Opinion: I’m More Excited for Rogue One Than I was for Episode VII

Late this past week the first trailer for Rouge One: a Star Wars story dropped, and to say that I enjoyed it would be an immense understatement.  The footage released hit every beat perfectly, and matched what I expected to see from the film.  After viewing the trailer half a dozen times, I began to dissect each and every part of what I had just seen.  Questions about who’s who and why everything is happening have plagued my head in the days following.  What I’ve come to realize is that this movie, which is a direct spin-off of a franchise that is very close to my heart, excites me more than the newest Star Wars film ever did.

What attracted me most to Rouge One was the original idea of the film being more of a war film.  It’s clear that director Gareth Edwards wants to tell a darker, more realistic Star Wars story; one filled with less destiny and Force powers and more military tactics and the cold reality of combat and fighting against unwinnable odds.  Several highlights of the trailer were: the appearance of the rarely seen Rebellion leader Mon Mothma, a showcase of Felicity Jones character, Jyn Erso, the Death Star, AT-AT’s, and a mysterious new leader within the Empire who’s name we don’t know yet.

Growing up on Star Wars, I’ve become accustomed to watching grand space operas involving daring heroes, memorable villains, mystical powers, and exotic locales.  However, I have always had in interest in the actual war that’s being waged between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire which isn’t touched on much in the original trilogy with the exceptions being the three biggest battles of the war.  Rouge One looks to satisfy my desires as it tells the story of the rag-tag group of Rebels tasked with stealing the plans for the Death Star.  The cast of characters is filled with smugglers, bounty hunters, weapons specialists, and other individuals that prefer to stay on the fringes of society.  This won’t be a story about heroes or what’s right, but more of a tale about the greater good and future of the Rebel Alliance.  The overall tone of desperation and dread are well felt throughout the minute and a half run time of the trailer.  What’s more, the new cast of characters means that I will go into the movie not knowing exactly what to expect from the actors.

     The biggest difference between how I feel about this movie and Episode VII is what each story represents.  With The Force Awakens, I knew that I was getting another Star Wars.  I was already prepared to see Luke, Han, and Leia, as well as all the other aspects of the original trilogy that make Star Wars, Star Wars.  However, I’ve never really known what to expect with Rogue One.  What’s being done with this new movie is unlike anything we have seen in the Star Wars cinematic universe.  It’s also telling a story that we as the audience have only heard of in passing.  The events of Rouge One, and their consequences, will pave the way for what happened in episodes VI-VI.  The dramatic irony of the story is what makes the idea of this movie so interesting.  We know how the story will end, but we don’t know who will live, who will die, or how the actions of the characters in this movie will have an impact on later installments in the main story line.

Rouge One: a Star Wars story looks to be one of the biggest hits of this year, and I can say with all honesty that it holds my interest far more than The Force Awakens ever did.  I’m fully prepared for whatever Edwards and company have to throw at me, and I expect nothing less than a fantastic cinematic experience.  For all your video game, comic book, and movie news, check back here at From Dice to Controllers.  Thanks and have a good one.

Exploring America’s Ruined Metropolis: Looking at The Division from the halfway point

Over the past two weeks I have been devoted to Tom Clancy’s The Division.  The third person shooter/RPG broke Ubisoft’s previous opening week sales record, but has scored a multitude of mixed scores from sites like IGN (6.7), GameSpot (8), and Game Informer (8).  Personally, I am having an outrageous amount of fun with the game.  The mission design is repetitive, but the intuitive enemy A.I. keeps every encounter fresh and enjoyable, even if the objectives are tedious.  The world is exactly how I expected it to be; a lifeless yet dangerous and engaging recreation of New York City frozen in an eternal Christmas.  The story lacks a certain level of charm that I was expecting from a premise so promising, but the amount of collectibles and gear customization make up for the uninteresting characters.  While I can’t properly review the game in my current state, as I am only at level fifteen and have yet to fully explore the endgame content, I do want to give a review in progress of sorts.

