movies: avengers - infinity war

avengers: infinity war - where will you be, when it all ends?
It's both impressive and a little frightening that with only a couple of stumbles along the way *cough* theincrediblehulk *cough*, Marvel has been doing this shared movie universe thing for 10 whole years now.

And Avengers: Infinity War really shows that they know what they're doing.

For the record THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. They won't be until later, and I'll try not to include too many, but I want to get my thoughts down about the end of the movie, and that, my friends, requires some degree of spoilers.

You have been warned.

Given that this movie's cast list is extensive to say the least (there are 24 characters on the poster for goodness sake... at least I think it's 24, I lost count several times), they did handle that many characters in probably the best way possible, splitting characters off into small groups, which leads to some really great pairings... Stark and Strange, Thor and Rocket... anybody who spends any screentime with Starlord. There were a few that I would definitely like to see together more... most notably Black Widow and Okoye, but hopefully that will happen in the second movie.

And they have also finally put together an adversary for the Avengers who has more than a single character trait (with the exception of Loki, but then he hasn't really been a formidable threat since the first Avengers movie)... Thanos is... complex. Don't get me wrong, he's an insane creature with a scrotum for a chin, but he's complicated. And Josh Brolin actually brings a lot to the character.

I will say that there are more than a few moments where I was already way ahead of the story... I'm not sure if that's a shared experience and intentional by the film makers, but especially towards the end there were a couple of times where I already knew what was about to happen (specifically with the soul and mind stones).

Thinking about it, it feels like the real keystones of this movie (pun entirely at your discretion) were Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr Strange. Yes, Iron Man was in there too, but a lot of the time he felt secondary to Strange and Spiderman and eventually the Guardians. Also, I was basically over Tony about three movies ago (don't get me wrong, RDJ does a great job, I'm just essentially over the character himself).

And Captain America doesn't necessarily take a back seat, there's just not a whole heap for him to do. Thinking about the way the movie ended though, I think that essentially sidelining the entire original Avengers team in various ways was somewhat intentional, because they're clearly going to have to kick butt and take names in the sequel.

The movie also looks amazing (unsurprisingly)... from New York, to Wakanda, to maybe half a dozen alien planets... it looks great. Yes, there were times when I looked at the screen and thought "well, everything I'm looking at right now was created in a computer somewhere". None of it was bad, though... even though Thanos's whole gang were at least augmented in the computer.

Now, about that ending...

Remember, spoilers.

I'm not going to lie... I teared up a little bit twice during the ending and once before... the before part was Groot helping Thor with his new weapon, the end parts were Tom Holland's performance of his final lines as well as the scene between Groot and Rocket.

But does anyone ACTUALLY believe all of those people are gone for good. I mean, Black Panther... after the metric fuckton of money that movie just made, he's definitely coming back... and Spiderman has a solo movie coming out just after the Avengers sequel, so it all just lacked teeth.

Doubly so when you realise that of the 24 characters (and it is 24, I recounted) on the poster, the half that remain alive at the end of the movie are either side characters, the villain or the six original characters from the first Avengers movie.

Plus, keeping in mind Dr Strange's comment about how many possibly outcomes there are where the Avengers win basically brings us to a "Morpheus Matrix moment".

Yes, there is at least one character who probably won't be coming back... but even that I'm not sure about, because comic books and the things they inspire are weird that way.

But it was good... it was a great ride, they finally fixed the villain problem that has been part of almost every Marvel movie, and it was a hell of a cliffhanger to go out on.

yani's rating: 4 infinity stones out of 5

photo saturday: elementals


This week started with a "m'eh" and ended with a "hey, that's outside the norm".

My back is improved, although I have been spending more time in the horizontal position, just to give it a break from lugging my dumb ass around. But for reasons that I cannot under any circumstances explain, a muscle in my left calf had a moment on the way to DnD on Monday night. I wasn't doing anything strange, I'd worn a different pair of sneakers much earlier in the day, but yeah, it just locked up on me.

And it was also on the improve until today when it did it again. That shit can all just fuck right off to be honest. I'm not here for it at all.

I also made a pretty awesome chicken noodle soup. I mean, touch wood, and let's not jinx myself and all that, but I've been pretty impressed with myself so far this soup season.

Speaking of DnD... I experienced a TPK (total party kill) on Wednesday for the first time. Turns out that it was written by the guy who managed to kill the only other one of my characters... so that's a fun time. I mean, it's DnD, so death is very rarely terminal... but it is inconvenient. And none of us got any rewards from the adventure, because that's what happens when you die in the middle of the jungle.

Yeah, not real happy about it.

I also ran what may have been the best game I've run... possibly ever. I don't know if everyone necessarily had the best time, but it was with a couple of the Thursday boys, and, oddly enough, the first person to ever DM for us as a group, and also the first person who DM'd for us as the group of characters we most regularly play. So that was fun. But the fact that my boys REALLY went to town on the roleplay was the best part of it... and for purely story related reasons, I got to really mess with one of them... and he absolutely came along for the ride with me.

