Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chevy Chase Leaves "Community"

As some of you may know, I’m a very big fan of the television show, “Community.” To fans of this show, it's frustrating that it has been routinely underestimated by NBC. It’s no surprise that they would do this after a few of their other decisions. Indeed, the only other television show I watch on that network is “Parks and Recreation,” another perennially underrated television program. Interestingly, when “Community” went on (it’s first) hiatus back in 2011, one of the shows it was replaced with was “Parks and Recreation” but I digress. Since that first hiatus, the program has undergone a ton of scrutiny and even more contention. Most recently, Chevy Chase has decided to exit the program, effective immediately. This raises some questions: Will this be bad for “Community”? Will there be a replacement? What does this mean for the future of the show?

Starting cast of "Community"
 For starters, let’s talk about why this is probably bad for "Community". In the past few seasons, the character of Pierce Hawthorne has been more miss than hit. Don’t misunderstand, I think the character is important to the show, but this past season hasn’t seen him utilized particularly well. Unfortunately, the best possible scenario for Pierce has always been as an antagonist. His character just doesn’t seem to work when he’s in line with the rest of the group, especially when compared to the charisma of Troy and Abed. However, without Pierce, we would never have been gifted such episodes as the video game episode (Digital Estate Planning), the season 2 finale (he saves the school, after all), and most importantly, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I’m not saying that he’s the worst character, because let’s be honest; they all have their annoying moments. Remember when Troy was into sports? Yeah, I thought you might have forgotten about that. What I’m really trying to say is that, even though some of Chevy’s comedy is stale, his character, when it worked, added TONS of quality programming to the show. In my opinion, his leaving is a bad thing.
Instant classic episode
 With the exodus of Chase, it would seem there’s a position that just opened up on the show. The antagonist role of Pierce, made most famous by the Dungeons and Dragons episode, is one that has already been filled before: Senor Chang. If you ask me, however, when Chang fills that role, it’s not done as well as when Pierce wears the mantle. Chang has most benefited the show when he was in a position of authority. Never has his character been funnier than when he was their Spanish teacher. However, the show can’t continue with them having him as a teacher when they would only have him for 2 semesters, so they tried to move him to a different role. It is fairly apparent, when you think about it, that there were not many ideas of how to do this. For 2 seasons he just hung on and became crazier and crazier. During that time, he didn’t add anything to the show, he was just… weird. With Chase leaving, I’m betting that they are going to use Chang to fill those gaps. My hope is that he will become a saner person, because those episodes in which he was saner were much more entertaining. Take, for example, Senor Chang messing with his students in class. We get some fantastic scenes where he says things like “90% of Spanish is in the hand gestures”, or where he shows up with a boom box after tricking the class into thinking he was dead. Even better, when Chang wasn’t a crazy weirdo, we got the best paint ball intro ever. So on the question of if there will be replacement; I believe the answer is a “yes, with qualifications.” Chase added something to the show that only he could have, but the writers would be silly if they didn’t try to capture what he brought to the show by utilizing the other characters more. Whatever holes in the story would be there without Chase can fairly easily be filled by Ken Jeong’s character Chang, but I’m not sure it’ll be up to snuff.

 Ultimately, when cast members start leaving the show, it’s never a good thing. When I think about the potential future of “Community” I’m left with a sinking feeling. Chase isn’t the first person attached to the show that has left. Indeed, NBC fired the man who created the show, Dan Harmon. This doesn’t mean the show will necessarily be worse, but I’m fairly certain that it won’t be the same “Community” that we’ve grown to know and love. Fortunately, with his departure from the show, Harmon has ultimately benefited. Hmm, there’s an interesting coincidence of people benefitting after NBC has pulled the plug on them. Which brings me to my next point: I don’t think NBC really knows what they have with this television show. I’m well aware that Community isn’t a Nielson friendly show, but I also happen to be of the opinion that this system of ratings is entirely outdated. We live in a time where nerds like me are becoming more and more common. Why I bring this up is because I watch the show on the Internet. Yes, I watch it on NBC’s website, which is horrible. Their website only contains about 4 or 5 episodes from the show, and they don’t appear to be in any particular order. Why doesn’t NBC do what Comedy Central has done and place some ads online to generate revenue. The internet is probably just a fad, though.  My point is that many people these days don’t pay for television cable boxes (what is used to determine Nielson ratings). In my case, I opted to save money by using the internet exclusively (with Netflix... love/hate relationship there!). What I’m trying to say is that, with the economy being pretty bad still, young people who haven’t been working for 15 years, and haven’t established themselves, a going to save where they can. Frankly, we can't go without the internet. We grew up with it; this is how we connect with the world. NBC continues to alienate this crowd of people, and it’s going to be interesting when the boomers start dying off, leaving us as their only potential viewers. Have fun with that, NBC.

