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2016.07.10

Old Man’s War

John Scalzi’s debut scifi adventure is amazing.

It tells a story of old people from Earth that are recruited for a intergalactic military organization. There, their bodies are reconstructed to it’s younger form and enhanced.

From there, they have to fight against alien races in order to protect humanity. Humans on Earth do not have a clue about this galactic war BTW.

I must recommend the reading.

Old man’s war

Note: I also read the sequel, The Ghost Brigate. And also love it. But much of the original wow was, of course, gone.

My Rating: 8
Goodreads: 4.23
2016.02.21

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Shadow of Mordor is one of that type of game that sucks me in in a way that I cannot stop desiring to play. My last love was The Witcher 3, which I slowed played for more than 125 hours during months. But the scope is so much smaller that TW3 that I was determined to finish the game as soon as possible. It took me about half a week but I did it. SoM is officially over. Credits, like in all modern game or movie, are endless. Satisfaction. Because I am a completionist, I still have it installed to allow me to go back to it and at least finish the 100% mark (I would love to do all the Steam achievements too, but some are too obscure).

The mechanics presented here is nothing new. The main character, Talion, is a Assassin’s Creed wanderer. He climbs castles, towers and hills just like any AC character always do. The advantage here is that the enemies, the orcs, are very stupid and lose track of you almost instantaneously. Each to run away from messy situations. The combat is also very derivative of this new generation of third person action games, just as Assassin’s Creed, Batman and God of War. It is very generous on targeting your enemies. The conter attack time window is very broad.

Shadow of Mordor, therefore, is an easy game once you get the general flow. However, it is very fun.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

One of the main features of this game is the nemesis system (it is how the developer calls it). In the game, orcs have an hierarchical military structure and they interact withing the chain quite often. The challenge rivals, assume the vacant position, are promoted. Killing the high command leaders triggers a series of promotions. Player can also induce rebellions, plot assassinations and other situations that actively shapes a new order. It is really interesting mechanics. You will get furious to see an orc getting more powerful and promoted because he killed you. In their culture, it is a demonstration of mighty.

Another cool concept is that any of these orc leaders have strengths and weaknesses that you can, and should, explore. They can be imune to ranged or melee attacks, forcing you master all the combat techniques. They can also have a critical fear of bees, caragors (a thematic tiger) or traitors infiltrated in their outpost. Exploiting such flaw will make them act erratic and try to run away. It will open a great opportunity window for finishing them off. Every time you need to kill one of them, it is imperative to study these character aspects to plan the strategy.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

Graphically the game is stunning. I could run it in full HD in High preset and several times I had to stop just to take a mental photo of the moment. Nothing to comment further: great.

The story, however, it just ok. There are some problems that annoyed me:

  • It is too fragmented: there are some secondary characters that come and go in matter of two missions. Some are genuinely cool, but vanish from the story too soon.
  • The bosses are mini games: there are basically 3 bosses in the game. Without spoiling the story any further, they are merely a mini game. Almost no interaction. And they are not present throughout the game, so I were never engaged to kill them.
  • The main story is essentially a tutorial: the game have a core mechanics that is supposed to be an infinite loop. The main story presents new combat or gameplay features until almost the last mission! And like any tutorial-mission in games, they are always easy on the player.

There is one aspect of the game story that I liked and I fell worth to mention: the lore of the game. While the game is not about the main events of Lord of the Rings (it happens long before the LotR), it crosses with some cool characters and events that made me feel is was part of the famous story.

Middle earth shadow of mordor

I enjoyed Shadow of Mordor very much. I totally recommend you to play it. I was curious when all major game reviewers were telling very good things about the game (they also were surprised). Due the brazilian current ratio, I had to wait for a better price; and it was worthy!

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 84
2016.01.15

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

The biggest sensation of 2015, Star Wars – Force Awakens was easily the most anticipated movie of the last few years. A lot of expectation was put into it. It was the revival of a beloved franchise, and the first movie under the Disney umbrella. The direction was under the experienced JJ Abrams, famous for the Lost TV show and the Star Trek film reboot. There are no much people in the world that can claim to have worked in these both famous SciFi universes.