It was pretty damn awesome. There is absolutely nothing better than when you throw out a roleplay hook, either as a player or as the DM, and one of the other players picks it up and elevates it beyond what you expected. And that's when it gets really, really good.

Otherwise, the week was... m'eh. As my weeks tend to be right at the moment.

Today started off with me scrambling around once again, since I overslept. Less fun to be honest.

It felt pretty damn good to be back at the "correct" supermarket too... and it's so weird that I never realised how much bigger Norwood was compared with Northpark... even when we first switched over. And I have no idea why.

This week I'm attempting tomato soup... entirely made up out of my own head... which is probably going to be fine, but we'll see if I can make it just right.

When we got back, the singular neighbour that I keep running into over and over and over was trying to push his car out of his carpark and asked me to help... which was fine, but ended up taking a while because after we tried the pushing thing, we also tried the jumper cables from my boot, but his battery was pretty fucking dead. If it hadn't been for last week and me really wanting there to be someone magically appear out of nowhere to help me get my car started, I may not have bothered... but you know... sometimes you have to.

It does fly in the face of my entire "never get to know your neighbours if you can avoid it" life philosophy though.

After that we decided to head into town to finally go and see the new Avengers movie, but we had a bit of time for a wander up the mall beforehand... so we did that too. We stopped in at Crumpler and the girl walked me through their new "convertible" briefcase/backpack bags, the Credential and the Logician... which are essentially the same (although one of them doesn't actually convert). If I had, you know, actual disposable income or whatever, one of them might make a nice replacement for my DnD bag... but I'll cope for now.

Then we headed for the movies.

And you know how sometimes when there's assigned seating, you think "well, why can't we just have those seats instead" (to be honest, I think assigned seating is the plague and should 100% be done away with, with the possibility of something like Gold Class)... so this time I went and got our seats changed over, and it wasn't an issue at all. I mean it's not something I'd like to do every time, but I'm glad I did it.

After the movie, we stopped off at Max Brenner for a bite to eat... well, you know, mostly chocolate things. And now I'm having either a sugar high or a sugar crash, I'm not entirely sure which, because I don't normally have either.

Then in a couple of hours, I'm getting picked up to go and play DnD with the Thursday boys and their girlfriends. I'm just guest starring on this one, but the DM and I have been vaguely scheming for the last week or so, so if nothing else, my entrance should be good.

What's going to happen after that will be interesting.

Also, there will be drinking, and I've never mixed drinking and DnD before... so that'll be a whole new experience.

Otherwise that's really about it for the week.

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photo saturday: lowrizon

sydney skyscapeopera house and tall ship

port bridgequeen mary 2 and harbour bridge
You know what they say... you can never go home again. I just didn't really realise it applied to supermarkets too.

But I'm ahead of myself.

I'm really killing it with soup right at the moment... I made ham, potato and leek this week, and partly because I put a whole pack of shredded ham as well as a chorizo and some bacon in it, it was pretty damn good.

DnD was pretty standard/average this week... although I did end up standing around with one of the other DMs afterwards... well, first it was helping him sort some stuff out, then after they kicked us out of the store there was a fair amount of standing around, and I think I left at around 12:30... so that was a thing that happened.

We also played with a trio of actual young people on Thursday... like between 12 and 14 yos maybe... it was an experience, but weirdly not that different from playing with some of the 20-somethings. There was one who was very much into his character and interacting with everything, one who was perennially distracted and one who was a bit of a blank slate.

Also, because this week is the 6th anniversary of this, my back did have a bit of a spasm this week. Because of course it did. While putting on a pair of socks of all things. Fortunately I recognised the signs, and while I was mostly okay on Thursday, walking to DnD wasn't my finest moment... also I probably shouldn't have sat down for the whole four hour period, but you know... I did go and see my chiro on Friday morning, and then came home and spent the majority of Friday day just laying down in bed.

Which is basically what I'm planning to do after I finish writing this.

Today was... challenging.

After putting it off for about a year I'd finally gotten around to organising another service for my car, part of the problem being that the mechanic we go and see is way over next to the shops we used to go to, and not quite as convenient. But I arranged with Ma to meet her there, and scheduled the service for 8am this morning.

At 7:35 this morning I discovered that when I parked my car on Thursday the door somehow hadn't completely closed, which meant that the inside light was on. For roughly 32 and a half hours.

I had no remaining battery.

Not really how this morning was supposed to go. What followed was a phonecall to Ma, then one to the RAA to come and jumpstart the car, then one to the mechanic telling him I'd be late. The RAA man took about half an hour to arrive, which wasn't horrible considering, but when it takes all of about 12 seconds for him to actually make the car work again, it's a little... irritating.

So then I headed down to our old supermarket, dropped the car in across the road and went over to meet up with Ma.