 Ultimately, I’m disappointed in what’s happened to the show. It’s clear that Chase wasn’t utilized well as a character, and thus it’s not surprising that he would have left the show. Among the characters that remain on the show, we need to see more from Chang and Shirley. I like both of these characters, but often times it seems that there really isn’t a good place to put them. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when it’s been good to have them around. Each of them has brought positive things to the show. It’s my opinion that Chase is completely justified in leaving the show, and it’s also my opinion that his leaving will be bad for the show in the end. If I had to pick one character to leave the show, it wouldn’t have been Pierce, but the choice has been made by fate. Perhaps this will be a serendipitous occurrence, now that the fat has been trimmed (or the fat will be turned into muscle, more like). I’m eager to see what is going to happen, and I choose to take a stance of cautious optimism. Nevertheless, despite my hope, the logical side of my brain is telling me this is not a good thing.
Let’s see what happens, shall we?


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Would Padme Love/Like Anakin?

There was a time a while ago in which I was asked the question: “why does Padme even like Anakin?” It seemed to me to be an obvious answer… he’s a Jedi, he’s cool, he’s really powerful, etc. However, when I really thought about it, it’s a very difficult question to answer. In the films, Anakin is portrayed as a jealous, arrogant, stubborn, and generally unlikable person. So that made me think about it for some time… what does Padme actually see in Anakin? To really answer this question, we need to look at the truest canonicity – the things we see in the films

Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker
 The best example of why she would like him is based on his personality from when he was a child. Padme meets Anakin for the first time while she was posing as a handmaiden of the queen’s. During this time, she goes into Mos Epsa with Qui-Gon Jinn (a city on the desert planet Tatooine… where Luke Skywalker is from). While in the city, they come across a junk dealer who happens to have a slave boy who is gifted in maintaining and fixing robots and electronics. In one of the first scenes, we see Anakin as he addresses Padme, “Are you an Angel?” That’s a pretty sweet line for a 10 year old kid… especially when he uses it on a 17 year old girl. The comment takes Padme aback, and you see her laugh. When you realize that he’s being genuine and that, as a child, he’s not looking to pick her up, it means a little bit more. The kid is honest to the extent that he can’t be dishonest. This is a feature we see in Anakin later in the films. Take, for example, Anakin’s exchange with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar. While the lava is crashing all around them, Anakin never once tried to deceive Obi-Wan to the point that he could take advantage and win the battle in cold blood… deception just isn’t part of who Anakin was.

Anakin built this!
 Knowing that deception isn’t part of Anakin’s meddle, we could argue that he didn’t try to use simple tricks on Obi-Wan because he was overconfident in his abilities; he didn’t perceive Obi-Wan as any threat. Well it turns out that confidence is an attractive quality in a person. In the case of Padme, she met Anakin as a boy who was going out pod racing for the first time. Without his confidence, he probably would never have tried the race… and he definitely would never have won the race. As with most professional sports, a major contributor to peak performance is having confidence in oneself. In the case of Anakin and Padme, little Anakin wasn’t showing off when he said that his pod racer would win… he was confident in his own, considerable abilities. I shouldn’t have to argue the merits of confidence when searching for a mate, but it’s a valid point to make: people are drawn to people who are confident. Most of us dabble in uncertainty for a lot of the time, which is why we find people who are certain about themselves and their decisions to be attractive. Being confident, Anakin had a personality that allowed him to be very outgoing. Anakin wasn’t only outgoing, however, he was willing to help others no matter the cost.

Apparently Anakin made this, too!
 Being willing to help others is a powerful way to attract friends. In the case of Anakin, he hardly knew the Jedi or the pretty girl he escorted, but he was willing to invite them into his hovel at no cost. Anakin immediately accepted these strangers and treated them as friends, a quality that can be extremely helpful when you want to get something done. It was during this time that we get to see how Anakin responds to his mother: he devotes most of his free time to helping her. Knowing that he’s a slave, we can figure that he probably doesn’t have much free time. Nevertheless, Anakin has spent plenty of time making droid helpers and random robots to help his mother with the daily chores and responsibilities so that she can have more time for herself. That kind of selflessness is a rare thing, and is another quality that people find compelling. What’s interesting to note is this: where was Anakin’s selflessness in the later films? There are plenty of opportunities where he could acquiesce to the requests of the Jedi Council, but instead we see his pride and arrogance take over and ruin a chance to mend ties with the other Jedi. In fact, the only people that Anakin seems to want to help are those that he calls his friends.

