Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Battlefront and Infinity 3.0 Reviews (Spoiler Free)

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Rexis here!

Hello internet! Today on Ability Points I get to combine three things I am passionate about. Games, movies, and Star Wars! I got to see The Force Awakens before Christmas and I have been dying to share my thoughts on it, but this is a game blog. So I needed something game related to accompany it. Low and behold, Battlefront and Disney Infinity 3.0 were sitting under my Christmas tree.

So let’s get right into the meat of this post and talk about:

forceawakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts (on Facebook in particular) hating on the movie. I don’t know why its so popular to hate on everything or to share your god-awful opinion unsolicited, but that’s apparently what people do.  You’re entitled to your opinion, but if you say “TFA sucks. JJ is stupid,” you’re just a hater and no one takes you seriously.

I’ve always considered myself a fan of Star Wars, but for different reasons than most people. I always laughed at the bad acting, the boring scenes, the dated graphics, and the odd way technology gets more advanced as you go from original trilogy to prequel trilogy. I found Star Wars funny. (I’m a sucker for B-movies and MST3K.)

I actually remember the first time I saw the original trilogy. I was a teenager and it was sometime after Lucas put CGI into them and rereleased the trilogy. I didn’t know much about Star Wars, but I had some friends who sat me down and made me watch all three. I remember saying “They were good.” Nowadays, I contend that the original trilogy was okay. Take off your nostalgia blinders for a moment and you’ll see where I’m coming from. They aren’t bad, they aren’t great. They are okay and fun to watch.

The prequel trilogy was, well, bad. A lot of people try to defend these movies, and Liam Neeson tried so hard, but the only redeemable aspect involved watching Yoda fight. The CGI is a bit dated now, but seeing that in theatres when they first released was nothing short of epic.

So when I heard Disney had bought the IP and put J. J. Abrams at the helm, I had a minor nerdgasm. Abrams made me fall in love with Star Trek. I have a hard time watching Shatner’s version (despite my love for bad movies), but I get into some Picard now and again. As a Disney fan and an Abrams fan, I had hopes that this Star Wars would be good. I wasn’t hoping for the moon (space station?) here, but I wanted to see something good come from a franchise I’d come to know so well over the years.

And, man, did he deliver! I’ve only got to see it one time, but I am dying to get back in there again. That is rare for me. Once in the theatre is usually enough, but The Force Awakens has sucked me right in. It’s no wonder its hit the billion dollar mark already.

I find it hard to say anything negative about the movie. The acting was on par and I really cared about every character (Poe was my favorite). Seeing the Falcon on screen again was nothing short of breathtaking. And Kylo was a devastating enemy.

We have to take a moment here because a lot of people are complaining that he wasn’t as badass as Darth Maul and people found him to be whiny. I did not. He had depth to him (unlike Maul) and a great source of anger yet to be revealed. A single line from the beginning of the movie still chills me when I think of it. “Kill them all.” We’ve barely scratched the surface of who Kylo is and who he will become.

Back on point, the visuals were stunning. The music was beautiful. The story was moving. The Force has awakened for sure! I went from being a moderate fan of the franchise to absolutely adoring it over the course of a two hour sequel.

The arguments to the contrary are loosely based in nostalgia. I’m not sure what people were hoping for here, but there are tons of references to the original trilogy that seems to be so beloved by fans, yet people still complain. “Too much like the original” and “not enough like the original” are the general basis of arguments against this movie.  How can it be both? Kind of contradictory, no?

The Force Awakens is a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned and stands as my favorite in the franchise thus far. There are still so many things to see and learn about these new characters. I can hardly wait for Episode VIII.

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Star Wars: Battlefront

I was not expecting this for Christmas at all. I had played the demo before and was impressed with the graphics. The same can be said after playing the original, btw. I have actually been having a lot of fun with this game. I wasn’t planning on buying it myself as a lot of reviewers will caution you that there isn’t enough content to justify the price. This is absolutely true. A $60 price tag on this game is absurd. It handles like it should have been a free-to-play title.

Its redeeming feature, in my opinion, is the ability to fly the ships we all have grown to love. Taking an X-Wing out over Hoth and shooting down other players is immensely satisfying and I find I don’t get bored with it. The detail is nothing short of amazing and its obvious they took a great deal of time and effort to construct the world.

All your favorite sounds are there, including the satisfying laser fire squirt noise. It all sounds fantastic through a headset. Even slamming a speeder into a tree on Endor will leave you smiling. The game is downright fun.