I absolutely had one of those "has this place always look quite so scruffy and tiny?" moments... and while I think the answer is decidedly yes, I also feel like it's gotten worse in the last year and a half since we were last there.

But just trying to do a shop at the supermarket we used to go to was an adventure. I swear that the supermarket never used to feel that tiny and undersupplied. And yet, there it was. Given the fact that they didn't even have the milk I buy or the strong Iced Coffee, I couldn't really deny the fact. Yeah, seriously never want to have to go back there again. Plus the Baker's Delight that used to be there has gone "off brand", so that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.

Also, we bought hardly anything... I mean that sometimes happens, especially when I'm making soup and not much else, and the fact I couldn't buy milk, but even so it was all a bit blah.

We did what we've done a million other times in the past and wandered around in the half of the shopping centre on the other side of the road (and found milk over there with no drama), then called it quits and came back here.

We really hadn't decided what to do, and were kind of wasting a little bit of time when the mechanic called to say that he was all done. So then there was essentially a montage of Ma and I driving all the way back there, then finding our own ways back.

And because I hadn't punished myself enough already, I decided to drive back through the city. Yeah, I realised it was pretty much a stupid idea around the time it was impractical to change my mind and go a different way. But we still got back to my place around the same time, Ma did get there first though.

Then we just headed into the city... for no real reason, mostly because we were a little too late for going to the movies and we really didn't have any ideas, and it was around noon by the time we got back to my place.

So we basically just wandered from one end of the mall to the other, poked around the bookstore (where I found these, which have the most amazing feeling covers... plus I love a good word cloud), then headed down to Burger Theory for lunch.

And then we called it a day.

Not much of day, to be honest, but still a day.

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photo saturday: shrine

shrine forecourtshrine angel

shrine detailshrine message
It was a busy week that honestly didn't feel like it. It was also a very, very wet week.

And the week wasn't that different from every other week, really.

I made what is probably the best minestrone soup I have ever made in my whole life this week... partly through the application of both chorizo sausages and, oddly, cabbage.

As usual there were three games of DnD... I ran Monday's game and played on Wednesday and Thursday. Monday's game was fun, if only because I did more prep than usual (because it was the aftermath of the epic I didn't go to last Saturday), and I had a group of players I don't generally have (which was nice).

Also, a lesson I have learned well as a player is that if a DM introduces physical props to the adventure, players cannot resist putting their grubby little hands on them, which meant that I was able to whisper in the ear of one of the players with the unspeakable things he was hearing in his head from the villain. He could not have reacted better.

Part of me is a little annoyed with my Wednesday and Thursday DM's, not because they weren't good... they were... but because of "reasons" they both said that they'd send the XP and loot from the adventure to us... That was Wednesday and Thursday, and I'm still waiting. Yeah, sure, you might have jobs and partners and children and whatnot, but it would take all of about 2 minutes to do.

What was interesting (okay, interesting to me but probably nobody else at all ever) about Wednesday and Thursday was that I got to play the same character in the two different sides of her personality. When she's not with the Thursday chuckleheads where she actually cares about them or ends up being the calm voice of reason, or at least stops them from poking their own eyes out with a sharp stick... she can revert to how I originally designed her... as a bit of a bitch. Which is fun to play.

Although I just can't be that complete asshole character that other people seem to be able to play... I just don't have it in me.


Thursday was Haircut Day... it was also Many Much Rain Day... which made life interesting. Fortunately it wasn't raining heavily when I needed to drive up into the hills, but everybody did seem to be being a little bit more careful, which was nice. The biggest difference was on the way back down the hill, since instead of the usual 90kph speed limit, it fluctuated anywhere from 80kph to 40kph... and there was a brief instance of fog.

As far as the actual Haircut was concerned... same old same old. It was an actual colour session this time though, so my hair is all pale and whatnot. Tink and I did the usual prattle on for however long it takes for all the stuff in my hair to do what the stuff in my hair needs to do, then we called it a day so I could get down the hill again before rain happened.

Friday was Chiro Day (much less exciting, but slightly more necessary than Haircut Day). Which meant that I headed into town in the afternoon, had the chiro appointment and then did a bit of wandering around afterwards.

Today just kind of did it's own thing, to be honest.

We started with the usual shopping excursion... I'm planning on making potato and leek soup this week, but I'm throwing in a couple of other similarly hued vegetables, to see if I can add to the interest factor at all. I mean, I'm guessing now... but we'll see.

When we got back here, we both said that we really didn't need to go anywhere or do much of anything, so we really didn't know what the hell to do.

In the end we decided to take a little trip down to Harbortown, mostly so I could look in the Bonds outlet and the Typo outlet. As if often the case, we came back with a number of items, none of which were the two things we went looking for.

In fairness, they didn't have my size at one, or a style I liked at the other. But what they did have were more Bonds hoodies and trackpants on sale... and I do love a Bonds hoodie.

