Star Trek Deep Space 9 – Looking Back Part 2

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Back on with my thoughts on Deep Space 9 now that I’ve finished it. In Part 1 I talked about my thoughts on Captain Sisko, Major Kira and Odo. Time to finish off the cast!

Commander Worf, originally a major character in The Next Generation as one of the senior officers on the USS Enterprise, makes a return in Deep Space 9.

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The quintessential grumpy Klingon, Worf begins to mellow throughout the later series of Deep Space 9.

Mostly, thanks to Jadzia Dax that is, who he eventually marries. We see some conclusions to some plots from back in the Next Generation, such as Worf’s son Alexander grown up and coming to terms with his outsider status amongst the Klingons, which is a nice touch weaving the series together.

Overall, though, Worf moved on from being an interesting character in TNG to one of my favourites in DS9. His grumpiness becomes amusing even to himself, and the inter-play between his character and Jadzia’s is well done. *Plot spoiler – its just such a shame that they killed Jadzia off so abruptly, it seemed an unjust end to the Worf mellowing story arch*.

Chief O’Brien is the second character to make a return from TNG. The Enterprise’s transporter whizz takes on the job of Chief Engineer on DS9 – and that’s one heck of a major project to get the Cardassian relic in working order.

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Chief does an admirable job of keeping the station together, whilst being the endlessly loveable character he’s famous for being.

Particularly, he starts off really not getting along with the somewhat cocky new doctor – Julian Bashir. Over the series though they eventually grow into one of the best bro-mances of TV history.

Chief is the ever practical and grounded family man whilst Dr Bashir is the charming genetically enhanced genius. Opposites who end up getting on incredibly well.  I particularly enjoyed the running theme of their weekly holosuite sessions where they would fight a famous battle from history.

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Last but not least of the major characters there’s also Quark & Garak. Quark – the Ferengi bar owner on DS9 on a never ending quest to gain ever more profit. Garak – the Cardassian outcast who owns a tailor shop on DS9 and maintains a network of contacts from his days in the shadowy Obsidian Order of the Cardassian Empire.

Both very different businessmen who make up the vibrant patchwork of civilian life on the space frontier. They’re both quite different characters for Star Trek up to this point, previous focused on the quasi-military inner workings of Star Fleet ships. DS9 is a place of commerce and all the rest of civilian life, not just the front line in the war against the dominion. Quark especially is a good reminder of that.

While Quark is perhaps the more universally adored of the two characters, for me Garak is probably one of my favourite characters, and ultimately I think my favourite of DS9. He’s the outsider, akin to Odo, yet with a fantastic dark whit and very dry sarcasm.

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Here’s to all the Deep Space 9 characters. They were all memorable and I enjoyed my time with them. Some were bigger favourites than others, but ultimately they altogether made Deep Space 9; well, Deep Space 9.

I’m not going to give DS9 a rating, but I would recommend it. It’s the ‘hipster’ of all Star Trek series. It has a small hardcore of fans who will swear blind to the last that it’s the best series when you get to know it, but it’s probably the least known series in retrospect. DS9 is different, but fits in to the broader universe well. Maybe it isn’t my favourite, but I’m very glad I watched it.

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Star Trek Deep Space 9 – Looking Back Part 1

I mentioned recently that I’d been watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I’ve always been a fan of Star Trek, mainly through a childhood of watching re-runs of The Next Generation with Captain Picard.

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Whilst the Next Generation has been a big influence in my childhood, I’d never watched more than an episode or two of Deep Space Nine; the series which followed on from the Next Generation.

I decided it was time to see how I got on with Captain Sisko and his crew aboard their space station above the deeply religious world of Bajor.

Deep Space Nine is the name of the space station the series is based on. Taken over by the Bajorans after they gained independence from the Cardassian Empire; Captain Sisko is brought in as commander of the station after the Bajorans invited Star Fleet to administer it.giphy

The seven series of Deep Space Nine follow the wide and varied cast of inhabitants on the space station. Here’s part one of the breakdown of what I made of them, looking back over the long journey of all the series:

There’s Odo. Chief of Station Security under the Cardassians, and now for the Bajorans. Odo is known as ‘changeling’ in the Alpha quadrant. A few series in to Deep Space 9, a worm hole opens up in the space around the station which makes travel all the way to the Gamma quadrant as if it was a walk round the corner. It turns out that the Dominion which rules most of the Gamma quadrant is all masterminded by a race of Odo’s.