That’s about all that can be said, its fun. Your level of fun may vary depending on how much you like shooting and flying as there is no campaign. I’ve seen it compared to Call of Duty when playing ground missions and I think this is a fair assessment.

My final verdict: I wouldn’t pay more than $40 for it, which should be easy to find on Craigslist or a similar site since the fun is waning and people are going to start looking for other games to play. I’d say definitely rent it if you are on the fence.

LogoStar Wars: Disney Infinity 3.0

What’s not to love about infinity? I mean besides the hefty price tag that comes with buying every single character because I have an addictive personality and the desire to collect things to fill a void left by faulty parenting in my early childhood, thanks mom… I blacked out for a second there.

I got this game for my kids for Christmas complete with the Rise Against the Empire play set. This is the one that you play with the cast of the original trilogy. You can unlock the newer characters for the play set as well by collecting special hero coins.

We’ve been having a blast! Infinity is a kid’s game. Dying has no real consequence. The missions are easy to understand, but sometimes take a couple tries, particularly race missions. Still, I’ve found myself looking up guides because it isn’t always clear what to do next, despite the mission log being easily accessible.

The controls feel a bit more clunky that the first two iterations of Infinity. The characters don’t seem to move as quickly and it feels like you have a delay between performing attacks that wasn’t there before. its unfortunate because I’ve always felt like Disney had perfected the game with 2.0.

The sound is wonky. Sometimes voices don’t sync with movements. Other times, the sound cuts out. This has been an ongoing issue with Infinity games. Coupled with the occasional loading glitches and screen that freezes up and it feels unpolished and thrown together.

It is a very fun and immersive game, but those faults really detract from the experience. Even though its a kid’s title, I still really enjoy playing it. My son and I have a blast running around, finding new missions, and unlocking new abilities. Plus, its a lot of fun to see Vader fight Anakin.

As I’ve said in past discussions about Infinity, be prepared to spend money if you get into this game. And have a nice shelf for all your newly collected characters, play sets, and power discs.

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7 Awesome Songs from Video Games

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Rexis here!

Hello internet! Christmas is over and 2015 is coming to a close. Did you get everything you asked for? Under my tree was a nice new XBOX One headset and I am so in love with it. I have kids, you see, and my game room is down the hall from their bedrooms which means I can’t turn my sound up too loud at night. That has changed. For the last few nights I’ve been blowing away ghouls and super mutants to the tunes of Billie Holiday and Danny Kaye on my Pip-Boy. Somehow, the gunfire only helps to accentuate the emotions of the performers. Couple that with the screams of the slaughtered… Gold.

I’ve also found that the headset works great when listening to music on my phone or YouTube and that got me thinking. So today, I thought I’d share seven of my favorite video game musical pieces to bring delicious harmony to your ears. In no particular order, they are:

Chrono Trigger – Frog’s Theme

I don’t know what it is about Frog’s Theme that I love. Ever since I first played Chorno Trigger on SNES many years ago, I’ve had this song stuck in my head and I find myself humming it a lot, even though I rarely listen to it.

Final Fantasy XI – Heaven’s Tower

This song was actually a newer discovery to me. Having returned to FFXI only a few months ago, I’d never noticed it in the many years I played before. For a game with so many great songs, this one really stands out to me. And now that I’m listening to it, I find it difficult to tab over to the next track on the list.

Portal – Still Alive

Portal was a surprise addiction. I picked it up on a whim and I literally could not stop playing this game until I finished it. Same for Portal 2. This song is a fantastic amalgamation of the first game. Its funny and sometimes a bit on point. GLaDOS has a way of telling it like it is. So fantastic.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Corneria

This is a remix of the Star Fox music for the planet Corneria. It plays in Brawl and sets the tone for the battle. This is an all out rock song chock full of nostalgia. I spent a lot of time playing Star Fox and Star Fox 64 in their heyday and this takes me back. Do a barrel roll!

Super Metroid – Prologue

Because its awesome, that’s why! This song so brilliantly captures what Metroid is about. It combines an Alien feel and couples it with something of a medieval fanfare that grabs your brain, shakes it, and says “No one is going to save you.” Being alone on a desolate alien world fighting for survival never felt so terrifying.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – Emerald Hill Zone

While not as melodic as some other entries, this is the song of my childhood. Followers of Ability Points will recognize this as my favorite game of all time. This music literally makes me feel… home.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Song of Storms

A causal loop allowed this song to come into existence. Link learns the song from the windmill guy as an adult and teaches it to the windmill guy as a child. It shouldn’t exist, but it does. Its catchy and comes to mind out of nowhere. Zelda has some awesome tunes, but this one invades your brain places. Remixes of it are pretty awesome, too.

