by Kevin Gubernatis

Diablo 3 Review – Also some nostalgia

It’s been awhile since my last review, which is mostly because I haven’t been gaming as much as I usually do — trying to keep up with all the book stuff and get to work on the next book —  but when I got the opportunity to try Diablo 3 I went at it with a fervor.  I’m about as big a Diablo fan as one can get, I think.  I played the first game when it first came out.  My dad had picked it up super cheap at Scratch and Dent Liquidators, which is a store where you can buy new products that have been damaged for whatever reason.  We found it at the store and all that seemed to be wrong was that the box was a bit torn, but the disk was fine and all of the Blizzard paraphernalia was still inside.  I can remember scouring the awesome manual that came with it for every scrap of lore it offered.  Why doesn’t Blizzard do that anymore?  The first character I ever finished the game with was the Sorcerer and, yes, I used the duplicate exploit after awhile.  Especially for the Spectral Elixir.

I also kind of had a fit (in a good way) when I’d been talking to my Dad about Diablo 2 and he picked it up, saying I’d “Pay him back for it.”  He wanted to play it as much as I did; it was one of the only things we ever bonded over.  (Well, that and Doom.  We had a weird relationship.) My first play through on Diablo 2 was a magic user again, this time the (drool) Necromancer.  I loved that guy, especially after I learned that just like the Sorcerer, no matter how much I wanted him to be, he was not a Spellsword.  When finally I let my willing army of fallen soldiers reap their vengeance upon the hordes of the burning hells, I truly knew satisfaction.

But you came to hear about Diablo 3 and that’s what I said I was going to be talking about instead of waxing nostalgic about a game that is literally almost  twenty years old. (Let that sink in a bit, Diablo fans.)  Anyway, I’m gonna do this in two parts, what was good and what was not so good, as there was a fair bit of both.  I’ll do what was good first.

My first play through of Diablo 3 was with the Wizard and I absolutely loved the gameplay.  I feel like it is the most innovative interface for this kind of top down action/RPG game.  You no longer have to play the long con of sticking to a specific set of abilities so that at some point in the future, when you’ve finally reached the crazy max level, you can beat Diablo without dying fifteen times.  All of your abilities come to you at a specific level and, unlike before, leveling up is a lot easier.  There is also the from start difficulty setting for all of you masochists who enjoy torturing yourselves.  The cool thing is that the Normal difficulty is kind of easy and the Hard difficulty is a lot like Normal on the previous two games, so after my initial play through, I started a barbarian on Hard.

Charsi the Barbarian. She's going to kick your ass.

Charsi the Barbarian. She’s going to kick your ass.

Which brings me to one of the coolest aspects of the game as far as I’m concerned – gender options for ALL classes!  While some of the starting attire for the lady characters is a bit annoying, you get to play as a GIRL BARBARIAN!!!!  RRRRAAAAAAGGHHH!!!  Her name is Charsi and YES she is named after her mother and takes after her father and YES I like to RP my Diablo characters and I’m proud of it!  I’ve gotten her some better armor at this point and she just kicks all of the ass.  All of the time.  Sometimes I just hit escape and bask in her warrior aura of badassness.  She can summon the Ancients from Diablo 2 to aid her in battle.  I get chills.  I’m currently using the Scoundrel with her for the ranged benefit, but I think my favorite hireling is the Templar.  Which brings me to the fact that I LOVE that the hirelings are actual characters now, with backstories and minds of their own.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love Flavie, but she was REALLY quiet.