It starts from the ashes of the old Galactic Empire; the First Order rises. Kinda lame, because it is essentially the same enemy, with the same military structure. Just a re branding. In fact, if you start to think more deeply, the film tries so much to be a continuation of the universe, that it borrows several elements from other movies. The deja vù sensation is very present throughout the whole time. It is not bad or good by definition, but it makes me think about the artificial nature of the script: it was done to be a commercial success, at all costs.

Star wars episode vii – the force awakens

I liked very much the new characters, heroes and villains. Most are well defined. Their motivations are clear, and their actions make sense. They are also mostly funny. It believe that Disney notice that the most beloved characters from the original movies were those that have a sense of humor, like Han Solo and Chewbacca, or R2-D2. Now almost all, even in dire straits, have fun of the danger. One noticeable exception is the main villain, Kylo Ren. The internal is so strong that makes the audience believe that he is not actually any powerful as it tries to imply.

My main overall criticism is that the movie is very focused on the characters and the intrinsic relationships among them, forgetting the major conflict (not going to tell about specifics, for the sake of spoiling the fun). All the problems that are not personal-related is solved in a so easy fashion that removed the credibility. The villains are so incompetent the heroes surpass them all the time, with no relevant drawback. At the end, it seems that everything was a minor headache episode.

Nostalgic and fun. Total recommendation. Sorry to say, but it is already a far better experience than Lucas' second trilogy. Star Wars is stronger than ever.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 84
Rotten Tomatoes: 93
2015.12.22

The Talos Principle

Like almost everybody else, I was not expecting this game being this good. From the makers of the fun but niche FPS Serious Sam, Croteam, a puzzle game this deep have to catch everybody by surprise.

The game is a series of 3D puzzles. You control a character using the ordinary 3D FPS control scheme. Nothing fancy. But there is no combat. None. Some puzzles require some action, like running an synchronizing with other moving elements, like elevators.

The talos principle

The difficulty rate is really nice. At the beginning you face easy puzzles. Eventually one is harder, to keep you interested. Then a new tools or functionality is presented. And the cycle repeats, now mixing the usage of the tools in the levels.

The visuals are super clean but yet super nice. It allowed me to play in my notebook with any reservations. The whole universe feels right. The UI is super minimalistic.

The story is presented thru a inside or head voice, in a God-speaking to you kinda way and thru computers and holograms. Most of them does not clarify anything, but just expose someone’s opinions and points of view. It is up to you, the player, to figure out what the hack is going on. And it is deliberated dual, in the way that there is no one truth to the story. Every player will experience it in a personal way. The whole presentation is a follows the introspective and philosophical themes.

The talos principle

The game is a blast. I struggled in some puzzles but most of them are doable. Some extras are given for those that keep the super hard out-of-the-box puzzles. I saw the solution of some of them on the internet, and my mind exploded. They were super bizarre. I felt that just finishing the game and doing one or other extra puzzle would suffice. But I enjoyed every moment.

And also, I saved the game just before the final moment because I wanted to experience the multiple endings of the game.

The talos principle

Totally recommend it.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 85
2015.11.01

The Witcher 3 – The Wild Hunt

Spoiler alert: It is now my favorite game of all time. Period.

I played The Witcher (1) couple of years ago, after reading an interesting review saying that it was one of the best RPGs ever made. The review also alerted that the game suffered deeply from bad translation and bugs when first came to english markets. The second edition, called Enhanced Edition, fixed most of these issues and indeed enhanced some aspects of the game. When I played, I had to agree that the game and the universe were fantastic. I loved the idea of playing with a anti-hero.

The Witcher 2 came and I also loved it. It departed from the Aurora Engine (used in Obsidian’s classic RPGs like Neverwinter Nights) to a home made. The art direction took a overhaul and started to show the real vision. The general gameplay also transitioned to a more action oriented, with a third person over-the-shoulder camera style.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

The Witcher 3 was announced and I had to confess that I was a bit worried about the open world nature. The Witcher main strength, as a series, was the strong story telling. Open world games tend to have a loose and light story. See Bethesda’s Elder Scroll and RockStar’s GTA series.

The closer to the release, the more excited I was getting. It was one of the very few titles that I have ever pre-ordered.

And it delivered!

Since from the very start, the game shows that it has a fantastic story driven gameplay and strong action mechanics. Since from the very start, it will keep your mouth and eyes opened. It is how I stayed for hours of playing. There are 3 pillars that make this game so awesome:

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Story

The most surprising good feature is the story elements. As I said before, open world games tend to be a bit light in order to accommodate a generic and open nature of the game. They generally just introduce the gameplay elements. But in Wild Hunt, the main story have a purpose, a true life. The plot is complex and it raises in tension each step.