I also found a cute mug with my initial on it, Ma discovered the Pop Electric Harajuku Lovers perfume finally got released somewhere other than Japan... which is awesome, and we filled a half priced box at the Lindt store.

So much goodness was done and, technically, money was saved (I mean, a bunch was spent, but we saved more overall, if that makes any sense).

After we had a Lindt milkshake at the Lindt store... because why wouldn't you... we headed over to Glenelg to grab some lunch at the Orange Spot cafe (quick review, I wasn't overly impressed with their cheese kransky compared with the one at the North Adelaide Bakery, but their pepper steak pie was a knockout), then went and traumatised the seagulls with the pastry crumbs by the beach before heading back here.

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photo saturday: streetart stopvalve

street art braille

street art stop valve
You know those weeks best described as "m'eh"... yeah, this was one of those weeks.

Not least of all, I think, because it was the one year anniversary of this. Amongst other things, I got into my head a little bit. I mean there are a bunch of other reasons for me being in my head, but that's definitely one of them.

I way, way, way over-supplied myself with frozen peas for my pea soup this week. Like I bought double the amount I needed. And I used pretty much all the bacon I had in the freezer, but it turned out pretty well. A little... dull isn't the right word, it was tasty, I guess it just felt uninspiring, insomuch as I enjoyed it when I was eating it, but the idea of doing so beforehand didn't thrill me.

Due to ANZAC Day being on Wednesday and the shops being traditionally closed until noon, there was no Wednesday DnD this week. Which just felt weird, not gunna lie.

The other two games were... what's the DnD equivalent of "a hot mess"? Actually that's not completely true... but Monday's game was seven people with a DM who really can't control a table of seven people (to be honest, he struggles with four people, depending of course on who those four people are) and Thursday's game was me running an adventure I'd read once, several weeks ago and was basically getting through by the skin of my teeth.

I missed the replay of the epic from December today... but I am running one of the "postscript" adventures to the epic on Monday, so that should be interesting.

Today was... an exercise in frustration and not much else to be honest.

Ma was getting her hair did, so I was on my own for the supermarket portion of the morning. Which was fine, except I kind of didn't get my act together as early as I would have liked, then Ma messaged me way earlier than I was expecting to say that she was already on her way. And that message arrived at around the same time that I discovered that the petrol station near the supermarket, where I was headed this morning due to an almost empty tank, is closed, partially closed, undergoing renovations... I don't know. All I know is that when I tried to visit it this morning I couldn't.

Shopping was fine, this week's soup of choice is going to be Frankenminestrone... in so much as I have about four or five different Minestrone recipes in my head, and will be attempting to follow at least some part of each one. Mostly I'm going to make it up as I go and see what happens.

When I got back to my place Ma had just arrived, and there was some back and forth about what the hell was happening. Then, since we had no plans of any kind, we ended up just doing a run down the road to first Big W, then Target, doing a fairly pointless wander in each and then calling it a day.

So, yeah... and if you don't mind, I'm going to go and distract myself from the voices in my head.

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photo saturday: biennal squares

2018 adelaide biennial of australian art - lindy lee, the life of stars, 20182018 adelaide biennial of australian art - claire healy and sean cordeiro, we hunt mammoth, 2015
Today's post is brought to you by the letter H, the number 9 and the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian art.

Also, could the weather be more appropriate for the month we're in please? I'm totally over this hot then cold then hot then cold then hot again thing it's doing currently.

Speaking of weather and time of year, I made my first soup of the 2018 season this week... Beef and barley (and vegetables)... not bad for the first one, although I never quite get beef soup so that it feels like the beef soup you get in cans. I think it has something to do with the thickness of the broth to be honest.

2018 adelaide biennial of australian art - roy ananda, thin walls between dimensions, 20182018 adelaide biennial of australian art - louise hearman, untitled
The usual DnDness happened this week... well, I say usual, I ran a game on Monday because it was the easiest way to extricate myself and a number of other people from a table that would have annoyed me.

Wednesday, my new Wednesday friend reappeared for the second time... I do enjoy adventuring with her character, so that was nice. Also, it's so weird how nervous you can get when you're essentially playing in a fantasy horror movie. And when you're a squishy wizard but are also the tank because you have all the hitpoints compared with the others.

Then Thursday, one of the other Thursday boys ran... and that was also a very stressful game. I think possibly because he ran us as a very strong party and I'm not sure if we were or not. But it was also "old home week" for my original character, who ran into a character from the first adventure he ever played and another from possibly the third adventure he ever played. So that was nice.

2018 adelaide biennial of australian art - timothy horn, gorgonia 12 (strange love), 20162018 adelaide biennial of australian art - kristian burford, cell, 2018
The rest of the week was... not a lot of anything really.

Question... can something be a slow start and also be filled with abject panic? Is that a thing? Because that was essentially my morning. I only woke up at 8am... to find that Ma had messaged me 40 minutes previously to say she was on her way, which meant that she messaged me about two minutes after I got up to say she'd arrived.

