Friday, November 29, 2013

Grimm Season One: Portland Is the New Hellmouth


I just delved into the (not so) wonderful world of Grimm. My husband and a few of my friends have been dedicated followers of the show for quite some time. I'd seen bits and pieces of it, but I'd never watched an entire episode. I love retellings of stories like fairy tales, and I'm not sure why I didn't give this a chance sooner than this.

The basis of this story is Detective Nick Burkhaldt is a homicide detective and Grimm. Contrary to popular belief, the stories told by the Grimm bothers are not legends. The monsters, called wesen, in the stories have taken on human appearances and live among ordinary humans. Many seem to have reformed their ways, but just as many seem to flirt with lawlessness whether that's giving in to the crueler/mischievous parts of their animal nature or committing more human-like crimes.

The monsters are very good at hiding their true identities from normal humans, but Grimms are able to see them for what they truly are. Grimms are tasked with doling out punishment to wesen who break the law, as well. Most of the magic community is afraid of the Grimms, even the naturally "good" types. There's mutual fascination there between Nick and the wesen community, as well. Just as Nick has never seen them before his Grimm senses manifested, many of them have never seen a Grimm before either.

A skalengeck.
At the beginning of this series, Nick has no idea that he's a Grimm. He had started to see strange things, but doesn't learn the source of it until his aunt reveals they're monster hunters. His aunt meets an early demise, and Nick is left to fend for himself by using the information she left him. He learns more about this new world after gaining a confidant in the form of a blutbad (a wolf), which such a team-up is unheard of. I appreciate that the show doesn't just outright tell us that Grimms are feared, even hated, by much of the wesen community. Instead, we learn this through how they respond to Nick.

However, Nick has no idea how Grimms are supposed to behave. His clean slate is allowing him to shape himself into a Grimm who doesn't automatically assume that a wesen is the bad guy. He's on the side of fairness and justice, and as far as he's concerned, that extends to wesen as well.

The show mixes just the right amount of dark fantasy and cheesiness to melt my heart. There are times when it's a little over-the-top and has me arguing with my television. It's a serious show, but it's not serious. The writers know just how to write this to balance out the serious and non-serious aspects of the story. The monsters are interesting, and I'm always anxious to find out more about the "monster of the day." Many of the monsters have strict regimens they follow to control their animal, such as a blutbad becoming a vegetarian, but they still exhibit some personality quirks that can be attributed to their beast like the need to mark territory or an attraction to certain colors and objects.

The characters... Okay, I like the characters in this series, but they're still a little flat for me. Right now, they're not showing too many dimensions, especially the two prominent female characters. The men are starting to display more facets (although it still feels like superficial facets). For me, Captain Renard has shown the most interesting possibilities as a character goes, but the women still seem to be there to only add conflict and nothing else. They're barely visible or important to the story.

Juliette
Juliette is treated little better than the blindly devoted, sweet girlfriend who endures her relationship with uncanny understanding. She doesn't argue with Nick or voice her concerns with how he's spending less and less time with her. She's the perfect, benevolent girlfriend. I understand that her role shows how dangerous her life with Nick is, especially since she isn't aware that he's a Grimm, but there has been very little done to make her seem like more than that. She's kind, and that's about all we know about her.

Adalind Schade is another female character that seems more of a cardboard female to serve exactly one purpose in the story. I cut her a little more slack since she is supposed to be this mysterious figure who's motivations the viewers are questioning. It makes it hard for me to like or dislike the character because there's nothing that stands out about her (or Juliette) that makes them memorable as characters. I'm hoping that changes as the series progresses, though. This overall character flatness hasn't deterred me from watching because I think the combo of story and character helps to make up for that weakness.


I'm a little past midway for season one right now, and I'm pretty sure that it's going to make it on my "must watch" list as long as subsequent episodes don't get wonky. I won't start watching the current season airing (which has a new episode tonight... so tempting...), though, until I'm caught up with the first two seasons.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

Game Haul: Steam Halloween Sale

Inspired by the book haul posts done by my co-bloggers on our book review blog Bibliosanctum. Click on the image to be taken to the game's store page for more information, screenshots, and videos.

alive  darksiders dd lucius soul soul 2defiance blood omen 2edna zafehouse
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Tempest Plays Zafehouse: Diaries - We're All Gonna Die!

In searching for zombie games that I actually want to play, I stumbled on Zafehouse: Diaries. It stayed on my Steam wishlist for a while before I bought it during Steam's Halloween sale. I know I've said it a hundred times that I usually don't care for survival horror, especially zombie survival horror. However, lately, I've been enjoying more of the story, character-driven survival horror games such as The Walking Dead: Season One. I just care more about the characters and story than chasing down a bunch of zombies.

Zafehouse: Diaries is much more difficult than I thought it would be initially. I wasn't necessarily expecting something easy because the description of the game mentions that tenuous relationships and personal prejudices of the characters would play a huge part in this, but it just takes much more careful planning of the interpersonal relationships than I thought. There's some simulated combat and tense situations due to the zombies, of course, but that is so much easier to handle than these people and their issues. We're supposed to be finding a car that a scavenger told us about and finding parts to make it work. I guess the goal is to escape the town. I don't know where they're supposed to be going, but whatever. I have a mission.