But what surprised me most is the richness of  the side quests. They did not fall into the trap of creating a bunch of generic side quests, like most Assassin’s Creed or Borderlands, or even Skyrim, with several missions that are purely kill a target or get an item. They are more elaborate, with an introduction of context on each of them, multi stepped and often with resolution with a moral dilemma. Combat and violence is not always the way of resolving things. In summary, they put a lot of effort on creating all of them, avoiding the generic content-fill approach.

The characters fell deep and believable. They have different motivations: some are greedy, some are brutal, some are kind, some are funny. Geralt cannot be defined as good or evil. He is more complex. You can save one beautiful lady by letting dozens die. You can take part of a monster that is counter attacking humans that are invading its territory. You can date some different girls, but notice that for every decision, there are consequences. You will never face a “right” decision.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Gameplay

They listened to the players from previous games and they changed and tweaked The Witcher formula while maintaining the series main concepts. Alchemy is proved to be useful, magic and combat are complementary. The players are constantly forced to change styles and mastering all the techniques. It creates variable combats and protects the players from being a mere button presser, with monotonous single style of play.

The map traversal is fun and interesting. The land is filled with monsters and mysterious characters. Beautiful landscapes. Detailed cities. Do yourself a favor and avoid the main roads and explore the map. The horse Roach is useful and fun. Fast travel is done nicely (altought I hate where the Crow’s Perch).

The developers got almost all the design choices right. All the information is presented clearly and most of the boring aspects, like loot and inventory administration, streamlined.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Graphics

The third element that hooked me also stunned almost everyone in the world: the graphical presentation is absolutely the best. Skyrim did quite a splash when it came out, but it is nothing, nothing compared to The Witcher. They extracted the most of the technology to bring a very detailed and brilliant world even imagined.

They animated EVERY dialog. All the set pieces are cinema like, with moving, talking, gesticulating and vivid characters. For sure they invented some animation editor to allow to procedurally change camera angles and some gestures, but man, it works really well.

The cities are huge. It takes quite a time to cross one city. One of many. The terrain is so beautiful that they put some situations in the story that the main character itself stops and take a moment watching the view.

In the sound department, all the dialogues are voiced, in a enormous production challenge.

The witcher 3 – the wild hunt

Bonus: Customer friendly

Unlike most of today’s businessmen in these industry, the guys from CD Prokect really mean customers-first. They proved in the past, creating the Good Old Game (not only GOG.com) with no DRM, and they proved this time. The game was fixed and really enhanced patch after patch, mostly due the players feedback. They are for me the ultimate inspiration for business management for an digital company. It should definitively a inspiration for Konami or EA heads.

My final thoughts are quite simple: it took me months to complete the 130+ hours of the main campaign. I was delaying it on purpose, fearing it would end. I liked so much that I could say that it is probably my favorite game of all time.

My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 93
2015.10.25

Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi

Fuzzy Nation is a great story about fighting for what is right, and getting a personal revenge in the way. Scalzi created a very funny story about a underdog fighting against all odds and powerful enemies.

Jack Holloway is anti hero. You can think of him like Han Solo working as lawyer. He is a former lawyer that was expelled from the job for a not-that-clear facts, losing a very important case on purpose, it seemed. He became then a geologist freelancer in a very distant planet, scanning for underground for mineral richness. In the way, he discovered a very different thing. And it puts him in a position to work back as a lawyer, fighting against the former employer, that are no short on money and resources.

Fuzzy nation, by john scalzi

Holloway is clever. But this is one of the main complains I had. Holloway is so clever that you cannot follow that he is thinking. It is, in fact, intentional. The book hides the inner thoughts of Holloway in order to deliver some surprising turns in the story. But sometimes it makes you feel a mere passenger.

Despite any complains, it is a solid title. I loved to read it and totally recommend. I would not be surprised if it gets a movie adaptation eventually.

My Rating: 8
Goodreads: 4.07
2015.09.12

Que Horas Ela Volta?