Anakin before the council
 This brings me to another positive quality in Anakin: Loyalty. In the first three films, we can see that one of the most outstanding qualities in Anakin is that he’s extremely loyal to his friends. In particular, there’s a scene in Episode III (during the opening battle sequence) where Anakin goes out of his way to save his friend Obi-Wan. While fighting Count Dooku, Obi-Wan gets knocked out. While he's unconscious, Palpatine attempts to appeal to the logical side of Anakin in saying that they should leave him, arguing that there isn’t enough time. Being that the audience knows that Palpatine is just trying to get Anakin to slide further toward the dark side, we understand why he would say this. However, to Anakin’s credit, he is extremely steadfast with his decision to save Obi-Wan. Furthermore, we see Anakin put the interests of his friends well before his own on other occasions. There is one instance in Episode II where Anakin tries to save Obi-Wan (and fails) which ultimately results in his being captured at the arena. By taking this action, Anakin has illustrated his dedication to his friend and mentor. So loyal is he, that he will gladly enter a no-win situation in order to try and save those he cares about.

Anakin and Padme captured!
So what happened to Anakin? Over the course of these three movies, we see Anakin more as a Jedi and adult than how he was as a kid. As I’ve just illustrated, he still retains many of the characteristics that make him a person to admire and want to be with. However, with being as skilled and confident as he is, Anakin ultimately develops other characteristics that take the forefront of his personality… characteristics that Palpatine is careful to manipulate. After being told he is the Chosen One from Prophecy for many years, and after excelling at all the tests given to him by the order, Anakin develops an ego. We see certain scenes where Palpatine tries his best to stoke the fires of Anakin’s pride… leading to arrogance. It certainly didn’t help that Anakin had an almost legendary fame in the galaxy, further separating him from his peers. For much of these films, we see Anakin as an arrogant, headstrong, and impetuous person. These qualities are not as desirable as the others, but they can be closely related given the proper context. It is my belief that most of these qualities were not observed by Padme in their relationship. In fact, there’s a brief series of scenes in Episode II where Anakin is chatting her up at some retreat in Naboo. It’s here that we see he is perfectly capable of being outgoing. Not only is he confident, he’s showing he’s intelligent and that he’s interested in her. These things all coupled together make a powerful combination that can be difficult to resist.

Naboo lake retreat... much suiting was done here
 Ultimately, I think it’s pretty clear how these two people ended up. While their lifestyles are certainly quite different, the pair of them have endured a lot together since they’ve known each other. Two people going through harrowing circumstances often end up being very close to each other. Beyond this, however, I’ve shown what Anakin is actually like. He was a boy from a backwater planet who ended up with some very admirable qualities. This, coupled with an innate talent for many things, makes him a very likable kid. It’s not surprising that, given their history together, Padme would find a person with these qualities attractive. Think about it, it’s all right there in front of us.
Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Together at Last! Disney and Star Wars

Signing over Lucasfilm for more money than you can imagine
Announced just yesterday, Disney has acquired Lucasfilm. This is pretty big news in the nerd universe… but there are a few questions that come to mind. First of all, what does this mean for Star Wars? To begin with, this means that we’re having more Star Wars films. That’s right, it has already been announced that there will be a Star Wars Episode VII to be released (hopefully) sometime in 2015. Traditionally, Star Wars films are released in May, so we can expect a release around that time. Other than this, however, what does it really mean? I think the most important question to answer is: Is this good for Star Wars?