Music is something we often overlook in video games. It can literally make or break a game in some cases. Fallout 3 managed to strike a great balance of song and atmosphere which is why they brought some of those same songs back for Fallout 4.  What are your favorite video game songs?

FFXI Journal – Entry 13 – Finale

Reisenjima

I’ve seen Vana’diel.

From the cobblestoned streets of Bastok to the ruins in Reisenjima, from the bottom of the sea to the land of the gods in the sky, from the depths of my mind to the depths of the crystals that hold the world together and bathe it in their glorious light. From above, from below. There are no stones left to upturn.

I’ve saved Vana’diel.

I’ve saved the world more times than can be counted, yet I’ve done little to prevent possible futures from becoming reality. They exist simultaneously with the land we inhabit and while I could venture there, I could not save the damned souls that inhabit those nightmarish lands. The ease of their suffering was the best I could offer. Making peace with this has proven difficult, but I try to recall all I’ve done for the realm I know best.

I’ve loved Vana’diel.

I’ve spent many years among it’s people. I’ve heard their stories, aided them in their plights, and lost the one I held most dear. From the ancient civilizations to the modern frontier, I’ve fought to keep their stories alive. Like the Crystal’s light, we cannot allow them to fade. As long as we remember them, they are immortal, right Lillisette?

I’ve conquered Vana’diel.

In my earliest days, I was unsure who I was and who I would become, a symptom of life. Yet, I found and made my way. I honed my instincts and mastered my craft. And in my finest hour, I stood tall over the fallen enemies that would seek to do us injustice.

I’ve become a legend in Vana’diel.

My axe is chipped and beyond repair. As I lay it down upon the table in this inn, I can hear the feint whispers of an adventurer who gave his all to save the world. He is nameless, but not unknown. He is sought out, but never found. Some wish to challenge him, others to become him. His legacy endures.

“Today is a good day for training, is it not, Iroha?”

“Yes, Master.”

You are not a number!

Rexis here!

Hello internet. The last few days have been strange for me to say the least. Some of you have noticed my page was blank and some of you are here because of a Reddit link wondering what all the commotion was about. I want to set the record straight on a few things.

I wrote a post titled “5 Reasons to Avoid FFXI” and the reception was overwhelmingly negative. And for good reason. It started off as a well meaning post and a better title may have been “5 Things Returning Players Might Miss”. That was what I was going for, but I believe it was poorly written with a click bait title, so the point was either missed, or people just weren’t reading it all the way. Either way it wasn’t my best work. But it did represent a bigger problem for me. I was pandering for views.

In my very first post on Ability Points, I said that this wasn’t my first gaming blog. The reason I closed the older one:

I had become obsessed with something for the wrong reason. All I could focus on was the stats, the promotion, and the little graph that rises every time someone views. I tried to write things people would want to read. I lost sight of why I started this in the first place. So I burned it down. I quit.

While this was going on, I was offered an opportunity in my career to change positions complete with a hefty raise. Taking that opportunity will result in far less personal time, less gaming, less blogging, and generally less of the things I enjoy doing when I’m not working. Its a huge lifestyle change and a decision that can’t be taken lightly. This also means I would have to finish the book I’m writing before moving on.

And the icing on this stress cake came in the form of a computer virus on my laptop that encrypted every single file. This was a nasty little thing that seems to have deleted my restore points. Removing the virus wouldn’t be a challenge, but with every file encrypted, I just didn’t see the point. There was no way to save that data (unless I gave some criminal shadow organization $300 in bit coin).

I hid all my posts on the blog because I needed to think about all of these things, do some soul searching. I removed my social media accounts because I hated what they represented. I am not Buzzfeed. My writing was never meant to build a fan base. It was never meant to gain a ton of views. That’s not why I do this and I had forgotten that. This blog started as a way for me to get my thoughts down because that’s how I cope with things. I write. That particular post was… bad. And it was in bad taste. Unfortunately, people are still finding it somehow. Honestly, it has the highest view count of any of my posts and its really my worst one. Talk about putting your best foot forward, huh?