This gets me onto the subject of backstories and lore, which is going to lead me into the “Not so good” of Diablo 3, but like I said, we start with what’s good first.  I REALLY like that the world of Sanctuary is more fleshed out now and even seems to have grown.  One of the big lore changes, or rather reveals I guess would be better to say, is that the hero from the first game was Leoric’s son, Aiden.  I liked this addition, as it made the character of the Warrior a more tragic and inspiring figure.  He wasn’t just some hero looking for glory and honor, he was the first born son of a house in madness and he had returned to set things right.  Only to have to make yet another sacrifice in vain.  So sad.  I also love all of the little lore updates and journal entries and such.  I also loved that they kept them recorded in a central location so that you could go back and listen to Cain……

Which brings me to the “not so good” part of this review.  Cain.  I am never going to forgive you for that Blizzard.  NEVER!  What, were you guys doing a Joss Whedon marathon while writing all of this or something?!  NEVER FORGIVE!  Ahem…

The lore of Diablo has kind of deviated DRASTICALLY from where it had been going in the first place.  This is similar to the right angle turn I saw when I played World of Warcraft (WoW) for the first time after finishing Warcraft 3.  There’s a LOT that is different, but that doesn’t always mean bad and I am trying  not to be a grumpy old man about it, even though I kind of am.  The game’s own story was a little bit off, especially by the third act.  I still have NO idea what possessed my band of compatriots to take the object of Azmodan’s desire TO HIM.  Also, why did the fact that the emperor in act 2 was actually Belial have to be so tongue-in-cheek and heavy-handed?  It also seemed like the entire story was a rehash of both of the previous games and not a true successor at all.  You start in the woodsy, green, and mountainous Westmarch (Diablo 1 and Diablo 2, Act 1), then you go to the desert city where the leader of said city is hiding something sinister (Diablo2, Act 2), then we skip the Jungle of Diablo 2, Act 3 and jump straight to the Barbarian lands of Act 5.  Oh, and then we go to Hell at the end, because we forgot about Act 4.  (Also, that tower level went on WAY too long).

At any rate, the story and lore were all out of whack for me, but the thing that really kind of bugged me through the entire game was that it wasn’t even a little bit scary.  Diablo 1 was a frightening game and between the ambient sound, music, and almost total silence of my foes, I had to regularly turn the game off and turn all of my lights on.  Now, the demons of hell stop to offer witty repartee, before decapitating the innocent.  They kept the gore, but left the fear behind.  There was no substance.  The most the Skeleton King had ever said in previous games was about a sentence.  Now he’s monologing and taunting me like some Saturday morning cartoon villain.  Oh, and the Butcher was JUST a travesty.  Having the Butcher in Diablo 3 the way he appeared was akin to having Greedo show up in Return of the Jedi and go “Haha!  I’M GREEDO!!!!!!”  and then get shot by Han again.  It was random, it was unnecessary, and it made no fucking sense.  None.  If you want to do a reference, guys, do it like you did with the Warlord of Blood:  Have a random unique monster at the END of the game called the butcher, who has a cleaver.  All of your die hard fans would have been like, “Awww, cool!” and everyone else would have ignored it and it would have been fine.  Instead, your fans are annoyed and your new players are confused.  I guess it’s ok, though, because we’re all gonna buy the expansion.

Oh yeah, the expansion came out Tuesday.  That is completely unrelated to me doing this review, I just happened to get Diablo 3 recently when my wife saw it at game stop at a discount and got it for me.

Let me just say that all of my fuddy-dudding about lore and story aside, I REALLY enjoyed playing the game, like, a lot.  I played it for a bit with a friend (which is like the main reason I got it) and when I wasn’t bitching about how different the story was from what I knew, we had a great time!  I mean, I started like 3 more toons after my first play through, so I’m invested.  Also, Demon Hunter class = awesome character, lore wise.

In the end I highly recommend Diablo 3 to just about everyone.  I’d heard that it wasn’t so good before a recent patch…….which means I did the right thing in waiting and so did you!

What in Hell do YOU think?

Think of anything I missed?  Think I am wrong about all of my lore Old Man-ness and want to debate about it?  Want to while away the hours discussing the virtues of Bash or Disintegrate?  Liked Diablo 2 more?  Tell me all about it in the comments!  Thanks for listening and as always, have a wonderful day!

P.S.  Blizzard?  Since you just released an x-pac with what is essentially a Paladin,can you please bring the Necromancer back, I miss him and want to make him a girl.  That’s weird, I know, but I want to do it.  CHEERS!