Cue the dashing around and panicking portion of the morning. Followed by my brain being a little bit broken and fuzzy for the rest of the day. The morning was filled with the usual shopping stuff... I'm making pea and ham soup this week and my freezer is currently packed with frozen peas, so that's a thing.

2018 adelaide biennial of australian art - ghostpatrol/david booth2018 adelaide biennial of australian art - pip and pop, darkness will disappear, magic light gonna take you for a ride
We decided to head into the city... mostly to run a couple of errands, but also to go and check out the aforementioned Adelaide Biennial of Australian art, which I'd seen someone post about the other week on Instagram.

It was a good choice... and a weirdly large number of the pieces actually resonated with me. Like the deconstructed blue Honda... and the huge framework map that I discovered was full of the names of DnD monsters, and some pieces by Ghostpatrol (aka David Booth)... and I also discovered what artists need to do to actually get me to sit still and watch a whole rotation of a video installation. Put naked people in it, obviously. And run it across four walls with four sets of naked people. But truthfully, I really liked the piece by Amos Gebhardt called Evanescence, not just because there were naked people, but because they were interesting and diverse naked people doing interesting movement related things.

So, yeah, a fun day was had. Even if my legs were knackered by the end.

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movies: ready player one

ready player one: an adventure too big for the real world
Ready Player One is definitely a movie built for the DVD pause button.

There's so much visual information, so many little Easter eggs, and references and pop culture nuggets that you could go through it frame by frame and still miss half of them.

And I'm pretty sure that no matter what your particular brand of nerdery is, you'll find at least a couple of references to it. I mean I saw at least three Dungeons and Dragons references.

As a movie, if feels like the 80's and 90's pop culture movies it's referencing... not in the sense of being dated, but more in the way those movies felt.

Which isn't really surprising, since Steven Spielberg is the director. And the guy who wrote the book, Ernest Cline, was one of the writers.

And clearly Cline is a big nerd for (mostly) 80's pop culture.

I'm not 100% sure what I expected from the movie, since I'm now mostly in the habit of avoiding almost all the trailers and other promo material beforehand (they only screw it up and show or tell you too much you didn't need to know going in), but it felt right.

Plot-wise it ticks all the boxes that you would expect from this kind of movie... it's not groundbreaking, but it is solid... and given that it's a movie that references a lot of other movies, it's not really a surprise that it's pretty much going by the movie playbook. And it does have a few moments when I'd kind of like to know more about how the world ended up in this particular configuration (which just makes me interested to read the book).

Tye Sheridan takes on the dual roles of Wade and his avatar Parzival (which I'm guessing is all him, hidden in a mocap suit) and is a very likeable lead. All the main cast, in fact, in both their virtual and real guises do quite well, although it does make me feel slightly old to see Ben Mendelsohn as the corporate bad guy because I've grown up seeing him in all kinds of things.

Visually it's a gorgeous movie... and it actually gets a pass on occasionally looking overtly computer generated, because that's what it's supposed to look like. Some of the big action scenes are a little frantic, occasionally because they're trying to cram so much background visual detail in there whenever they can, but it still holds together.

And definitely one that needs a rewatch.

yani's rating: 4 Orbs of Osuvox out of 5

photo saturday: white shells

opera shinetriple shell

shell ribssydney sparkle
There's always that one week in March or April where you start off wearing shorts and possibly using the air-con, and finish it in trackpants, socks and a hoodie. It's definitely this week. And the temperature drop on Friday also came along with a massive amount of rain to really reinforce the point.

It's also completely thrown my body for a loop... I'm not sure if I'm actually getting sick, or if it just feels like it... or if it's for some completely other reason... but as always, I'm not a fan of the feeling.

On the plus side it means that the coming week is 100% soup weather, so that fills up my Sunday evening, but makes the rest of the week a little easier.

This week's DnD was... better. Better in the sense that I managed to use my superpower of organising unorganised people to actually get what I wanted for all three days. Well, as much as I could with the limited resources I had access to at the time. But it was still good, I got to play with people I like and I didn't have to run a game.

And I got to spend about three hours extra with one of my boys, just talking about... well DnD mostly, but I honestly have no damn clue what the hell we talked about, but that we did a lot of it.

The rest of the week was fairly nondescript. Friday, as I said, was mostly about the rain... and tidying up the apartment... but mostly rain.

Today was... average.

We did the usual supermarket thing, and I bought more than enough stuff to make soup with. It's always the first couple of soup attempts that result in me making about 900 gallons of the stuff, because I've forgotten exactly how much stuff I actually need. But we'll give it a go, see what happens... if all else fails it'll basically be stew.

Given the weather, today was definitely an inside day... so we went to Marion, with the plan to wander aimlessly and then go to the movies.

We pretty much achieved these two goals.