What’s interesting to me about this entire acquisition is that George Lucas has allowed it to happen at all. Historically speaking, GL has been reluctant to release any kind of control over his intellectual Property. Why else would he have been involved in everything released by Lucasfilm from the very beginning? I can’t say as I blame the man, considering his history with film making. However, when I looked further into it, I didn’t expect to see a pretty candid video interview with George and current Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. In this interview, George makes the comment that he wants to retire from film making (I think with the assumption that he wants to do other things). What this seems to tell me is that the man is tired of running a pretty big corporation, tired of making films… maybe the man is tired of all the scrutiny he gets put under? With a franchise as beloved as Star Wars, it’s no wonder he might be fed up with the idea of a million voices crying out in anger every time he does what he feels is right. I mean, it’s his baby after all. This is illustrated very clearly when George talks about why he wants Disney to own his company… he wants the big brother Disney to protect his baby, Lucasfilm. I think it’s rather telling how precious this company, this I.P., these characters, and this universe are to him. He’s willing to do the one thing he never thought he’d do, let someone else take care of it. From watching this interview (which I thoroughly recommend) it seems pretty clear to me that George isn’t completely comfortable with the idea. Take a look at the man’s body language… in a private interview, he’s playing with his hands, he’s fidgeting in his seat, and he’s reluctant to make much eye contact. It looks like the man is uncomfortable. My inference is that it’s about this decision, a huge one for his company. I believe the man wants to see this thing he created continue long after him. The best way he knows to do this is to give it to a company that’s “too big to fail.”

The second question that I will try to discuss… is this good for Star Wars. Ultimately, I think that it is absolutely good for Star Wars. In my world, more Star Wars is always better. Yes, I think that the prequel trilogy falls under this category (this coming from a guy with 3 signed Star Wars novels on his bookshelf, a Star Wars lunch box, and (the coup de grace) Star Wars bed sheets… I’m 28, why do you ask?). To really tackle this question, there are a few different things that I really think I have to address: what kind of films can we expect to come from this; how will this interact with the hundreds of novels that have been written; and what kind of involvement will Disney have?

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Pres. of Lucasfilm
To address the first point, yes we are going to expect more films. With Lucasfilm, any film they produce seems to be gold. Considering that the worst of these films has returned over $50 million (with a $9 million budget), I’d say that’s proof enough. There’s an article here (via Cinema Blend) where the author, Eric Eisenberg, comments that the franchise may be beyond redeeming. This statement is just wrong. In fact, it’s so wrong, that I’m certain it was said just to raise a ruckus. Is this writer somehow shielded from the internet so much that he’s never seen the hordes of people whose fandom is so keen that they cosplay at public events? Or is he so ignorant that he doesn’t know that there’s a thriving TV show out there currently? The statement is so blatantly ignorant, I’m thinking it was said to be deliberately inflammatory, but I digress. The question of what kind of films can we expect… is a really dicey one. I’m not certain that anyone knows the material this next episode will cover. It’s being said in very unreliable sources that it will have to be about the continuation of Luke’s story. Personally, I’m not certain this is the best idea. Originally, the story of Star Wars was about Darth Vader and his growth and change into (and then out of) a Lord of the Sith. However, there is talk already of writers having being hired to work on a new story and script (from the mouth of Kathleen Kennedy herself!). What this means is that George Lucas isn’t writing the story himself, nor is he directing these films. From some of the other places I’ve read, he still retains creative input. This is the best of all possible situations. Where the prequel trilogies were particularly weak was with the minor plots and the dialogue. The hope is that these things issues will be much better in a story written by professional writers. Since George Lucas can focus on storytelling, where he seems to really shine, that means a new movie could be on par with the original trilogy. It’s something to think about.
In my second point, I asked the question of how this will affect the Star Wars Expanded Universe. This is a very sticky situation to really discuss because it is based on several assumptions. For starters, we need to know if the films will be based on any of the novels that are out there, or if it will be all new material. On the one hand, being based on the novels isn’t necessarily a bad idea. In particular, there are the stories written by Timothy Zahn that shine above all others. His trilogy is really what made Star Wars novels a thing. However, the ages of the original actors and those characters in these novels won’t mesh, meaning that we’d have to tolerate new actors. It seems to me that people aren’t really that keen on the thought. However, there is a novel series wherein the actors are much closer to the ages of the characters. The series, called Legacy of the Force, takes place in a time when Leia, Luke, and Han have suffered and experienced so much in their lives that we probably wouldn’t recognize them anymore. What’s more, anyone who hasn’t read any of the novels would have virtually no clue what these people are talking about. I mean… do any of you know who Jacen is and why it’s bad that he’s a new Sith Lord? For the vast majority of you, this doesn’t mean anything. However, this raised the other question: should these movies be made off of new source material? Speaking from a historical standpoint, the new movies have not been based on any of the significant amount of material that was already in existence. Instead, George Lucas has gone and written his own stories completely independent of what’s written in the “Expanded Universe.” This makes any discussion of Star Wars cannon very dicey. In addition, by taking an action such as this, he wipes out tons of work by many people, making it obsolete. While I understand that it’s his universe and he can do with it whatever he damn well pleases, it can make for some frustrating times for those of us that love the universe so much we memorize names of Star Destroyers (those big triangle-ships from the Empire). Seriously, something called the Executor is really quite awesome… I digress. Ultimately, I think it’s a safe assumption that these new movies will be entirely new material. Already we have a historical basis for this happening. Not just that, some of the book material would be difficult to really film. My suspicion is that the original actors will fill in for minor roles, but the movies will be about other people. This could be very interesting. My hope is that they will do something similar to Tron, and make it a legacy story about passing the torch. How exciting!
The coolest Disney castle?
 The final point I made was in raising the question of what kind of involvement Disney will have. I remember years ago when Disney acquired another property pretty highly regarded. Some of you may have heard of it, it’s called Marvel. When this happened, there was a lot of speculation about various cross-overs… and it was all great fun. However, Disney ultimately gave us Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and Avengers. I’d say that they pretty well established that they’re not messing around with the IP. It’s almost like Disney saw an opportunity in these franchises and gave them plenty of space to ensure magic happened… huh. Additionally, Disney happens to own Pixar, another company you may have heard of. All I really need to say is that, if Disney owns a company like Pixar, where their worst feature is probably Cars, I’m pretty sure we have nothing to worry about. So why are there still questions being asked, and comments like “I’d just as soon [Disney] let Star Wars die off…” by very intelligent people? I think people are a little heartbroken over the prequel movies and the various changes that Lucas has made to the originals. It’s true that some of those changes are a little silly (eye lids… really? That’s something we should sink $800K into), but the vision that Lucas had isn’t the Star Wars people remember… I think people will always remember the impact these movies had in their originally released forms, and how powerful that was. Basically… get over it, you’re getting more, and it will be better.
To conclude, I would just like to say that I think this is the best possible situation for the Star Wars name and franchise. In a situation where George Lucas is a creative consultant (maybe even creative lead), not writing the dialogue (where he is probably a little weak), and not in charge of direction, there are only good things that can come from this. When I think about it, it seems to me that this Kathleen Kennedy person is very smart, and knows her trade. She’s smart enough that George has given her his full support. In the end, I’m very excited for what this means. I can assure all of you that I will be paying attention to the coming developments.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boardgame Roundup: Small World and Gears of War