Odo is an outsider. People distrust him because he’s a liquid based form – which to be fair is pretty weird. But, it certainly doesn’t help that his race are the masterminds of the Dominion, which ends up hell-bent on taking over the entire Alpha quadrant by any means necessary. I guess people also don’t trust Chiefs of Station Security, it’s a lonely job.

Odo’s in the same vein as Data and Spock, the outsiders with the rigid sense of morals and rules. They’re the ISTJs of Star Trek. I’ve always loved the characters of Data and Spock from the previous series, and resonated with them on a personal level. I instinctively really like Odo as a result.

Eventually, though, by the end of seven series, I hated to admit it, but Odo became a bit stale. In fact, I felt like Odo at the end of the story was a totally different character from the start. Sure, he’d had a lot of character development, but I felt a little like they used and abused Odo’s character a little too much and his character lost a bit of coherency along the way.

I remain a fan of Odo in the grand scheme of things. I suspect, ultimately, though he was up with the very strongest of competition against Spock and Data to be the most memorable and likeable ISTJ of Star Trek.

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Major Kira is Captain Sisko’s second in command and the most senior Bajoran on the space station. She’s deeply religious, like the majority of Bajorans, and has next to no tolerance for Cardassians.

For me, being brutally honest, Major Kira was the most boring character of the series. Her stubborn personality made sense, but was just too damn stubborn sometimes. I did enjoy when her hatred of the Cardassians was challenged, but ultimately there always seemed to be something that eventually proved her right. I really wished they hadn’t written that in, it was an interesting plot device to see someone who fought for freedom against an Empire learning to see people of that Empire as individuals, not faceless goons.

As much as Major Kira was a key character to the series, especially with grounding the somewhat surreal religious ‘Emissary’ aspects of Captain Sisko’s story arc. I didn’t really like the element of the whole story arc to do with the Bajoran religion, and how Captain Sisko gets wrapped up in it as their ‘Emissary’ of the gods. That’s all personal opinion, but I felt it would have been better off without it.

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Last but not least for part 1; Captain Sisko himself. He grew on me, from a shaky start beginning right in the first episode with a very contrived arguement with Captain Picard – essentially just to so how different he was going to be. Sisko isn’t one of the great Captains – the infamous argument of Kirk vs Picard really is true. I think Sisko is a pragmatist Captain, in the same vein as Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager.

Both Sisko and Janeway are thrown in to impossibly difficult situations and they have to make the best of it. There is no inspired fix like Kirk would find, or intelligent solution like Picard would – these are the Captains who have to keep slogging on in a world that will otherwise consume everything they hold dear.

Sisko’s good, but I’ll forever be in the Picard camp.

Part 2 to come soon!

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Joe Abercrombie – The Blade Itself Review

I’ve just finished reading Joe Abercrombie’s first book – The Blade Itself. It’s book one of the ‘First Law Trilogy’ and a world which I first came across with the stand alone sequel ‘The Hereos‘ a few years back.

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I’ve also recently got into Joe Abercrombie’s latest series ‘The Shattered Sea‘ which is definitely in the same vein as the First Law but in a new world, a grittier viking themed world. The First Law is a bit more traditional fantasy, but in Abercrombie’s signature style and whit.

So, The Blade Itself.

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The Blade Itself centres around an ensemble cast who ultimately spend the course of the book all heading towards their meeting at the end of the book.

Each character is strong in their own right. There’s the ever-suspicious Inquisitor Glotka, once a famous swordsman turned torturer for the king after his own torture which crippled him. Even Glotka’s supporting cast of heavies, Practicals Frost and Severard, are memorable in their own right.

Captain Luthar, pompous young son of a noble training to win the illustrious annual fencing competition in the capital. He ends up realising that he is a pompous ass when he falls for his ‘commoner’ comrade’s sister. Not before she endlessly mocks him though.

There’s also Logan Ninefingers, exiled from the north by the self-made king Bethod. Once his champion, Logan is now trying to forget his past. Until he meets Bayaz, First of the Magi that is.

