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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!


Swords I Have Loved

I love swords.  Really, I love most forms of weapons that might appear in a fantasy setting, but swords hold a particularly special place for me.  I’ve collected them since I was a teen, with my first Duncan MacLeod Katana, which was kindof a cheap piece of crap.  One day while I was practicing with it on the roof of my parent’s garage in my home city of Baltimore (Yes, that likely looked as cool as you are thinking), the blade of that sword flew completely out of its plastic handle, severing several bush limbs and landing in our back neighbor’s courtyard.  The profanity on that day was quite loud, indeed.  Retrieving the blade from my neighbor was an ordeal and required much explanation.  “Why do you have a sword?” was asked more than once.  My answer was always the same:  “Why DON’T you?”


This is the really nice one, a gift from my best friend.

I now own a variety of swords and many have come into my possession only to pass on to others, as it is my considered opinion that everyone should own at least one sword.  Some of my favorites are my MUCH better version of the Duncan MacLeod sword that was gifted to me by a very good friend, and one of my other katanas known only as Defender (and of which there are apparently only 75 like in the world).

Defender - a beautiful blade.

Defender – a beautiful blade.

Defender with its scabbard...

Defender with its scabbard…

And… of course, my wedding gift from my wife, my Irish Ring Sword which sits right next to her wedding sword on our wall, where our cat likes to cuddle up beneath certain doom. Don’t ask me why, because Cat.

Sword2 CatSword


Some other swords I love, but don’t own (though I wants them, precious!) are the Oslo Two-Handed Viking Sword from the Darksword Armory (as I’ve always wanted a Viking or Norse sword that I could use with two hands) and the Celtic Wolf Leaf Blade by Odin Blades (This is what inspired Asala’s Sword from White Wolf, incidentally) and, of course, just about anything from Fable Blades.  There are a ton more I’d like to have and I could write a whole series of blogs about all the different awesome weapons that should be mine – like I don’t own a saber and I really should get one and there are a lot of varieties just within that….man, I really ought to get one of those… ..

Swords are AWESOME, right?

Swords are awesome and people who make swords are even more awesome!  What’s your favorite sword or weapon?  Doesn’t even have to be a fantasy one, if you prefer plasma cannons or shot guns I want to know about it, so leave your answers in the comments!  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

P.S.  Oh and I almost forgot, I WANTS Twinkle and Icingdeath, the Scimitars of Drizzt Do’Urden.  Had to mention that.


Game Review, Fusion: Genesis

Every once in a while, I will be doing a game review of a game I enjoy. I will likely only be reviewing indie or older games, as big money-making games have plenty of people to review them. I like the idea of reviewing older games, because it will make some of you nostalgic and others curious, and because there are some good older games out there damn it! This week I am reviewing an ace indie game I downloaded from the Xbox Live Arcade for only ten bucks. It’s called Fusion:Genesis by Starfire Studios and it’s one of the coolest space shooters I’ve ever played.


Let’s start with gameplay. This game could not be easier to wrap your head around as far as intuitively knowing what to do. The tutorial in the beginning is engaging and not annoying as tutorials tend to be. Your ship’s movement is controlled with the left thumbstick and your pulse energy weapon with the right. This allows you to fire in any direction without having to turn the whole damned ship around, which I love. The leveling system is pretty typical, involving defeating other ships in combat and completing missions to gain xp. One of the cooler aspects is the Sentients who are the linchpin of the main story, these small mechanical life forms that hover near your ship offering offensive and defensive assistance as well as other buffs. The game is delightfully simple and also pretty addictive.

As far as story goes, Fusion has a tale to tell, but what I think is most impressive is the world that has been made within this game. There is all this history that’s just in the background for flavor. There are five factions to choose from and each one has its one story missions, which in some cases link up with the main storyline in unexpected ways. I chose the Praetorian Fleet, peacekeepers of the galaxy and enforcers of the code of law known as the Articles of Convocation. One of their cooler abilities is scanning ships for contraband and blowing them out of the sky if they have any. This gets you faction points, which allow you to purchase higher tiers of ships.

Oh shit, the ships! There are a total of 25 of them and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Weather you want to fly a fast and maneuverable interceptor, or be the commander of a massive cruiser, there is a ship in this game for you. I personally like the Judicator: it only has two weapon slots, but it’s the most maneuverable ship in the game. There are a ton of unlockable abilities that I haven’t even touched on yet and likely won’t be able to get to until my second playthrough.


Last, but most certainly not least, is the graphics. Holy crap, I love this game’s backgrounds! There is so much going on in them, sometimes I just have to stop and watch the space dust fly by. The design is just beautiful and the settings are massive and awe-inspiring. From leading Syndicate hitmen on a merry chase through an asteroid field, to dog-fighting against a squadron of enemy fighters inside the skeleton of some massive long dead space creature, Fusion: Genesis takes the player on a journey through a galaxy of wonder and excitement. I cannot recommend this game more, it is easily worth the money I paid.

What cool games have you played lately?

Got any recommendations for me? Leave a comment so I can get my gamin’ on! Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!