          This weekend I had the pleasure of a visitation from old friends. Among the activities in which we partook, board games were the most prominent. I finally had the chance to play some board games that I purchased a while back. Before, I bought them because I played them and had fun, but since I didn’t have a regular group to play with, I didn’t know the rules. Now, I made the time to learn the rules so that I could play with my friends James and Jen when they came to visit. Among the games were two that you probably have not heard of: Small World and Gears of War the board game.

Small World
 Small World is a game set on a fictional world where there are several races from which you can choose to play. You get to play on 4 predetermined maps that are designed based on the number of players the game supports, 2-5. The game operates similar to risk in that you are given a number of armies, and the objective is to conquer land with those armies at the cost of a certain number of units per territory (usually no dice are rolled). As you conquer more territory, you earn more victory points toward your total point score, which determines the winner. Since there are around 10 turns per game, strategy plays an important role in how you play. In each of the games I’ve played, the world has looked very different even if the map was the same. This variety is thanks to the number of races from which to choose.
A few races and powers...

A game of Small World

Without expansions, Small World has 14 races to choose from that can be coupled with any 1 of a total of 20 special powers that will augment that race for as long as they remain active on the board. For the original game, there are currently 3 expansions which offer additional races. These give anywhere between 2 and 5 additional races with a combination of anywhere between 2 and 5 additional special powers. If you purchase all of these expansions for your game, it leaves plenty of variety in the game. While I have seen repeats of some of the races, I’ve never seen a race and special power combo twice. This leaves each of the games as fresh, and I find that people get really interested to see what the next combo is going to be. In addition to the official expansions, there is a secondary stand alone game that can be purchased called Small World: Underground. This edition of the game comes with 15 races and 21 special powers. Also, this edition contains a few new items called places and relics that offer additional bonus powers.