Bayaz is a wizard, but not your stereotypical wise old wizard of most fantasy. Bayaz is an aging, slightly podgy, mage who regrets what’s become of the world. One of the best moments of the book for me has to be when Bayaz makes an enemy spontaneously explode – while totally naked as he had been in the bath previously. An interesting wizard!

The world of the First Law is interesting as well. I mean, there’s plenty of standard fantasy tropes in there, as with the characters. You’ve got the barbarian style north, being harassed by a semi-magical foe to it’s north, and an exotic threat to the east. Sounds almost like Game of Throne’s world, yet I found this one far better executed.

The bit that I really liked that was a bit unusual was the ‘Union’ at the heart of the world and the story. The Union has become complacent with it’s safe monopoly of power in the centre of the world unchallenged for so long, and they have yet to realise the full danger of events going on abroad. I liked the characterisation of the Union, and I found the bits where Logan describes how alien he finds the place on his first visit very interesting.

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I realised something else about the series and it’s world – there’s no map. I’ve become very spoilt with fantasy books when it comes to maps, and I always like to see one.

Of course, a map can be almost imperative to keep track of a story with a complicated world like Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings. Yet, the First Law, and it’s lack of a map, makes me realise that fantasy as a genre has become over reliant on maps. They’ve become an excuse to skip good description and world building – which Abercrombie does with such skill you don’t miss a map at all. So extra kudos there, and I hope the rest of the fantasy genre take it a little easier on the maps, as it actually can make the story worse off for it.

I really enjoyed the Blade Itself and I’d recommend reading it. You can pick it up online for next to nothing after all!

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TMGR [5]: Spintires

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I think that Spintires is a really good game. It’s an off-roading simulator, and I do really enjoy off-roading in games, particularly in GTA V at the moment.

I loaded into the game pretty quickly and decided to play on a map called ‘The Flood’. It basically does what it says, it’s a flooded countryside area, where your task is to deliver supplies to areas that need it in specially off-road adapted lorries.

I tried to cross the massive flooded river in the first lorry I had available and it ended as you might guess:

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That blue lorry half submerged in that picture was my first attempt.

Time to try again in my back up lorry. I tried encourage the other lorry out, but it just wouldn’t budge. So I thought I’d give crossing another go – trying to keep as closely to the submerged road as possible so that I didn’t sink in the mud.

Almost entirely predictably, I ended up stuck in the mud again when I slightly left the road for a moment.

And that was it, 20mins over. 20mins and all I’d managed to do was get two lorries stuck in a flooded river!

Spintires, whilst a great game, is too tough for a decent 20mins of gameplay. I think that’s potentially the curse of being a simulator game. Simulators eat up your time greedily, without so much as even a guarantee of anything coming out of all that time. You could well come out of 2 hours of Spintires and still not have crossed that river.

These 20mins reviews have helped me to understand a lot more about what I like in a game. It’s helped me realise that whilst I enjoy time greedy games, and Spintires is a great example, I don’t enjoy the feeling afterwards when I haven’t accomplished much for all the time spent on the game.

I’m not afraid to admit that I prefer the quick and simple arcade style off-roading to be had in GTA V to Spintires. That’s not so much a reflection on Spintires as a game, but more about me getting to know what I like and going with that.

All that aside, it’s time for the score as always. Trouble is, it’s a little trickier than usual this time because it’s the first TMGR that I uninstalled afterwards. I decided Spintires wasn’t really adding much special that wasn’t already covered in my gaming library.

That said, Spintires is still a great game, that’s really well made by a dedicated development team; I’ve just recognised that it wasn’t for me.

Given all that, I’ll give Spintires a 2.5/5.

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TMGR [4]: Cities Skylines

Onwards with another 20min review with a game in a similar vein to last week’s review. Cities: Skylines is often lauded as the game that SimCity’s 2013 reboot should have been. Here’s what 20mins with it is like!

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I loaded up Cities: Skylines and was in to my pet city New Plymouth in next to no time. I’m beginning to really appreciate games with short load times when I’m doing a 20min review. As an adult gamer with all the responsibilities that go with being adult, I don’t always have that much time to spend on a game – every extra minute spent waiting on a loading screen counts! I’m looking at you GTA Online.