Prefiro o título em inglês; Segunda Mãe. Menos forte no ponto de vista do marketing, mas diz mais sobre o que veio. O filme faz uma crítica ao preconceito contra os pobres e imigrantes que se sujeitam a trabalhar na cidade grande, deixando a família para trás (mas com uma grande ferida no peito causada pela enorme saudade). A família rica mal nota a presença da criada e faxineira, se comporta como se fossem os melhores amigos e melhores patrões, mas tudo isso numa máscara de hipocrisia.

Regina Casé, a criada, é bem solitária mas aprendeu a lidar com sua posição no mundo. Não parece sofrer particularmente com isso todo dia. Com seus pequenos luxos, ela vai levando a vida, dia a dia. Cuida do filho dos patrões como se fosse uma mãe. Ela tem enorme carinho por todos, mesmo vivendo numa realidade completamente diferente.

Que horas ela volta?

Só com a chegada inesperada da filha é que seus valores com a vida começam a ser questionados. A filha é rebelde e de personalidade forte, crítica com tudo que vê e ouve e bota em cheque o modo em que a mãe vive e trabalha. A doméstica que sempre teve respeito pelos patrões começa a questionar se a filha não está certa e tudo não poderia ser diferente.

Regina Casé mostra que é uma excelente atriz cômica, mesmo em momentos mais dramáticos. Os outros personagens são demasiadamente caricatos, mas passam a mensagem.

My Rating: 8
Metacritic: 82
Rotten Tomatoes: 97
2015.09.06

The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian is often described as Cast Away in space. I definitively agree. It presents the incredible task of surviving, alone, in Mars. Just like Tom Hanks surviving in the island.

But improvising a life in Mars is several degrees more complex than in that island. That is why the main character in The Martian have to be a very very very smart guy, a little too MacGyver to be honest. Imagine Apollo 13, the movie, when NASA focus on converting ship scraps into a oxygen filter, but for the entire duration of the movie an done mostly by one guy.

80% of the book, Mark Watney is in dire straights. Always facing high odds of dying. That is why the book is so compelling. It sucks your soul, making you wonder at night “how he can pull this off now?”. Watney must have a clear state of mind all the time. I totally understand that it would not make any sense to write a book about a normal guy that get lost in Mars and dies after the first disaster. But Watney is too much the perfect guy to be lost in space.

The martian, by andy weir

The book sometimes abuses the technical description of the solution. It could be shorter by a bit. However, and is not a small achievement, there are at least 2 moments that I was totally crying due the narration and climax feeling.

It will become a movie directed by Ridly Scott and started by Matt Damon. I will definitively see the movie too.

My Rating: 7
Goodreads: 4.38
2015.01.31

Mark of the Ninja

Without any delay, I give it to you: Mark of the Ninja entered to my Top 10 Games of All Time. That is the how much I liked the game.

This beautifully crafted 2D action stealth game. You are asked to go thru the stealthy approach in the entire game, but if you are more willing to make it a blood bath, it is a viable option too.

Mark of the ninja

The controls are sharp and the levels are very well designed. And just like Super Meat Boy, the difficulty level is at the point that it you will get compelled to replay it for a better score.

Music is great, story also very good (makes you wanting to know more about the mysteries ahead). I got really inspired by the Klei production.

I played it until I got almost all the badges and challenges completed. When I finally got almost everything possible, it made me sad to uninstall it.

Mark of the ninja
My Rating: 10
Metacritic: 91
2014.11.17

The Fault in Our Stars

The fault in our stars

I was waiting a moment with my girlfriend to watch what I was expecting to be a silly romance story. The Fault in Our Stars was a best seller book, adapted to the big screen. And it is more than enough to make me shiver. Twilight Saga and Fifty Shades of Grey are recent proof of what book editors are best selling.

But for my surprise, this one is a great movie. Amazing character development, very sad story with a great dosage of first love romance. I cried from start to end.

The actors deliver the characters with nice performances. I cannot remember right now a single actor that was bellow-par. Shailene Woodley is gorgeous and with the make up and different haircut, she is even more beautiful. Great actress too, because she makes you care deeply about her character, the protagonist Hazel.

Her friend and lover Augustus, played by Ansel Ergot, is less believable, but very likable. He is always positive about life and drives the whole dark tone of cancer with much lighter.

The human relations, even on very dare moments of life, is really

I totally recommend this movie.

The fault in our stars
The fault in our stars
My Rating: 9
Metacritic: 68
Rotten Tomatoes: 81