The wandering was not exactly our usual circuit, since we started in a different spot, but we still essentially did the full loop, stopping off in all our usual spots. And Big W was selling off the last of their Easter crap for low, low prices, so I got myself an Avengers mug with Easter egg for $1. Turns out that the mug is TINY, relatively speaking, but it's still cute.

Then it was off to the movies... followed, like last time, with lunch at Nando's.

And then it was back here before Ma headed off home.

So, yeah... not a thrilling week overall, but not bad.

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assassins creed origins

assassins creed origins
When the last game in the series came out, I said that one of the next possible locations I was looking forward to was Ancient Egypt, and with Assassins Creed Origins, I got my wish.

Just as a side note, I'm going to be using a lot more images in this review than I normally do, and all of the image are ones I've taking using the rather addictive in-game camera mode. Which isn't always perfect, but does occasionally produce some stunning images.

And, as always, there will be some partial spoilers, but I'll try to avoid anything truly major. But proceed at your own risk.

As with all Assassins Creed games, it revolves around the protagonist, in this case Bayek, the last of the medjay (a kind of "elite paramilitary police force" according to Wikipedia, but more like a kind of sherrif in the world of the game).

assassins creed origins - bayek in the bathhouse
Bayek is lovely.

He's also probably the closest we've been to Ezio in terms of characterisation... with a little more angst and seriousness, but still a very likeable protagonist. Like all AC heroes, he starts off with very little in the way of skills and gear but it ramps up fairly quickly, provided you do a few non-story missions early on.

I also loved the weapon choices, which I'll talk about a little later, but it's possibly handled in the best way so far in the series. I'm slightly torn about the outfits in this game though, since none of them provide any kind of boost to your stats, so you could play most of the game with Bayek in a towel if you liked (and I'm sure that there were at least a few people who probably did exactly that), or just keep him in his starting gear throughout the game (which is what I did).

And plus, as per the above image, he's not hard to look at... at least once the early scruffy haircut and beard gives way to the shaved head and clean shaven look.

But while I enjoyed Bayek, the game did have some issues around character. Specifically the character of Bayek's wife, Aya.

assassins creed origins - the best actual image i could get of aya
Most of the time it feels like Aya is given to you as some kind of unearned punishment.

When she first shows up, you discover she's already murdered two of the characters that Bayek has been searching for. And then doesn't give you the opportunity to play as her in those assassinations. So within minutes of meeting her she's already taken game play away from the player.

Secondly, the next two or three times she shows up, it's in pure ship-to-ship combat sequences. Now, I enjoyed AC Black Flag quite a bit...  but I feel like the developers took the wrong lessons from it's success. We didn't need more ship combat. Possibly ever again... we had none in the last two games and they were just fine. Especially since those sections could have been Aya's assassinations instead.

Then in the late game, you're forced into Aya again, and made to fight the main boss of the game. As Aya, who has no additional weapon choices, none of the additional skills you've spent the whole game working to acquire, and it's a fairly brutal final fight.

Why do you hate me Ubisoft Montreal? What did I ever do to you?

That final fight, amongst other things, made me put the controller down for quite a while before I went back. I'd had the snot beaten out of me a number of times and wasn't eager to go back to it. Of course once I did, I figured out the rhythm of the fight almost immediately, but still, it was a slog rather than a victory moment.

Also the entire end section of the game is about Aya... Aya and her relationships with contemporary historical figures, including Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Anyone who knows their ACII lore should know what that means about Aya (which I won't spoil here, but to be honest, I worked it out completely on my own while playing the game).

Even the last shot of the game is of Aya, not Bayek (or at least the last memorable shot).

So why wasn't Aya the main character? She could have been. I think they could have easily meshed the two characters storylines into one and had it turn out the same.

They could also have very easily gone down the AC Syndicate route, and had two playable main characters. I'm guessing that the game was already too far down the development rabbithole for them to change to that model at the stage where Syndicate came out, plus they probably didn't want to be accused of just rehashing the previous game. They could also have just given you access to all of Bayek's abilities when you were playing as Aya, which would have been infinitely better.

None of which is to say I disliked Aya... I really liked her, she's a great character, it just felt like the game was punishing me every time I had to play as her. Which is bad game design.

assassins creed origins - combat
Let's talk about combat.

Even though this was a completely different system from any AC game thus far (under the hood), the combat felt like AC Unity to me. Perhaps that was because, like Unity, I spent the whole game wielding a spear... but at the same time, like in Syndicate, I was also the master of the ranged stealth kill thanks to Bayek's predator bow (ranged headshots for the win). It was much the same as the way I played Evie to be honest... sitting high atop spots, sniping out various guards until I could just walk through a totally empty fort or stronghold.

It's just the best way to do things... I mean why stealth through the middle of a group of enemies when you can just wait far out of their reach and take them all out one by one.