I’ve only spent about 6 hours growing up New Plymouth, but it’s already a flourishing city of over 30,000 people with a very dense and busy central business district. I’m quite attached to it at that, and I especially like how you can track individual people’s lives through your city – from work, to home to wherever. It’s gets you a bit more involved, it feels a bit more alive than just watching ants from up on high.

The first problem I had to deal with in my 20mins is one that plagues nearly every city in existence – traffic.

I had a chronic traffic problem, particularly on one major road heading into the city centre. I’d attempted a couple of small projects and even built a park and ride style train line to ease the congestion, but the roads I originally built just simply weren’t big enough for the traffic volume coming in to my city. It was time to get creative and widen that road. I had to knock down a few houses to make room for the much wider road, which didn’t exactly make for happy residents, but the benefits of much eased congestion made most people happy overall thankfully!

A very busy road in the middle of New Plymouth
A very busy road in the middle of New Plymouth

I really enjoy the challenge of city builders, and Cities: Skylines is great for that. Sorting the traffic out was a great challenge. That said, it wouldn’t have been possible without the massive array of mods out there on the Steam Workshop for the game, especially some very handy traffic info tools. I love how open the developers made the game for mods, it keeps it alive and vibrant, and most importantly lets the community improve on the base game.

Second task in my 20mins was to get a business park I’d been trying to get going out by the inter-state motorway and airport to grow. It had originally been just a handful of small dodgy businesses when I first started growing it, but with some encouragement – including a snazzy new University, it’s now off the ground and going places. I’m hoping it’ll turn in a high-flyer’s area, a sort of silicone valley of New Plymouth.

And; that was it for my 20mins. I got 2 big projects done, but the real magic of Cities: Skylines, and other sandbox builders like Prison Architect, is the bug it gives you. I have a thousand and one ideas going on in my head of where I want to take the city next. It often won’t go to plan, and there’s even more magic in how it develops when it goes off-piste. I really like the sandbox bug, but it can be a cruel mistress.

Last but not least for the 20min review I have to do a rating!

I really enjoyed playing Cities: Skylines for 20mins, but I’m not sure I could actually play for much longer than an hour at the most. That’s good when it comes to a 20min review, I felt like I got a decent amount of stuff done and felt happily rewarded, but I think if you had more than an hour it might not be the best game as it would potentially get dull.

I like a game that I can dabble in though, and based purely on my 20mins and whether I’d play it again in another 20min slot, I’ll give Cities: Skylines a very solid 4/5. Plus, I’ll chip in with my personal opinion that I think it’s the best modern city builder out there.
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TMGR [3]: Prison Architect

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I’ve been a big fan of Prison Architect for a while. Currently in Alpha 33, there’s plenty more the small but dedicated team of developers have planned.

The first thing from my 20mins to note is how fantastically quick Prison Architect loads up. It took me just 20 seconds to load into the game and into my prison.

Fort Solitude awaited me. I’ve spent somewhere in the region of 40 hours on Fort Solitude (a lovely ironic name, as it’s anything but a place of solitude!) in total and it’s a fully functioning prison of over 500 prisoners. I have the failure conditions set off as well, so the entire prison can be murdered and I won’t get fired – and I have unlimited cash. Not that I’m hoping that’ll happen of course! It’s kinda like cheating, but I find it fun to just play my prison how I fancy without the added challenge of not getting fired and affording it. If that’s your kind of thing, the game gives you that option as well.

One of my 'legendary' prisoners - who has caused no end of trouble and deaths
One of my ‘legendary’ prisoners – who has caused no end of trouble and deaths

Anyway! My 20mins began and my first task was to upgrade my showers. I had a giant communal block that all prisoners used. It was an extended version of the one I originally built, and it just wasn’t fit for service anymore. It was also the usual place that inter-prisoner killings happened – so it was time for a change.

I have 6 separate cell blocks – 2 max sec, 2 normal sec and 2 min sec. I also have two isolated units for Super Max and Protected Custody, which already had their own internal showers. Each of the 6 major blocks got an extension built on of dedicated showers with plenty of guard/CCTV coverage. My main remaining challenge is the tiny canteen I built in a boxed-in area at the start of my prison, but I’m hoping the space I’ve left from the old shower block will allow me to expand that. I can see in the future I might end up outsourcing the canteens to each cell block, but I prefer them central for now so that I can pool security resources to keep them safe.

