore and splendour. Some…not so much. Quite a few just feel bland and leave you wanting more. Additionally, you can now purchase (with both in-game and irl money) ‘easy Fatality’ passes, allowing you to input the command with one button. This results in the finishing moves being pretty pointless, apart from some aesthetic pleasure. Once, it was an achievement to pull off such a crazy move…but now, anyone with a finger can do it. It’s political correctness gone mad! Thankfully, Mortal Kombat has included Brutalities. These finishing moves require you to meet a certain number of objectives in a match, such as throw three knives or tickle your opponent’s feet, then perform a certain move, resulting in a head or arm being decapitated. These are simple, gory and surprisingly fun ways to end a match. With regards to the actual gameplay and fighting as a whole, it’s never been better. Quick paced, lots of moves and relatively intelligent AI makes this the best fighting Mortal Kombat yet. There are a few environmental interactions that can be used to decimate your opponent (such as throwing an old lady at them), but it’s a shame that we haven’t seen a progression from Injustice’s radiant arenas, allowing fighters to smash through walls or portals into a new fighting zone. There are also no stage fatalities, which was a fun addition dating all the way back to early Mortal Kombat games.

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Outside of story mode and single battles, you can also complete various ‘tower’ modes. The most basic is your classic arcade, in which you select a fighter, beat your way through ten rounds, fight the overpowered final boss, then get a quite badly written story ending. As well as this, other towers include ‘test your luck’ (returning the amusing feature from 2011’s Mortal Kombat), survival and the return of the ‘test your might’ mini-game – though once the latter has been completed once, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to do it again. The absence of Injustice’s challenge mode or, more so, 2011’s challenge tower, is very apparent. The challenge tower in Mortal Kombat added hours more gameplay with interesting twists and requirements, forcing you to alter your playstyle to meet them. Unfortunately, nothing like that really exists in Mortal Kombat X.

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There is also an online mode, which I briefly ventured onto. Naturally, I got destroyed, because these people can input kombos quickly and don’t need to look up moves like I do…losers. It’s not really my domain, so I haven’t explored very far. However, one of the first things you do in MKX is choose a faction. Ooh interesting! Not really. Factions earn points over the week, due to player achievements, and at the end the winning faction gets some koins. Maybe this has a bigger impact if you delve into the depths of online, I don’t know. Koins are used to unlock various things in the Krypt, which thankfully has gotten rid of the terrifying jump-scare monster from 2011’s game. You can unlock various alternate costumes, player cards, and concept art – the latter of which is actually really detailed and interesting if you’re into that kind of stuff. You can also unlock new fatalities (every character has two), though I would save your koins and just look these up online.

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The bottom line is that Mortal Kombat X is what you would expect from a Mortal Kombat game, but lacks some of the aspects that made its predecessor so great, and fails to deliver on new additions. It looks nice, but at a price: the system requirements and memory allocated are pretty extensive. If you’re uming and aring about spending the money, I recommend picking up the Komplete Kollection of 2011’s Mortal Kombat to sate your appetite until this comes down in price. OH SPEAKING OF MONEY! So we have entered an age where day 1 DLC, or at least, DLC announced, has become a regular thing. Upon purchasing Mortal Kombat X, you have the option to buy the season pass. This will allow you to download four additional fighters when they are released (at time of writing, I believe one of them is coming out very shortly). This, on top of pre-purchase Goro, just creates a greedy image of the game’s developers, especially considering there were so many bugs on release.  Pre-purchase incentive should be something small and ultimately meaningless, like some alternate costumes or maybe an additional fatality or two. Not a whole character WHO IS INCLUDED IN THE GAME ANYWAY. Speaking of, there are also some characters that you actually fight in the story mode, with full move sets ‘n’ all, who don’t appear as playable fighters. NetherRealm, what is this? Will you be releasing more characters after these initial four? Will you require me to give you another £20? When will it end, NetherRealm? When?!

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Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 4

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Some humanisation of Stannis!

EbMBWFD

This week’s episode, The Sons of the Harpy, certainly had its ups and downs.  So let’s discuss the lower points before moving onto the arguably better aspects. Firstly, the Sand Snakes. What a load of monkey poo. The Sand Snakes are the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, with various women. In the books, there are eight in total, so you can see why Benioff and Weiss have cut that down a bit, which is fair enough. Naturally, they are pretty pissed off about Oberyn’s death, as is Ellaria Sand. I mentioned before about how Ellaria is partially seeming to take the role of Arianne Martell, who is Doran’s daughter and overall great character, sadly. So why was it a bad scene? Believe it or not, this is largely due to TV-stuff as opposed to “that didn’t happen in the book-stuff”. Book Sand Snakes are still bent on revenge, and filled with anger, so no real problem there. The problem was that their introductory scene was so bland that it was cringey. I think a mixture of bad acting and bad writing is to blame – the Sand Snakes themselves just seem extremely wooden, especially Obara and her bloody exposition. Yes, we understand; you’re the ‘tough one’. And Tyene is a mummy’s girl. Brilliant. Established. Game of Thrones is chocka-full of monologues – some of which are brilliant (Jaime in the bathtub) and some…are not so. This was certainly one of the latter. Ellaria too. She was great in Season 4, but seems to just be so awkward this season. Such a shame – the Martell’s are my personal favourite house, due to the likes of Oberyn, Doran and Arianne. Here’s hoping that we see more Doran action in the next few episodes to redeem this. This is perhaps one of the worst scenes in the series far (though not quite as bad as Yara’s rescue mission of Theon in S4 and Ramsay’s plot armour).