 

     What initially intrigued me the most about The Division was its premise.  On Black Friday in NYC a deadly virus is released into the city via thousands of U.S. bills.  In the course of a few weeks the city falls into chaos as hundreds of thousands are killed, flee the city, or lock themselves up in their homes.  After some time the entirety of Manhattan is closed off from the rest of the world, leaving only a handful of military personnel to try and save those still present from roaming hordes of rioters, criminals, fanatics, and rogue military outfits.  To aid these military forces, the government activates The Division, an organization of sleeper agents hidden throughout the United States suited with the best gear, weaponry, and tactical reconnaissance the military has to offer.

The player acts as one of the members of the second wave of Division agents to enter the city, seeing as how the remainder of the first wave hasn’t made contact in some time.  With the aid of the Joint Task Force, or JTF, the player must bring order back to the streets of NYC, while also recruiting specialists still left in the city to help track down the origins of the Black Friday virus.

I first became fully aware of how big and detailed The Division is upon first reaching Manhattan.  After being herded through the tutorial in Brooklyn you are dropped off in the city proper by a boardwalk that’s been recommissioned into a forward operating base for the JTF.  From there the game really lets the player do what he wants.  The main and side missions are easily accessible, but for the most part the player is allowed to explore the city at his own pace.  This gave me a chance to see how detailed and true to life Ubisoft’s recreation of New York is.  Everything from the public library, to Times Square all look almost exactly like their real life counterparts.  This helped to immerse me in the game as I was running through the deserted streets scavenging for gear and confronting patrols of enemies.

      The combat in The Division is your standard third person cover based shooter fare.  This style, which was perfected by the Gears of War series, fits well with The Division as being able to have a better view of your surroundings gives players incentive to find more places to achieve a tactical advantage over their opponents.  Enemies throughout the game rarely differ in type, but each faction offers up their own spin on each combatant.  When faced with a combat situation, the player will encounter enemies that either shoot at him from a distance, engage him in close combat with a melee weapon, or use a mix of grenades, turrets, and medium range guns to attack the player.  This relatively small but effective range of enemies keeps the player on his toes, and forces him to change his tactics throughout the course of an engagement.  I would find myself at times starting a fight on one street, and ending in some apartment building that my opponents had forced me into.

     At level fifteen I have completed a handful story missions and cleared several of the early neighborhoods.  What excites me most about maxing out my character is the Dark Zone, a PvPvE zone in the center of the city that houses some of the best gear, and most dangerous enemies, in the game.  While certain areas of the Dark Zone are available to me at present, I want to experience all that it has to offer on a level playing field.  The appeal of the Dark Zone comes from how challenging it is.  Enemies are heavily armored and relentless, and if you are killed while in the Dark Zone any gear you picked up, as well as a small amount of experience, is lost.  This means that to keep everything you found you’ll have to extract it out of the Dark Zone at one of the area’s limited extraction zones.

While the main game is invite-only co-op multiplayer, the Dark Zone allows for a random group of players to be thrown together.  This means that you and other agents can either work together to take down some of the tougher enemies, or go rouge and kill other agents.  When a player becomes rouge, everyone else will earn bonus experience and currency for killing them.  However, if a rouge agent can manage to kill other high level players he has the chance at stealing any powerful weapons and gear that they’ve picked up in the Dark Zone.

      While I haven’t experienced all that The Division has to offer, I can say that I’m enjoying every bit of my time exploring New York and combating the many threats that stalk her deserted streets.  Once I’ve reached level thirty and explored the Dark Zone I will come back with a full-featured review, but for now I only have positive feelings towards The Division.  For more exciting video game, comic book, and movie news, keep it here on From Dice to Controllers.  Thanks and have a good one.

The Revival

Good God my friends, it’s been far to long.  I have been away from this blog for over nine months, as school and work have taken up much of my time.  That being said, I’m back in the saddle again and ready to bring this page back to its somewhat meager, but all the same glorious, former self.  Over the past few months I have matured as a writer, and learned a bountiful amount of information about myself, my friends, and my future.  I have been reborn, in a sense, and found new purpose and drive within my daily existence.