My next challenge was Death Row. Without wanting to make a social statement, I don’t agree with Capital Punishment, but when they added it into the game a few builds back I wanted to see how it worked. I built a unit for one Death Row prisoner to trial it, and I did just that. They did a good job of making an execution a big event in the prison, I’m impressed and horrified in equal measure. I did that and then demolished that unit – to be replaced, slightly ironically, by a second parole hearing room. This was when the game decided to tell me that evidence had been unearthed to show that the executed prisoner was, in fact, innocent. Way to make me feel even worse game!

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Last but not least, my final minutes were spent doing a Shakedown of all prisoners and their cells. They’re a damned resourceful group when it comes to making trouble. As the 20mins timer went off, I was ⅔ of the way through the sweep and had discovered a couple of dozen contraband items (including an alarming number of inmate-made weapons) and 2 tunnels! I’ll have to see what the rest of the sweep yields in the future!

All in all I feel like I got lots done in my 20mins on Prison Architect. It was good fun and not too depressing either for such a serious topic. The lighthearted appearance of the game does it wonders on that front. Like most sandbox games, though, its so difficult to tear yourself away after only a short time. I have so many plans going on in my head for Fort Solitude right now I just want to go back on. Damn you sandbox games!

Last but not least, time to give Prison Architect a score.

I say it’s a rare thing for me, but I’m actually going to give it a perfect 5/5 based on the 20 minutes of game play I had with it – maybe I’m not as harsh in my marks as I thought I was! I’d really recommend picking it up when its on offer (which is fairly often as a heads up). I’ll actually be kind of sad when it leaves alpha though.

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TMGR [2]: Door Kickers

Onwards with the 20min game reviews! This week it’s ‘Door Kickers’.

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Door Kickers was another good game to start my TMGR journey with.

My first comments after the 20 minutes were “it’s a really good game that relives some of my favourite free online games of my teenage gaming years”. It’s pretty similar to One Finger Death Punch from TMGR [1] in that way, just that the levels are a little bit longer.

Door Kickers is essentially a swat simulator which you play from the overhead view – plotting your swat team’s path to hopefully take all the ‘bad guys’ down, lose none of the ‘good guys’ and save all the hostages/defuse all the bombs. It’s really simple and satisfying.

Door Kickers is also satisfyingly quick and easy. In particular I loved a mission where you have to breach a plane that’s been taken, with lots of hostages and a bomb with only 1 minute 30 seconds on the timer.

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That’s a screenshot of me half way through clearing the plane – dead hostage takers are the black chalk outlines and my guys and moving up ready to breach the room with the bomb.

I think I enjoyed this mission because it was so quick. Even though it did take longer than 1min 30secs (the game lets you pause to plan your moves) it was never more than 5mins at the most.

The trouble with Door Kickers is, which I soon realised into my 20 minutes, is that, like most free online games, it has a bit of a shelf life. By the end of the 20 minutes I was honestly bored. There’s only so many times I could breach that plane before it was getting too repetitive; and once you’ve done a dozen of the missions once you’ve done them all.

I wrote that it’s “done it’s job; I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time to let it go on to the graveyard of all those online games I played as a teenager”.

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I’d gone from happy Kanye to grumpy Kanye in just 20 minutes.

That’s definitely not a bad thing though, and I still think Door Kickers is a great game. It does what it does brilliantly and it’s great fun, it just isn’t a game you keep installed for very long. In fact, I uninstalled it after my 20 minute review because it helped me decide that I was bored of it – so plus one to the TMGR for helping me be decisive!

All that said, I do have to give every game a rating based purely on the 20 minutes of play.

I’m going to give Door Kickers 2.5/5. I think that’s maybe a little bit harsh, but its mainly because it got boring so fast in the 20mins. I’d definitely recommend it, especially as it’s in the Steam Sale for just £4 at the moment, but don’t go in expecting quite the same level of awesomeness that you’d get from One Finger Death Punch for the same price.