Artist's rendition of Sand Snakes.
Artist’s rendition of Sand Snakes.

Moving on, to somewhere in the middle. We got to see another side to Margarey. Away with the façade of purity and kindness, is this her true face? It was certainly interesting to see the type of king that Tommen is – a bit of a wet wipe. Knock Joffrey all you want, but he would have sorted those religious fanatics good. Their whole ideology, combined with their violent approach, makes the seemingly docile High Sparrow even more terrifying. They represent the Faith Militant – an army that serve the Gods. We discussed last week how big religion is in Westeros, so if it were to come down to crown vs religion, I think we would see a close fight on our hands. Of course, Cersei describing a sinner hid behind gold…could very easily describe her too, couldn’t it?

Before we look at the closing scene in the episode, I think it’s important to note how often Rhaegar Targaryen was mentioned this episode, leading many fans to believe the truth behind a certain theory surrounding this character. By now, you should know all about how Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister), sparking Robert’s Rebellion. It all began at a tourney in Harrenhal. As Littlefinger explained whilst Sansa was in the Winterfell crypts, Rhaegar won the tourney. However, instead of presenting the traditional flower to his wife, Elia Martell (you raped her, murdered her etc.), he gave it to Lyanna Stark (who was with Robert Baratheon). Cue gasps. Rhaegar then kidnapped and raped Lyanna….that is, if you ask a supporter of the Baratheons and North. If you ask a Targaryen supporter, they will tell that Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar; indeed, Barristan himself, a good friend of Rhaegar’s, states how he would go into the town disguised as a bard and sung to the poor folk. Here’s where the theory kicks in. As this is all just a theory, there are no spoilers, but if you want to bypass this anyway JUST IN CASE then please skip down until after the next image.

..ok?

I might well have mentioned this before, but there is a huge fan theory that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon Snow’s real parents, making Jon a Targaryen. There a numerous reasons and nods to this, but I’ll just go over the most basic. Firstly, as Stannis points out in this episode, Ned Stark was extremely honourable (to a fault), so it seems extremely unlikely that he would be unfaithful to his wife and sleep with another women. Secondly, after the Battle of the Trident, in which Robert kills Rhaegar, Ned travels to Dorne to a place called the Tower of Joy. After killing what remains of Aerys’ Kingsguard (excluding Barristan and Jaime), Ned enters the tower to find his sister, Lyanna, dying in a bed of blood. She keeps saying “promise me, Ned. Promise me.” In his point of view chapters, Ned never reveals what he was made to promise, but many fans believe that Lyanna gave birth to Jon and died. Ned promised not to tell anyone the baby was hers because Robert would have had Jon killed. Hence, Ned, sacrificing his honour, pretends Jon in his. There is a wonderful extract in the book detailing the events at the Tower of Joy, which can be watched/listened to here.

 

And there was this. This was  cool.
And there was this. This was cool.

 

Righty right. That last scene. I’ve expressed before my feelings towards Emelia Clark’s ok-ish acting (though she has gotten better), but on top of that, Daenerys has very little idea of how exactly to rule. Can you fault her? Kind of. She had queen-hood thrust on her quite literally in the form of Drogo’s penis. After his death, she makes it her mission to liberate the slave cities in the aptly named Slaver’s Bay. But, ultimately, she has no idea what she is doing. Her people are too many to feed, and she has a massive uprising in the city. She completely underestimates her enemy – an enemy at her front door. Which resulted in the climax of this week’s episode. The Sons of the Harpy are a rebellion group that seems to be comprised of ex-slave Masters and even some ex-slaves, who do not want to live in Dany’s new world. Whilst the final scene of this episode did provide us with some fancy sword fighting, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the outcome. The Unsullied are supposed to be the greatest warriors…well, ever. With such strict discipline, they become master fighters. Even when outnumbered like they were in this episode, they still kick-bum. Arguably, fighting with a spear in such a confined place may be what led to their downfall, but I still think that they should have had a better chance than they did. But then again, they lack ‘real’ combat experience – all they know is training. Whilst the Sons of the Harpy are made up of civilians, some of these may well have been pit-fighters, explaining their skill in battle. Nevertheless, what went down will certainly leave a certain khaleesi most angry. Most angry indeed! This brings us on to Barristan Selmy. Barristan the Bold is one of the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He has so many bad-ass accolades to his name, such as the time he singlehandedly snuck into a fortress after Aerys was kidnapped and rescued him. His skill and mentality reflect that of a typical Arthurian knight. Finally, we got to see him fight. Obviously now he is an old man, and was wearing very little armour, but he still held his own. Whilst his (and Grey Worm’s) fate is left unknown (unless you watch the preview for the next episode, in which it I spoiled in the first five seconds…), I think we can all agree that he fought brilliantly. They are both still very much alive in the books, however, so keep your little fingers crossed!

 

He's out there somewhere...
He’s out there somewhere…