P.P.S.  LOL!  I went and started playing it again almost immediately after writing this review and realized that I totally forgot one of the really great things about this game.  Covetous Shen is my hands-down, favorite character in Diablo 3.  The perfect example of the benevolent Trickster, he never ceased to make me smile, or tear up a bit.

The Lego Movie = Magnificent

Disclaimer:  Some spoilers may lie herein.

My wife and I and a friend of ours went out last week to see the Lego Movie, as did much of the nerdier citizens across the nation.  Like most of these people I was completely blown away by the sheer magnitude of the film.  That sentence didn’t mean ANYTHING.  What I mean to say is that it was really, really good and there was seldom a point in the movie where I was not either laughing hysterically, or crying uncontrollably.

The Lego Movie touched on so many points for me (and, apparently, so many others who saw it) that were powerfully emotional.  From the deep loneliness of Emmet in his desire to find a friend, to the Father’s struggle with coming to terms with the fact that he was, in fact, the bad guy (realizing why Lord Business was always on stilts near this scene was also tear-inducing).  The jump that the writers make from a completely fantastical and child like world of make believe, to a very real (literally) and relatable story about father and son is , in a word, awesomely cool (that was two words).   All of these moments come together in one of the most heartwarming and touching stories I’ve seen from this kind of movie.

Which brings me to the production.  The sheer depth of this movie is shattering.  I mean the real world Lego City in the basement at the end was jarringly cool.  The fact that there was not a single piece of the animated parts of this movie that was NOT a Lego piece, was just bitchin’. My friend Nathan commented on the sea of Lego studs, which made me cringe at the thought of having to wrangle all of those pieces.  All of the different and unique Lego creations were really cool too.  SPACESHIP!!!!!!

To be fair, this is coming from a guy who kind of sucked at making cool Lego things and was always impressed/jealous of other people’s creations, which seemed so much cooler than my own.  The dinorobot that couldn’t walk, but had a swinging tail comes to mind.  It looked neither like a robot or a dinosaur but, as I said, the tail swung about vertically.  To be fair, I never had the GIANT TUB O’ LEGOS that just about everyone else I know seems to have had.  I had just one of those bucket-of-chicken sized lego sets and it was only ever half-full.  So there’s that.

Finally I have to talk about Liam Neeson.  Now, those of you who know me well enough know that I love Liam Neeson:  I kind of want him to be my dad.  That being said, he was easily the best and funniest part of this entire movie for me.  Bad Cop’s sinister Taken tones played in stark contrast to Good Cop’s lighthearted sweetness, which I have nothing to compare to, which was half of the cool.  I was so excited I could just throw a chair!

In short, the Lego movie was utterly magnificent and demands to be watched.  Liz and I agreed that we could have easily watched it again immediately after it was over (and that is a SUPER rare thing for me).  So don’t sit there reading my blog.  GO SEE THE LEGO MOVIE NOW!

What did you think of the Lego Movie?

What was your favorite part of the movie?  Did you see anything else this week that you think was as good or better?  Leave your answers in the comments below.  Thanks much for reading and please remember to have a wonderful day!


MWSU Planetarium

Seriously fascinating stuff, and narrated by the great Q himself!

Seriously fascinating stuff, and narrated by the great Q himself!

The first time I’d ever been to a Planetarium was only just last year in the fall.  My wife and I went to MWSU Planetarium here in St. Joseph out at the campus.  I was blown away by some of the visuals shown in just the initial intro.

What was REALLY cool was that the show we went to see that evening was all about Black Holes AND narrated by John DeLancie, which are two things that are fucking awesome, in case you didn’t know.  Not only was it full of stunning and awe inspiring videos, but it was also thoroughly educational.

I know a bit about Black Holes, but I learned more from this presentation.  If you live in the St. Joe area or near to it, you owe it to yourself to check out this scene.

It got me thinking…

Have any of you guys ever been to a Planetarium?  Have you been to the MWSU one?  How does it compare to others?

I thought it might be a cool idea to do an event at one of the shows, to promote The White Wolf and The Darkness.  Does that sound like something that would be fun?  Would you come out for that?  Let me know in the comments below.

Love you guys, hope your week’s been great.  Have a wonderful day!