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TMGR [1]: One Finger Death Punch

TMGR. Catchy or what? Let me explain what TMGR is first of all! TMGR is short for Twenty Minute Game Review; its a new feature I’m starting up and seeing how it goes.

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The original idea was born of my indecisiveness. I’m so indecisive it can sometimes be difficult to even decide whether I like a game or not! It’s a little bit complicated sometimes to work out whether I just like the game or whether I’m enjoying it and it’s making me happy to keep playing it – and the more I think about it the more difficult it can sometimes be to decide.

20 minutes. It’s a nice short amount of time, but enough to get stuck in to the average game. It’s just the right time to drop me in a game. The key is to wrench yourself off when the time’s up and write down exactly what you think of that last 20 minutes.

So far for the games I’ve done it with it’s been incredibly insightful, so here I go with sharing my thoughts on this week’s first TMGR – One Finger Death Punch.

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One Finger Death Punch is the perfect place to start with my TMGR. I described it as “quick, easy and awesome” after my 20mins of gameplay.

That’s exactly what One Finger Death Punch is. All you need is a mouse – the game runs entirely off the left and right mouse buttons – so it’s definitely easy. It’s also not much of a step above a mini game – so it’s definitely quick. It’s also a martial arts game – so add that to the quick and the awesome.

Now, the idea of TMGR is to blog about my exact thoughts after the 20mins of gameplay. I wrote that playing One Finger Death Punch is “like eating a takeaway pizza without any of the regret”.

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Clearly I was in need of takeaway pizza that day!

It’s a good analogy though. One Finger Death Punch is so much fun and so easy it’s like that takeaway pizza – but it doesn’t leave you with any of the nasty greasy boxes lying around your kitchen. You play it for 20mins and that’s all you need, you leave it there and it sits there happily until you want to feel that buzz again – and it sure does have a big takeaway-pizza-style buzz when you’re on a good run.

Talking of which, I had a fantastic run during my 20mins. I got an absolutely perfect ‘Platinum’ score on a round type that I find fiendishly difficult – where the speed keeps getting faster and faster until you’ve defeated everyone. Not one bad guy got any damage on me and I had some amazing combos going.

This was also where the 20mins ended, which left me on a real high. I think usually I would’ve probably kept on playing – like the gambler who just can’t cash-in after their big win. So that’s the benefits of the 20mins right there – teaching me to quit while I’m ahead.

Essentially, One Finger Death Punch is awesome in small doses, but never play it for more than roughly 30mins. It definitely helps that the mouse button controls are incredibly simple to pick back up, so there’s no excuse to drop and pick up the game whenever you fancy.

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As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a special lightsaber round!

Last but not least with my review, it’s time to give it a score.

This is a very rare thing for me, but I’m going to give One Finger Death Punch a perfect 5/5 based on the 20 minutes of game play I had with it. I’d really recommend picking it up, especially as it’s only about £4 on Steam. Just don’t feel bad picking it up and dropping it regularly – that’s exactly what it’s made for.

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Salad Reviews: Peaky Blinders

I have Netflix again! I stopped my subscription a few months back when I ran out of things that I found interesting to watch, but there’s new things now and I’ve been busy making up for the lost time.

One of the new things I’ve been really enjoying has been a series called Peaky Blinders. Here’s my review of it.

To explain Peaky Blinders, its a series about a notorious criminal family in Birmingham in the years after WW1 (1919/20ish). The Shelby family run a criminal network in one of the most run down industrial districts of Birmingham, making up a gang the authorities call the ‘Peaky Blinders’.

I’ll get the boring historical bit out of the way first (Please feel free to skip!).

Peaky Blinder’s historical setting fascinates me, and isn’t conventional for TV in the slightest. The decade after the First World War was one of chaos and turmoil in Britain, which we neatly gloss over in modern tellings of our history. Our story of that time boils down to; the markets crashed, the Empire started to crumble, we appeased Hitler. But, a lot more than that happened in the 21 years between the wars.

Sadly, the Shelby family didn’t actually exist. However, the violent street gangs they depict were well and truly real. The Shelby’s eventual nemesis in Series 1, race-course baron Billy Kimber, was real and rose from Birmingham gangster to one of the biggest crime lord Britain in the 1920s. The men had come back from the War completely broken mentally and physically; and the country around them was just as broken.