For our first game of 3 players (2 of them new), it lasted around an hour, including the time it took to teach them the basics and let them figure out the strategy. By the end of the game, and that hour, the new people had mastered the game enough that we could dive into a second game with very little discussion. In addition, by the end of the first couple of games, both James and Jennifer really enjoyed the game and are planning on purchasing it themselves. It’s fairly high praise for the game when two new people enjoyed it enough that they’ve already put it on their Christmas list. For a thorough review of the game, go here.
With all of this being said about the game, I would like to say that I find this game very enjoyable. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends. In a good way, a single game won’t last an entire day like with other games. This allows for plenty of socializing on the side, which makes it great for small gatherings. At the moment, I am planning on picking up some/all of the expansions to this game. Originally, I was introduced to this game by my former roommate Alex and his friends Chris and Mai. If any of you people are fans of board games, this is a great addition to your collection. It’s not as simple as games like Sorry and Chutes and Ladders, but it’s simple enough that you can master the game in no more than a few playthroughs. I recommend this game whole-heartedly.
Gears of War the Board Game

A number of years ago, Epic Games released a video game entitled Gears of War. This was one of those rare games that become popular enough through a unique (sic unique enough) style of game play that resulted in it becoming instantly huge. Since then, they’ve spawned a number of video game sequels, comic books, etc. Among the franchise is this gem of a board game.

The game comes with over 300 cards, a number of map tiles, a number of tokens, and 30 plastic figures. For me, this game has punched just about all the buttons of things I look for in a board game. I love games in which I can paint my own miniatures, I love games that have cards that help randomize what is going on, and I particularly love games with a cooperative focus. There are so few games that are legitimately cooperative, but this is one of them. Other games come close, but few of them require team work in order for you to win the game. This game is for anywhere between 1 and 4 players, and the scenarios get much more difficult with additional players.

Bad guys!

Painted Heroes
The cards for this game are for setting up the scenario, “drawing” the map, determining the enemy’s actions, and for drawing orders and weapons. Each turn is broken down into 3 steps: healing (drawing cards), giving orders (playing order cards), and the enemy turn (drawing an enemy AI card and performing its actions). We played the simplest scenario of the game, which is based around escaping a prison in which all the figures are trapped. Despite this being the simplest scenario, we still barely succeeded in our mission. The figures for this game really spice up how it looks visually. There are 30 plastic figures that are very well sculpted; 4 of them are for the hero characters (each of them is a different sculpt), and the rest are for the various types of enemies you must fight. The board is made out of thick card stock with a glossy print finish. Each of the map tiles comes double sided with its own designation (and they’re not the same size tiles either!). These map tiles all have their own cards to which they are associated, and this allows for each game having a randomized map.

A game in progress... basic scenario

When setting up this game, each player gets to decide which hero character they want to be (which determines which weapons and abilities they have), and the heroes decide as a group which scenario they wish to play. Simply put, the game is complicated, so it takes a while to learn, but there is a TON of variability for each game that gets played. So far, I’ve played the same scenario 4 times, and the map has been different every time. Additionally, each game has played completely differently. I’ve lost a few and I’ve won a few… but in every game I’ve played, it was a close thing.

An example of a hero card

Overall, I think this is one of my favorite board games. With each of the scenarios you play, there is a little written story that unfolds as you complete your objectives. However, with a game that has this much depth, you are almost certainly going to have a very complicated game. Because of this, it’s not for everybody. A lot of people I know aren’t willing to spend 2 hours just to learn the ropes. In our 4 person game, it lasted close to 4 hours. Where this game really shines, though, is in the cooperative play. This game is truly cooperative in that it requires cooperation from all players in order to succeed in the mission. I admit that the game was a little boring at the beginning when everyone was just trying to learn the gameplay. 

Towards the middle and end of the game, however, things really started to pick up. Now the heroes aren’t sitting flush with plenty of ammo and health… and there is no good place to earn more of these. Now each turn becomes a desperate struggle against the Locust hordes. In our first game, two of our four characters were taken out, one of them we could save, but the other we had to leave on the ground to bleed out while we tried to complete the mission. What really draws me to this game is the sense of desperation you get when things really aren’t going well. But when you finally complete your mission and roll a successful attack to kill the last locust, there is a sense of elation as everyone in the group exhales that held breath. That game we played ended victoriously, and we were all stoked to have beaten the bad guys. I remember there were smiles and high-fives all around… the group won, we went through a struggle together. Ultimately, it is because of this game’s ability to bring us closer together that I recommend it and like it as much as I do. If given the chance, I sincerely recommend that you play it with some close friends.

There's nothing quite like chainsawing an enemy... Also, for a video review, look here.