A Starlit Sky

There are a great many things that are very different for me since I moved from the hectic confines of Baltimore to the quieter, slower paced calm of St. Joseph and the Midwest.  There are a great many things, too, that I took for granted when I lived in Baltimore… being able to get anywhere without a car, 24 hour stores not named Walmart, Sub Shops, the ocean (no matter how stinky it might be) oh and of course:  Royal Farms fries.  But today I’d like to talk a bit about something that my neighbors here in the Midwest take for granted and something for which I am constantly grateful to be able to experience on a regular basis.

The Night’s Sky.

Get out of the city every once in a while to really see the night's sky.

Get out of the city every once in a while to really see the night’s sky.

When living in even a small city, the light pollution, while often beautiful especially during a storm, can make the night’s sky seem cold, dark and lightless. I discovered many years ago while in another part of the rural Midwest with my wife and a friend that the night’s sky is not cold, dark, and lightless at all. We were out there for a wedding and our friend Kyle was driving us back to his home where we were staying.  It was the middle of summer, but later at night so it was quite dark.  Liz asked him to pull over so that we could look at the sky.  So that she could share it with me.  It was the first time that I had ever seen that starry expanse and experience it in what my limited mind would call “All its Glory.” The stars just kept going and going, and through it all, in between all of the stars, there was this beautiful blue hue.  This haze that seemed to me to be the star dust of distant solar systems mingling together and I could only see it in this beautiful way because I was so far away.

I pride myself on having been able to point out constellations in the night’s sky to my peers when I was in high school, or later when I worked as a laborer in this job or that.  My fellow students and coworkers did not often look up at the night’s sky.  I feel that many in Baltimore and in cities like it don’t often look up and this makes me kind of sad, so I used to take every opportunity I could to point up.  More often than not they were unimpressed and often times mockingly so.  I could not fathom why they didn’t have a greater sense of wonder at the concept of heavenly bodies.  Not until I saw the true night’s sky.  See, to a person in a city, even being able to see a constellation isn’t that big a deal ( I suppose) because it’s only a handful of stars in an otherwise pitch black sky.  The lights of the city are all around you and in their own way, quite beautiful, so why bother looking up at some tiny pin prick of light that isn’t even that bright anyway?  If my peers could see what I had seen those years ago on that stretch of rural country road in Iowa, they might think very differently.

I admit that I do not look up into the true night’s sky as often as I should, or even as often as I’d like.  I get distracted with this or that human endeavor — video games, tv series, trying to write a book — and I miss the natural beauty that is above is at all times.  Every once in a while I ask my wife to drive me out into the middle of nowhere, so that we both can spend an hour or so just looking up.  I encourage any you to do this, too.  Even if it is difficult, find a way to get out past the lights of the metropolitan world, a way to escape the constant pull of the day-to-day hum drum of being human, and look up.  It will be good for your soul.

What does the night’s sky look like where you are?

Do you see the stars?  Do you see the darkness?  Do you see neither?  Share your wisdom.  Tell me your experiences and thoughts in the comment below.  Thank you for reading and as always, have a wonderful day.

A few announcements…

The last couple of weeks I’ve been going over a lot of things and discussing plans for the future with my manager/partner/wife Liz.  Since I am going to be going into full-on writing mode again soon, I am going to be limiting my blog posts to just one a week now.  After today I will only be doing posts on Thursdays and the nature of that post will vary from week to week (instead of the sortof themed lore posts on Thursdays and the fun posts on Tuesdays since I began blogging several months ago).  The content will be far more influenced by my readers from now on.

Ask me your questions!

If there are questions you’d like to ask, please ask them!  I will do my best to answer them.  You can either post here in the comments, email me on my site, or contact me via facebook (comment or message) and I promise that I will review and respond to every question/opinion/thought sent my way.  I want to be an author who is engaged with my readers, so please don’t be shy!

Thanks again!

Thank you to everyone who purchased and read The White Wolf and The Darkness and especially to everyone who supported and continues to support my work.  Have a wonderful day.