There was certainly crime, but the centuries old tensions in Ireland had also boiled up into all-out war. The British state fought against the IRA from 1919-1921, ending ultimately with the creation of the Irish Free State. Peaky Blinders highlights this perfectly. When Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), the main character of the Series, and de-facto leader of the family gets hold of some stolen Lewis Guns the IRA make several approaches to buy them. Such a cache of weapons would have single-handedly won the Irish War of Independence no doubt. Given the severity of this theft, the British government, and in particular a certain Winton Churchill when he was Home Secretary, sends in a ruthless Northern Irish Chief of Police to regain the guns. Whilst this event was completely made up for the show, it demonstrates the tensions of the time perfectly; Britain was very fragile.

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Thomas Shelby

Indeed, even Communists were seeking to get hold of these guns in the series. Communism was a very real threat in Britain in the 1920s. Churchill, as Home Secretary at the time, was ruthless in the suppression of any Communists or sympathisers in the slums of Britain’s cities. Any General Strikes were met with brutal state reaction for fear of spreading to a wider worker’s revolt against the establishment – and there were certainly points were it seemed a very real possibility. Little do we remember these days how close we came to such an unbelievable occurrence.

The guns being stolen in Birmingham is an interesting historical note too. Birmingham was the home of the BSA factory – one of the biggest weapon manufacturers in the world at the time. Later BSA were to become one of the most famous motorbike brands when gun sales went south.

The thing is, a huge number factory workers across Britain who went off to fight in the First World War died. Whole factories had joined up to fight and ended up on the front lines in battles like the Somme, where 60,000 such men died in a day for absolutely no territory gain. Those who came back were beyond shells, they were destroyed by what they had experienced. Many of the Shelby family and their associates from the slums suffer horrendously from their War experiences in Peaky Blinders. Whilst we know very well what the horrors of the First World War did to the young men of the time from our history lessons, I’ve never seen it brought to life so vividly as with Peaky Blinders.

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Enough of the history geek splurge though (sorry for any boredom!) Besides indulging my historical curiosity, Peaky Blinders is a damn good show.

Some big names make it to this humble show about an otherwise pretty unremarkable British city. Sam Neill (from Jurassic Park amongst many others) plays the tough Northern Irish Chief of Police, while Tom Hardy (Bane in Batman, etc) makes a stellar appearance in the second series as the head of the sinister Solomon syndicate.

Besides the big names there’s some brilliant small talent as well. British poet Benjamin Zephaniah, from Birmingham most appropriately, plays a preacher called Jeremiah Jesus loyal to the Shelbys, which is a favourite character of mine.

The script and story is also fantastic. I don’t want to do the series a disservice by comparing it to any of the brilliantly acted and produced big name TV series out there – but it stands up very strongly against them all.

I’ve so far only seen Series 1, but I’ve seen snippets of Series 2. I’m very excited to keep going and hopefully catch the soon to be released Series 3! I’d strongly recommend Peaky Blinders. It’s ful of foul language, as any good TV show seems to these days, and full of violence. None of that is gratuitous in the slightest though. With it’s strong historical setting, giving an insight into a fascinating and otherwise forgotten corner of British history, we start to understand why families like the Shelbys existed and why they did what they did. That’s not to condone their criminality in the slightest, but it’s valuable to understand it.

Peaky Blinders has also spawned this beautiful reaction GIF, so that’s an added bonus:

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4.5/5 is the Salad rating – give it a watch if you can!

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Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com

Super November – The Salad Take

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November is a big big month in gaming releases. Everyone and anyone is releasing something, or several somethings, to get a chunk of the Christmas market. Here’s my thoughts on some of the biggest, and a few smaller, names coming out this month.

Assassins Creed Unity

Unity-Gate I kinda want to call it. A game full of so much promise. Heck, they even delivered most of what I asked for in my post Mulling Over Assassin’s Creed.

They really mucked it up though, as has been well published across the gaming, and even mainstream news, internets. Ubisoft shares have plummeted, just like the reviews of their games.

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Unfinished is probably the kindest way to describe the Unity-Gate farce. The game has literally dozens of game breaking glitches that make it next to unplayable. Even on semi-official gameplay videos you see fairly serious glitches popping up. So much for the fantastic new revolutionary game engine!