The idea of a revival revolves around second chances.  To be reborn is to come back from nonexistence and start anew.  It is ideas like this that can drive major religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.  All three of these faiths have some from of revival, whether that is based in an afterlife, or reincarnation here on Earth.  The core belief of receiving a second chance attracts people in the millions to these faiths.  What I have found is that in most cases, those of the religious variety tend to hold true to their faith simply because they feel that they will be rewarded later on in the unknown existence that is death.  I find myself completely astounded that there are human beings in our world that can put that much faith in the unknown, in devoting their whole life to rejecting certain pleasures and following an old book just to have a chance at eternal happiness.  However, I also respect those willing to devote themselves 100% to what they believe in.  Religious fanaticism can be both positive and negative, and I have no problem with anyone who is willing to give up a part of their life out of faith alone, so long as their strict adherence to their faith does not negatively effect others.

Revival also plays a big role in video games.  Almost every game in existence has some form of a second chance.  Without the ability to come back from the dead, or even save your progress throughout a game, players would have to burn through a game in one sitting, or start over every time they died.  Revival adds a layer of depth to games that draws the player back into the story without causing them excessive frustration.  Second chances are important in helping the player learn from their previous mistakes, and develop new and exciting ways to solve the challenge placed before them.

Just as in religion and video games, I have been given a second chance, not only by my life and those around me, but by my own will and determination to make a career out of writing, and by building that future career with this blog.  I ask you all to lend me your attention and support as I go forward with this project.  Any insight or suggestions you have for me would be greatly appreciated.  As always, remember to check back here at From Dice to Controllers for all your video game and movie news.  Thank you, and have a good one.  (P.S.  It’s good to be back :D)

What to Play Before Phantom Pain Drops

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain looks to be one of this year’s biggest games, boasting a massive sandbox open world, engaging characters, and a new and exciting story.  However, Metal Gear games can tend to get a little confusing due to the amount of characters and events taking place in the series.  Have no fear, my fellow gamers, because today we will be going over which games you should be playing, or at least know about, before Phantom Pain hits shelves September 1st.

      Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

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       While it is the third game in the MGS series (and the fifth in the Metal Gear series), Snake Eater actually showcases the origins of Solid Snake and the Metal Gears.  Here, you will learn about Big Boss, the man from which Solid Snake was cloned, The Boss, Big Boss’s mentor, Ocelot, some of the earliest Metal Gears, and the formation of the Patriots.  A notable entry in the franchise not only for it’s story, but also it’s tighter controls and easy-to-use survival and camo systems.  In Snake Eater, the original Snake’s mission is to infiltrate a Russian weapon’s research facility in search of a notable scientist.  However, the plan goes south, and Snake is left half-dead and to blame for a nuclear missile attack.  From there the game turns into a part covert op, part revenge quest as a revitalized Snake must hunt down those who betrayed him and clear his name.  Along the way, he’ll encounter a color cast of characters that will later play key roles in the rest of the Metal Gear series.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

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       Launching on the PSP, then later remastered for the PS3 in the MGS HD collection, Peace Walker acts as a sequel to Snake Eater.  Big Boss, now detached from the U.S. military and nation-less, has formed an elite army of mercenaries called Mercenaries Without Borders.  He is soon contacted by an old friend who brings with her a suspicious tape.  On this tape can be heard the voice of Big Boss’s mentor, the Boss, who was supposed to be dead.  This peaks Snakes interest enough to follow his compatriot on a series of intense missions and political espionage, leading him to discover some hard truths about his old allies, and the development of a new Metal Gear.  Exciting, intense, and well worth the time and effort, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a notable entry in the story of Big Boss, and the origins of Solid Snake.  If you can only play one of these before Phantom Pain comes out, play Peace Walker.  There are enough flashbacks to Snake Eater, so those new to the series won’t feel left out.  Furthermore, the events that transpire at the end of Peace Walker lead directly into Phantom Pain.  It would make the most sense for one to play Peace Walker because of how much of it ties into Phantom Pain, not only with characters, but also with events and locations.

      If you want to be fully prepared for all that Phantom Pain will offer you, it’s imperative that you play, or at least read up on, these two critical titles in the Metal Gear saga.  Like I said, these games can become very confusing if you’re not playing close attention, so it’s best if you come into this latest installment with the proper background knowledge.

       Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on MGS 5, or anything Metal Gear related, and you can follow me on Twitter @RolandDucant for more nerdy ramblings.  Remember to check back here at From Dice to Controllers for all your video game, comic book, and movie news.  Thanks and have a good one.

Batman #43 Review

       Jim Gordon’s run as Batman has been, for the most part, a success.  The once commissioner of Gotham knew the Caped Crusader better than anyone else in the public eye, and it’s this relationship that has helped him work so well as Batman.  However, even the most hardened of cops needs some assistance, and that’s what this issue focused on.  If the reader wasn’t already aware, Bruise Wayne is still alive, and this issue further cemented that realization into place.

The issue kicks off with Jim visiting Wayne in a community center, seeking advice from the once-great superhero.  However, as their conversation progresses, Jim realizes that this Bruise Wayne is but a shade of his former self.  Shot down and out of options, Gordon leaves Wayne to his menial tasks and head off on his own.  The second half of the issue details the aftermath of Joker’s Endgame plan through the eyes of Alfred, and Gordon’s attempt to track down the mysterious superpower dealer known as Mr. Bloom.  What really impressed me with this issue was how detailed and well-written it was.  That’s not to say the Scott Snyder writes horribly, far from it, but this issue really showcased his skills with storytelling.  It was a well-deserved relief to learn how Bruise Wayne survived his fight with the Joker.  What’s more, it frightening to know that he may not be able to return to the role of Batman, due to the fact that he doesn’t even remember being the hero.  This leaves us with the question: could Jim Gordon be our Batman for longer than expected, and will Bruise ever be able to return to the role?  Batman has died before, but never has he come back and forgotten how to be himself.  What we has now is very much Bruise Wayne as he would have been if not for his parent’s deaths.

On the opposite end of things we have Gordon and his one-man crusade against Mr. Bloom.  For me, this portion of the issue was a little less exciting than Bruise’s story, save for a stellar shootout between Batman and several members of the Devil Pigs gang.  I love Jim just as much as the next person, but his role as Batman has always felt off to me.  Maybe it’s the fact that he’s working for the government, or maybe it’s the giant robotic suit.  Whatever the case may be, Gordon is going to have to step down from the role at some point, because as this issue clearly states, he’s just not cut out for the job.  One of the issue’s greatest moments comes at the end, as we finally get to see Mr. Bloom in the flesh.  Hearkening back to some of Batman’s more disturbing villains, Mr. Bloom is extremely tall and slender, with long, pointed fingers and a flower-like mask covering his face.  I’m really starting to take a likening to this villain as his motives aren’t focused on money or power, but rather the spread of his destructive product.

Overall Batman #43 was yet another great issue, despite it’s less-exciting moments.  Every scene involving Bruise and Alfred was engaging, and offered offered the reader much to think upon, while Gordon’s fight at the warehouse had several amazing panels.  Final score: 9/10

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on this month’s issue of Batman, and you can follow me on Twitter @RolandDucant for more nerdy ramblings.  Don’t be afraid to leave me suggestions and critique my work, I love to read your feedback!  Remember to check back here at From Dice to Controllers for all your comic book, video game, and movie news.  Thanks and have a good one.

New Comic Wednesday

Hey everybody, sorry I’ve been out for so long, and happy New Comic Day!  Every Wednesday I head up to my local comic shop, grab a few of the new releases, and give you a short review, without all the calories.  So, without further ado, let’s get started.

We Stand on Guard #1

     

               When I read the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan’s latest series, We Stand on Guard, I was thoroughly impressed with the artistic direction and well-written story that was presented to me.  However, one negative aspect stood out to me, and that was how the book portrays the American military.  Now, I’m a slightly liberal man who has never been a gun ho American patriot, but I do have respect for my homeland, and those who fight and die for it.  The story of this book focuses on a war raging between the U.S. and Canada, and is told through the eyes of the badly beaten Canadian resistance.  While I do admire the story being told and the characters being developed, I don’t like how much the story bashes on the U.S.  In both issues we are shown American forces being assholes to the general population of Canada.  What’s more, some of the actions that America takes against the Canadians are reminiscent of Nazi Germany during the height of World War 2.  While the book is set over 100 years in the future, I have a hard time believing that our government would be resorting to concentration camps and public executions.  This second issue did however have some positive notes, as we were able to learn more about our cast of characters, and how strong this new Canadian insurgency is.  Overall We Stand on Guard #2 is still filled with anti-American sentiment, but its strong characters and intriguing plot are enough to hold my attention.  Final Score: 7/10