The AI enemies felt a little smarter in this game, but honestly, not by a great deal. They at least reacted to and tried to track Bayek down if he killed someone at range when there was a guard nearby, but they also don't seem to care a whole lot if they don't see the kill, although they do pick the bodies up and move them to a different location.

One thing that did bug me at the beginning was the fact that you have no way of doing the "beserker poison" at range. If can only be done via melee stealth, which meant that I never did it at all in the game. But the sleep poison made a welcome return, which I didn't often use, but I like having it around anyway.

The other thing that felt very AC was the crafting of your gear. It was mostly an AC3 and Black Flag mechanic, find animals and other resources in the world to allow you to upgrade stuff. In this case it's defence, combat strength, ranged ability, quiver and pouches. And it never felt like a total grind the way it occasionally did in previous games.

What I really liked was the way they handled the weapons themselves. Its always a real pain finding the weapon that does exactly what you want it to do, but then levelling up past that weapon and having to trade to something else is always much less fun. Thankfully Origins gets rid of that by having upgradable weapons. So I think I used a total of three different spears through the whole game, since I was able to keep them tracking with my level.

And the weapons seem to be randomised, so you never know what exactly you're going to get... which annoyingly meant that I saw a lot more high level swords through the game than spears.

For me, the best weapons are some combination of "Bleeding on Hit" (10-40% chance to make target bleed), "On Fire" (chance to set enemies on fire) and "Health on Kill" (recovers 15% health after each kill). What I never really used was the Adrenaline system which is supposed to do a massive hit... but I usually forgot about it, plus the L3 + R3 button presses were hard to get right when I did, so I just swung away like a maniac instead.

They also definitely got the skill tree right this time around... it's divided into Hunter, Warrior and Seer (or range, melee and other skills) and you can definitely pick up a lot more skills this time around. In fact I ran out of individual skills I wanted about halfway through the game, but thankfully you can spend points on the three tree title options to give you a 1% better ability in that area, and given you can take that option multiple times, it's not a bad way to spend extra points.

assassins creed origins - pyramid sitting
The world of Origins is definitely what I'd call a "guided open world"... once you're actually let loose from the starting area into the whole map anyway. Sure you can go straight from there to the area designed for Level 40 characters, but you won't even be able to see the enemy levels, they just show a skull icon indicating that this is a Very Bad Idea.

The story itself mostly moves you through the areas, but as always, I wandered away from the story fairly early on to start trying to gain some levels and gear so everything just gets a little easier.

In previous AC games, the distinction between story missions and non story missions felt very cut and dried... the line is a little more blurry in Origins. It's still fairly obvious, but there are a lot of "bonus missions" in this game that seem to have been given much the same weight as story content, but less rigidly arranged than they were in Syndicate. And a lot of the missions you pick up are multi-part quests, so it's easy enough to either work all the way through something or just pick and choose whatever might be nearby your location at any moment.

As far as the quests go, they're mostly standard AC fare... go here, speak with this person, assassinate that person, steal this object, follow a crazy man around the map until he finds the person he's been talking about the whole time who turns out to be a camel. That kind of thing.

I did do essentially every single possible thing though... with the exception of the war elephants (big, high level, non-story related boss fights), the god battles (even bigger and higher level than the elephants) and the battle arena and hippodrome (because it was just irritating but fortunately not compulsory). I mean the map was basically cleared once I was done.

The "modern day" sections are back much more like some of the earlier Desmond sequences, with an interesting new protagonist, Layla Hassan, a "researcher at Abstergo's Historical Research Division". Most of her backstory is told through text items on her in-game laptop, and even though a lot of it ties in with the very lackluster liveaction movie, Layla is a character I look forward to running into again in future games.

There are also the usual enemy encampments of varying levels, treasures to discover and, given that this is Classical Antiquity Egypt (as opposed to actual Ancient Egypt), tombs to explore. The tombs are the real puzzle set pieces, although they're not quite as arduous as some of the puzzle locations from earlier games, they're also the places with the most AC lore dumps. In addition there are also animal lairs which are basically small enemy encampments of animals.

assassins creed origins - senu
Speaking of animals...

Senu the Bonelli's eagle is Bayek's constant companions throughout as well as the game's replacement for the Eagle Vision of previous versions. Instead you get the actual vision of an eagle.

I like the mechanic, you can fly halfway across the map if you really want to to scope things out, but pinpointing entire enemy encampments from the air is really where Senu comes into her own. There were times I missed the Eagle Vision ping to show up enemies, but that still exists, it just shows gear and coins you can take instead. And if you leave Bayek standing idle for too long, Senu swoops down and perches on his arm, which is sweet.

The other animal based ability I like is the ability to set a waypoint and have your camel (or horse, but really, it's Egypt, why aren't you using a camel) run there on it's own... which is fantastic, especially for places you haven't already fast travelled to yet. Or if you need to get up from the couch and get a drink while nothing is going on.