Quite honestly though, having watched a fair amount of gameplay (I must admit to not actually having played it) it looks pretty darn boring as a game. The world somehow still falls flat, even with the big crowds. Go off the beaten track and you could be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference between Arno’s Paris and Ezio’s Florence of AC2.

I wanted to like Assassin’s Creed Unity, I wanted it to make me want to buy it. It even gave me most of the things I asked for and yet it still mucked it up. It did everything right and then tripped flat on its face at the very last hurdle. It’s kinda sad to see, and I do hope they managed to get it properly fixed in a decent amount of time.

Farcry 4

I’ve never really been big into Farcry as a gaming series, but Farcry 4 – whether you like the series or not – is a really beautiful game.

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The gameplay really shines through. The Farcry series has consistently refined its core gameplay, and it works. Ubisoft take note!

The RPG style skill tree elements are still there and still relevant, which I like in a game that could otherwise be a very flat and dull FPS. I also like that there’s a decent co-op mode, even if it is online only. Too many games shy away from co-op when it could suit them wonderfully – just like it does with Farcry – so kudos to them for going for it.

Farcry 4, for a game series that makes a big fuss about its story, doesn’t really seem to have struck many chords with its story. Personally I’ve never got on with the stories of Farcry games, and that’s probably my biggest gripe. They leave me with a feeling of ‘why bother trying’ when faced with x y and z to save characters I don’t really care about.

On the whole though, Farcry 4 is a good offering this November, and deserves to well – if only because its a decently polished game!

GTA V 

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GTA V is still GTA V.

It knows its the best game out there and its still going strong. The recent release on the next gen has actually surprised me with how much energy its still got behind it as a release that’s over a year old.

The graphical updates are amazing on the next generation. Whilst not always immediately noticeable, look a little closer and the world shines even more than before. GTA V next gen is by far the most alive gaming world out there.

I guess it was always going to be though, Rockstar take their time to get things right.

The one thing that doesn’t really float my boat though is the new first person mode. It just doesn’t feel like GTA to me, more like some knock-off mod slapped on to the original game.

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I know a lot of people really like it, as a novel change to the resolutely 3rd person series, but it doesn’t work for me. I’m happy for it to be there for those that like it, but I’ll stay away from it mostly.

All in all though, GTA V next gen has been a dependably good release.

Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

This is the November release I’m most excited about, no questions.

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As a real late-comer to the series with Pokemon X/Y, I’ve immediately gelled with the series. A true legend in the gaming world for good reason.

Because CakeBoxFox and I pre-ordered the game, we also got hold of the free demo version of the games. It looks set to be just as good as hoped.

An interesting mix of more modern Pokemon gameplay & lore ideas from the X/Y generation mixed up with the classic world of Ruby and Sapphire. It looks like they’ve pulled off another fantastic release and I can’t wait to get my copy.

Just to put it out there, Alpha Sapphire is going to be my choice. I’m a Kyogre fan-boy and proud of it!

Super Smash Bros

Super Smash Bros is another game I’m seriously excited about. The best bit? It comes out on the same day as Pokemon. Well done Nintendo on officially stealing my next weekend!

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I’ve always loved SSB but never actually owned one. Such a fun and crazy game, it’s unparalleled for pure fantastic fun; and this new version will be no different.

Playing as the Wii Fit Trainer and some other odd new additions will be interesting, adding hours more fun to the already addictive formula.

Well done Nintendo on wrapping up November/December 2014 with two very solid releases.

Mount & Blade Warband: Viking Conquest

Somewhat off the main radar, but I was super excited to hear that a surprise new DLC is coming to Mount & Blade: Warband.

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I readily admit to being a fanboy of the series, who would buy anything from the team regardless of what it was, but I thought it deserved a note on the list of Super-November. I really hope the developer all the best and try to support them as much as possible. It’s not easy for a small developer out there, even when you have a really good game concept.

And that’s it for now! I know I’ve missed a few recent releases, but forgive me. A Salad has only so much spare time! When time allows I hope to be able to look into all the recent releases in a little more detail, but for now, that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed.

Digital Salad – lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com