Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review Day: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

According to Steam, I have 217 hours invested in Borderlands 2, the second longest playtime after Skyrim. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a standalone game made with the BL 2 engine. It's gotten mixed reviews online, although the basic theme seems to be that people who loved BL 2, will also love this one.

The core gameplay of shooting things and getting better guns is intact -- the array of available guns, shields, and mods are similar to the previous game, with new, fun additions that complement well (like laser guns and freezing effects). The biggest shift from the last game is a change in gravity. Since this story takes place on a moon, gravity is greatly reduced and jumps are very floaty.

Floaty jumping gives more freedom in combat, but is particular frustrating in the many jumping puzzles scattered throughout the game. Jupming puzzles weren't fun in Ultima 8, and still aren't fun on the moon. You will often just-miss a long jump, sometimes falling all the way down a tall structure, Super Mario style. Explanations of the new features are poor (especially the new Stingray vehicle which can apparently jump long distances), but can be figured out through trial and error.

BL: TPS retains the biggest flaw I found in BL 2: the world is too vast and empty, with minimal reward for completionist exploration, and far too much backtracking to do all of the quests. The first two hours are incredibly boring, with humour that felt way too forced, and mostly just made me want to play the original game again. Quests are of the "one-off" variety, where the original goal is very simple, but you continue to get sidetracked by unexpected obstacles, to pad the length of the game out.

The game does improve once you pass the tutorial phase, and the characters and skill trees are fun to play. However, I doubt I'll end up replaying this as much as BL 2 after completion. Overall, it's good enough to provide a little more Borderlands action if you really liked the earlier games, but doesn't include enough improvements to stand on its own as a great game -- it would have been a perfect fit for DLC.

Final Grade: C at full price, B in a Steam sale

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday evening, we went to dinner at Mellow Mushroom in Herndon, where I ate a delicious Mushroom Club sandwich paired with a smoked oatmeal porter. We have yet to eat something bad here, and would go a lot more often if driving there didn't involve every single side street and stoplight between Herndon and Sterling.

The only other event of note this weekend was early Thanksgiving with the Wilmers and the Cranes!

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Friday, November 21, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

The Wolf of Wall Street (R):
Though well-acted, this movie is self-indulgently long. Many scenes stretch beyond their obvious ending points, as if the director just gave his actors general cues and filmed until they ran out of invented dialogue. After a while, all of the drugs, boobs, and rousing speeches start to run together, culminating in an ending that doesn't add up to much.

Final Grade: C

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein:
Rebecca picked up this book in the Seattle airport. It's a very well-written fiction about a family, told from the perspective of the dog. I enjoyed the sentimentality, although the story itself is unrelentingly maudlin, emphasizing the unfairness of life. However, it's a brief, enjoyable read, suitable for a plane trip or a beach trip. You can read Rebecca's less-capsule-like review in her blog, linked on the sidebar.

Final Grade: B

Brooklyn 99, Season One:
This show is sporadically funny, but not nearly as good as the collective Internet says it is. Your appreciation for the show will be directly proportional to how long you can tolerate Andy Samberg mugging for the camera. Sometimes, it can't decide whether it's a smart, post-modern take on cop shows or a Saturday Night Live skit outstaying its welcome.

Final Grade: C

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