There's also an ability in the skill tree that lets you tame any wild animal you come across... which is fun, for about five minutes. I mean if you're a melee focus character it might have advantages, but it never kept my attention, plus I think it stops working if you hit a cut scene, which is unfortunate.

Also, you can pet the myriad of cats that are running all over Egypt... because why wouldn't you want to do that!

assassins creed origins - dawn/dusk over the pyramids
Origins really is a beautiful game. The weather isn't quite as dynamic as say London or Paris (as in there's no rain, unsurprisingly), but watching a sandstorm roll in across the desert and reduce everything to a golden haze is amazing. And the deserts are full of weird mirages if you stand still long enough.

In fact the lighting in general is gorgeous across the game.

And as you can tell from these screen shots, they really have put a lot of work into making the desert, pyramids, mountains and river valley feel alive and unique. Depending on if you're in the more urban areas, out in the mountains or down along the coast, NPC dialogue and looks are completely different (a little like London).

To be honest I think I expected a much more desert focused game, but it does a great job of dividing the map up. It's a really large map... the biggest of any of the AC games from what I understand. It definitely feels it. And while you can find a spot with a lot of people (nowhere near the London or Paris crowds though), you can also find spots with nobody at all, which feels about right for this map.

They also kept the ability to hold your breath and swim underwater from earlier games, which leads to some really pretty moments as you explore underwater ruins (provided you take out all of the crocodiles in the area first).

assassins creed origins - the hidden ones
When I was finished the main game, I decided to pick up the first of the two DLCs for the game, The Hidden Ones.

As far as the lore of the start of the Brotherhood of Assassins is concerned, this is much more about that than the main game was (although it was interesting in the main game to discover exactly where the assassin's symbol comes from).

Because this takes place a few years after the end of the main game (like both the Syndicate and Unity DLC that I've previously played), Bayek finally gets a prototype of the assassin's outfit we know and love from all the other games. And Aya returns, in a much more dominant outfit (although she looks amazing).

There are also moments in both games where you find characters that seem like they'll be the founding members of the brotherhood, but the DLC is a little more explicit about it.

The DLC shifts the location to the much smaller Sinai Peninsula (which makes sense) and also provides the opportunity for a much more vertical game, with a lot of rocky terrain and climbing.

As far as the story goes, it's not hugely different from the main game (I think they're saving that for the other DLC, The Curse of the Pharaohs, which is much more mythological and fantastical), the interesting part for me was aforementioned start of the brotherhood.

assassins creed origins - morning view
I very much enjoyed my time in Egypt with Bayek, and it'll be interesting to see how they develop the storyline going forward... I still want a feudal Japan version, as well as a 1920's New York game though... but we'll see.

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photo saturday: bridges and walkers

bridge walkernew bridge

old bridgeshadow walker
You know when you look at something and think, yeah, that can't be right... but it says it right there, I'll just go with that. That was me last Sunday when I was sure (after having looked it up online) that the shops were open at Burnside, even though it was Easter Sunday. Thankfully the shops are only a couple of minutes away from my place, but the problem was that I didn't have anything easy for lunch.

Easter, overall, was m'eh. Not least of all because of the lack of lunch, but I just didn't to anything on either Sunday or Monday.

I mean I filled in time, but nothing particularly useful.

Because of the nothingness of Monday, there was no DnD... I mean there was DnD, I just didn't go. So that just left Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday was good because there was a new person who I enjoyed playing with, and annoying because the party also consisted of someone who is basically Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, but not in an adorable way.
“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother!’. The Social Round. Always something going on.”
Anyway... Thursday I just ran for my three boys. Who, to continue the Pooh analogy are basically all Tigger... if he was three people who all gave each other shit and one of them had more of a potty mouth. But they've been collected under the heading of "things that are mine" (I tried to find the Anita Blake quote about that, but I don't have the books any more and even though I was certain I'd blogged about it at one point, I can't find the reference anywhere), so I'm somewhat protective of them.

Yeah, that whole thought process kind of ran away from me.

Thursday was also Haircut Day... not much to report there. It was a toner day, not a bleach day, so overall a shorter process. And Tink and I did the usual chatter.

Friday was Chiro Day... because weirdly those two things have managed to sync up to be in the same week after being nowhere near each other for the longest time.

Today was... actually also pretty m'eh. I mean we did stuff, stuff got done. But not thrilling.

We started with the usual supermarketry... and when I mentioned to Ma that all the Easter stuff at Haighs was not on sale, she suggested we stop in there after the supermarket. Which is absolutely not on the way home, but not that far out of the way.

And that's how I ended up with four bags of broken Easter egg. What? The broken Easter egg is the best Haighs thing. Well, maybe second best.

After all the required stuff was done we decided to head into the city to track down some things Ma wanted. Some of which we managed, others not so much.

But we did a bunch of walking, then called it quits and came back here. Not the worst Saturday ever, but all told, kind of m'eh.

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