It's a simple enough task that requires scouting and planning by using the resources we can find in the town, but the dispositions of the group members have made it feel like this has been a slow process. I knew it wasn't going to be a quick run to gather everything we needed and just get out, but I've been dealing with so many petty emotions in the group. I've thrown my hands up more than a few times at some of these characters and their antics. I feel like I need to gather my little group together, make them sit down, and have a chat about all these feelings they're having. This is a zombie apocalypse we don't have time for you "not liking someone's look."


I've actually played two groups. The game crashed on me the first time after I made some progress, and I had to start a new game because I hadn't saved. However, I think I got far enough with my first group to kind of make some general comparisons between it, my second group, and general game play aspects.

[caption id="attachment_1536" align="aligncenter" width="520"] Lines indicate relationship strength. The more broken the line, the worse the relationship. The darker the solid line, the stronger the relationship.[/caption]

Before settling with this current group, my group consisted of four women and one man. Two of the women were uncomfortable around men, and the man was uncomfortable around women. There weren't any "not racist, just doesn't like [x]'s look" characters, as in my current group, but I had quite a few that didn't care for poor people despite being mostly uneducated and poor themselves. My current group consists of three women and two men. Two of them are racists, and one might be an undercover drug addict. I have a feeling this new  group is going to give me many more problems than my first group would have. We're probably all going to die. I accept this.

While feeling my way around the game play, I tried to keep characters together who had good relationships, but quickly found out that, even if they liked each other, if they were doing something together that one character was skilled at and the other was only "okay" to "subpar" at, their relationship would deteriorate quickly if the better party felt the other wasn't doing their part.  Likewise if you put characters together who are suited for the task but hate one another, even though they have the complementing talents to get things done, things can quickly come to blows because they hate one another.  And I mean literal blows.

In my first group, I had two characters (the man and one of the women) trying to secure the house together because they were both suited for it, and they would always fist fight. She'd end up with injuries. Sure, I could've had one of them completing another task, but it was quicker and more efficient to have them both working on it while other characters performed other tasks such as watching for zombies, searching the house for supplies, etc. I actually started wondering if I could somehow orchestrate the man's death because he wasn't getting along with any of the women (possibly due to his discomfort around women) and he was actually physically attacking many of them. I'm playing the mode where you can't actually get rid of survivors unless they end up dying, so I was seriously thinking about sending him out alone on a suicide mission. Sometimes, we have to make these hard choices, and I was about to make it. I was going to send him into the most zombie infested building I could find. Luckily for him, my game crashed.

[caption id="attachment_1540" align="aligncenter" width="520"] "She claims she isn't racist, she just doesn't like the look of Erik." Right.[/caption]

On the flip side of that, when you have characters who like each other and whose skills work well together, you really have something great. In my current group, I have two characters who I always send scouting and breaching together (Kelsey, one of my racists, and Catherine, my possible drug addict) because they have synergy. They're able to handle a fair amount of zombies together with what they have on hand, and I haven't had them to run into any real problems that they couldn't handle together. Their relationship with one another seems to have strengthen because of this.

When assigning tasks, there is a little star indicator that tells you how successful someone will be at certain tasks. There character bios will also mention things that they are good at, but just in case you don't want to keep going back and forth between the task list and the bios, the star indicator is a good enough marker. However, people may still get into conflicts even when you've done the best you can. (Alternatively, it is acceptable to have a character do things alone for the least amount of problems, but beware if it's something that has a high chance of putting them in harm's way.)

You can work on the characters' relationships by spreading rumors. These rumors can be used to strengthen or weaken their relationships. You have some limited control over the aspects of the rumor, as well. However, rumors can backfire. Using Catherine and Brad from my current group as an example, I spread the rumor that they were related, but they lost contact due to a family feud. Suddenly, they remembered being related, but their relationship deteriorated more because of the "family feud" part. There were other options I could've gone with such as saying they lost contact due to family moving away, but I just stuck with the feud part. This made one member of the group become more supportive of Catherine while the other two didn't really care. So, rumors can do more or less than the intended effect when using them.

In another attempt to get Brad and Catherine to tolerate each other, and I think this became a thing because they were starting to argue a pretty good bit, I seeded another rumor about Brad being charitable and helping people. This seem to work to improve the relationship a bit until he found Catherine with the pills.


Aside from trying to patch things with rumors, characters seem to have the ability to gain skills, if that makes sense. In both groups I played, I had one person that was noted not to have any significant skills that might prove helpful, which was the cause of much arguing since I can't really put these people with anyone because they lack skill. However, I noticed that when things such as a chess board and dumbbells were found, the characters who lacked would use them and their strength would increase (by lifting weights) or they'd become mentally sharper (playing chess), so I'm hoping I won't have to sacrifice them--in the case of my new group, it's Erik--to the zombie apocalypse gods in order to keep everyone else alive. Hopefully, this will also help to improve improve relationships, since Erik can prove his worth.


Also, no one seems to trust anything Sandra says. There was a zombie attack and instead of taking her advice and going to a secured area of the house, they all ran in the bathroom and defended themselves with a hockey mask and a motorcycle jacket. I'm not kidding. I wish I was. I laughed so hard when that happened, but they managed to survive somehow. This group needs help.


Anyhow, I'll see how this drama plays out and if I can manage to keep this group from falling apart completely. I'm not completely optimistic at this point, though.

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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

goodreads.com

Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

goodreads.com

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