     Civil War #2

           With Secret Wars came the continuation of many of Marvel’s favorite story-lines.  One such book is Civil War, the Captain American vs Iron Man conflict that tore the Marvel universe in two.  This continuation acts as an alternate timeline in which the war continued to rage after the events of the final issue, and the U.S. has been torn in two.  This second issue focused on the rising tension between the two countries as each makes subtle moves against the other.  Cap and his side, the Blue, is developing a new super-weapon the drains the superhuman abilities out of an individual.  Iron Man and his nation, The Iron, are trying to find the person responsible for the assassination attempt on Captain America’s life.  This issue acted as more of a staging ground for future events.  By the end of this issue the Blue was already making pretty bold moves against The Iron, which will in turn cause some powerful push-back.  Overall Civil War #2 was yet another stellar issue, giving us a stronger look at each side, and their plans for the future of the war.  Final Score: 9/10

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on this weeks pull-list, and you can follow me on Twitter @RolandDucant for more nerdy ramblings.  Remember to check back here at From Dice to Controllers for all your comic book, movie, and video game news.  Thanks and have a good one.

Reinventing Old Heroes

After DC comic’s big move to their L.A. offices, a new cycle of comics is being released to the public.  Heroes like Doctor Fate, Starfire, and Cyborg are all getting their own comics, some that follow in the aftermath of events like Darkside war and Endgame.  This updated lineup of comics gives DC a chance to pull in a new audience, while still appeasing their returning readers.  However, many of these characters have had their stories told in prior books like Teen Titans, Justice League, and so on.  So, the question remains, how will these well-known heroes continue to stay relevant?

The answer lies entirely in the presentation.  For fans of Cyborg to enjoy his own book they’ll need to see that the character they know and love hasn’t changed just because he got his own story.  Seeing as Cyborg has always been more of a side character, it’s good to know that he’ll finally hold the spotlight.  His story has always interested fans of Justice League, and his mastery of technology and energy will make for an interesting element in his adventures.  For Cyborg’s comic to last, the creative team will have had to write a story that is not only fun and engaging, but that also plays off the hero’s strengths and enemies.

        I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about Doctor Fate.  However, I do know that, like Cyborg, he is a beloved protagonist in the DC universe, and has aided many of our more popular heroes throughout their adventures.  That being said, I’m not certain as to how he will hold up in a leading role again, seeing as he has had his own book in the past.  As of now two issues of his book have been published, and both have received somewhat positive reviews.  I have hope for Doctor Fate, and will most likely jump on board with the series if his books continue to sell.

       I can tell you firsthand that Starfire is by far the weakest book to come out of DC’s relaunch.  This saddens me deeply as I am a huge fan of the character and her story.  After reading the first two issues of the series I can say that the book is just too lighthearted.  I understand that the writers are trying to portray Starfire as a young and naive alien forced to adapt to human practices, but I feel that we’ve seen this vision of the character too much.  What’s more, it seems to me that this version of Starfire is more clueless than any before her.  What I really want is a serious and determined heroine who kicks ass and saves lives.  I still want the sexy aspects of Starfire, but I also want her to be smart and independent.

       I still have hope for the rest of DC’s new lineup, and can’t wait for what they have in store as the year progresses.  I have enjoyed the pace of Batman, and We are Robin had a strong opening issue, leading me to believe that the story will continue to entertain.  I haven’t touched any of the Superman or Justice League titles, but I hear that those are doing as well as to be expected.  I digress, DC had the right idea by giving these heroes their own books, now we’ll just have to see if they can live up to the hype.

Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on DC’s big move, and you can follow me on Twitter @RolandDucant for more nerdy ramblings.  Remember to check back here at From Dice to Controllers for all your comic book, gaming, and movie news.  Thanks and have a good one.