The FFXI Journal posts will be returning after a bit of editing and there will be one final post to tie it all up. I am quitting the game. I simply don’t have time for it anymore, especially with the career opportunity that I’ve decided to take. I’ll still be writing for the blog because after a year of doing this, I actually enjoy it. I won’t be posting links on social media anymore, though. If people find me, that’s great. If not, that works too. Its a slippery slope when you start making content for clicks.

My laptop is alive again, in case you were wondering. I reinstalled everything with the exception of FFXI. That game and I have a history of abusing one another so its best to leave it alone. Most of my stuff was backed up on a 3 terabyte drive. I’ll be focusing more effort into wrapping up my book now. If you didn’t know it, my dream is to be published and I’ll be self-publishing with Amazon when its ready. The goal isn’t to make money, but to know that I’ve completed it and my work is available. It helps that one of my best friends is finishing a degree that could lead him to being an editor for a publisher.

If you did find your way here by means of that FFXI article, I hope you don’t let it sour you toward the rest of the blog. And if you actually read it, then I am truly sorry because it wasn’t my best work by any means. I like sharing my thoughts and making friends, especially with people who share my love for gaming.

Not followers, not subscribers, not a view count, but friends.

Let’s talk about Disney Infinity 3.0!

LogoRexis here!

Thanksgiving has passed and I have had a cold for over a week. Its hard to do anything when you feel sick all the time, especially writing. I can barely keep my thoughts straight, much less write them down. Christmas is on the way now and, as usual, there are going to be some new video games under my tree. Not for me, but for my kids. (I’m just hoping Santa brings me that XBOX One headset I want.) The one game I am certain will be there is Disney Infinity 3.0. We have the first two titles and all of the characters that go along with them. That’s right. All of them. They take up a nice corner of my game room.

When it comes to Disney Infinity, we have it for the PlayStation 3 because of the limited content of the Wii-U version and the fact that 1.0 wasn’t released on the XBOX One. The first two titles are really great games for kids and I can’t imagine the third being any different. They are a lot of fun and offer some great story lines to follow, which kept me entertained. My son and daughter are content to run around killing bad guys, but I like getting the missions done. I particularly enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean play set. As soon as I heard that Disney had acquired the Star Wars franchise, I knew exactly what to expect with 3.0 and I couldn’t be more excited to open up Han Solo and start playing through the story line. It is, no doubt, going to be a blaster… err, blast.

Disney Infinity has some great aspects, but also suffers from a few flaws. I love playing in the Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers play sets and it feels like the only super hero game that actually got it right. Seriously! Its hard to find a super hero game as engaging as this. The downside is that there is no penalty to death. Infinity 2.0 did increase the challenge by forcing you to change characters after death (until the original character had “recovered”),  but you still respawn right where you left off. This is a game primarily aimed at kids though, so I can’t blame them for making it as user friendly as possible.

Another flaw I’ve found is the entire toy box builder. I play this game on a 60 inch screen and I still have a hard time finding the pieces I want. There are simply too many toys to choose from. Because of this, I think the building aspect is largely ignored. My kids really don’t spend a lot of time building things. They might use the menu to pull out a vehicle, but mostly they just run around whatever toy box they are in fighting bad guys and arguing with one another about who shot who first. (Han or Guido?)

The game also suffers from a lack of replay value from an adult perspective. After we finished the play set worlds, I didn’t see much reason to go back into them. You can acquire currencies to unlock weapons which then become available in the toy box, but beyond that, there isn’t much point. The kids, of course, still enjoy them. There are certain gameplay mechanics in the play sets you can’t find in the toy box, like the train in the Lone Ranger.

The best feature I’ve found is the backwards compatibility that comes with the characters. Any existing character or power disc will work with Infinity 3.0. We’ve spent a lot more money than I care to mention collecting all these figures. It would be a shame if they only worked for certain games. It’s good to know that all of these things will still serve a purpose and remain useful for future installments. Plus, who wouldn’t get a kick out of Chewbacca and Aladdin duking it out on top of the tower from Wreck It Ralph?

My game time has been occupied with Fallout 4 lately, but even with my new headset (come on, Santa!) I will be making some time to hop on Infinity 3.0 with my son and daughter to experience the new worlds and new characters. I might even play a bit while they’re asleep, who knows? If you are looking for a recommendation, I would say anyone with kids under 10 that enjoy Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars should get these games. But be careful! If you are the type who likes to collect things, you’re wallet will take a hit. Those character cost about $13 a piece unless you can find them on sale.

We’ve got 24 more days until Christmas. Happy shopping and happy gaming, everyone!