Being an Author

As The White Wolf and The Darkness gets more and more exposure, I am feeling what it is like to actually be an author.  I didn’t think I was going to feel very different about anything until I had made it big and sold a ton of books, and then I thought I’d feel VERY different.  I realize now that it’s actually more like the whole “growing up” or “adult” experience, the changes one feels are subtle and plentiful, and some of them are a huge shock.

I think the first time I noticed this was when we got the proof of my novel from the printer.  I had a copy, the FIRST copy, of MY book in my hands.  I felt as though I should be overwhelmed with emotion, but I wasn’t — and this is really odd, because anyone who knows me knows I’m big on feels.  It was really cool to see my work in a printed written form, but I just wasn’t slammed by it the way I thought I’d be.  It wasn’t until my friend Cooper came over and saw it sitting on the table.  He reacted with his trademark, “OOH!” which is of the highest of praises coming from him.  Someone who was not my wife was genuinely and fervently excited to read my book.  It was at this moment that I felt that rush of emotion I was expecting.

Another very cool moment that signified to me that I was, and am, in fact, an author by trade, was the first time someone made fun of one of my characters.  A friend of mine, who I’ll call friend A because I do not wish to embarrass them, and I were having a conversation with my wife Liz and another friend who I’ll call friend B for the same reason.  The subject of the book came up and both friends claimed to be somewhere in the middle of it.  I remained silent except to thank them for reading it.  I did this for two reasons, first: I didn’t want to open my big mouth as I am want to do and spoil the story for them and second:  While I am not at all humble about my work (cause it is pretty damned good), I try to be modest.  Liz, being more encouraging to me and less modest to others asked which character they liked the best.  My two friends rattled off the characters they liked and the qualities of those characters.  Friend B mentioned a like of Asala, the magician, and began to express why.  Friend A immediately made a catty snarky scowl and turned to my wife saying “I don’t like Asala.”  Friend A then began to mock Asala, making fun of her struggles and her methods and just about everything about her.  Both my wife and friend B urged friend A to stop, as they felt I would be hurt by his words, but I insisted that he continue.  You see, it was great, because in that moment I wasn’t the author.  He wasn’t sparing MY feelings because I was his friend and had written the book.  He was talking GENUINELY about a book he was reading.  My book.  He was making fun of the PERSON that was Asala.  Not the way she was written, not how I wrote her, but HER.  Asala was REAL and friend A simply didn’t like her.  Which was flipping great!  Someone was making fun of MY character!  I was a writer!

(Oh and friend A?  If you’re reading this and you still don’t like Asala…that’s ok, cause she likes you just fine.)

Another great moment was short, sweet, and wonderful.  It was also brought to me AND you, once again, by my lovely wife Liz.  We were in Hastings looking for movies and Liz had disappeared for a bit.  She finally found me again and guided me over to the Sci-Fi section of books in the store.  There on a lower shelf were three of the copies we’d consigned to the store a week earlier.  This was powerfully significant for two reasons.  The first was that we’d given the store FIVE copies of The White Wolf and The Darkness, which means two had already sold… like a week……WINNING!  The second was that my book, that I had written, was surrounded by the work of Sci-Fi giants.  Immediately next to my book was a copy of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and only a few short shelves away from was of my favorite authors R.A. Salvatore, whose work covered two shelves.  Also not far away was a copy of A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin.  My book was here amongst these real authors.    I was an author.

On January 25th I will be doing a book signing at the Hastings in St. Joseph and you should all come.  I think it’s going to be another one of those moments that change things for me and reinforce my confidence as an author.  I just have no idea how it is going to do so and I am looking forward to the surprise.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I am DOING a book signing.  I think I’m most excited about something that might seem small to others.  When someone asks me what I do, I don’t have to explain what shit job I’m currently working at to make extra money, or express shame at not being currently employed.  I will be able to firmly look that person in the eye and state boldly,  “I’m a writer.”

Are you a writer?

Any other writers out there?  Or any other folks with similar experiences in their chosen vocations or fields?  I’d LOVE to hear those stories.  Leave your responses in the comments below.  Have a wonderful day!