Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order Review

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I’ll be the first one to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Star Wars movies. However, I’ve been playing Star Wars games for decades. My favorites were probably Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed games. So I was excited for this game, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

I was expecting the game-play to be more action-based, like The Force Unleashed games. In that game you get very powerful and throw force abilities around like crazy and dominate huge groups of storm troopers and other enemies. This game surprised me, but in a good way. It’s more of a mix of Sekiro type battles with platforming and puzzle solving.

The story follows Cal Kestis, a Padawan that survived the Empire’s purge of Jedi. Conveniently, he’s lost some of his connection to the Force because of the trauma of a past event. So when you first start, he’s fairly weak. You’ll pick up new abilities along the journey that will unlock different paths that you can explore in each of the worlds.

This game is also partly an RPG, where you build up Cal’s combat abilities as you level up. You’ll choose between improving his Force abilities, light-saber attacks, or other physical abilities. Combat is very similar to Sekiro, you can attack, dodge, or parry. My first instinct was usually to dodge, but I learned quickly that parrying was usually the better option. I played through the game on Hard. It was a little bit of a struggle at first until I got the hang of parrying. I also tried to take on a sub-boss early on in the first world that I probably wasn’t ready for. I died… a lot, but it helped me learn to parry better.

When I mentioned platforming earlier, you’ll need to explore the worlds you’re in. Initially, each world will have parts you can’t access until you progress in the story. Abilities like wall running, or Force Push will open up new areas or help you solve puzzles. While you’re doing this, you’ll find snippets of story or health/force bar upgrades. So it’s definitely worthwhile to explore and solve puzzles. Thankfully, the game provides a 3D map so you can very accurately trace where you need to go.

The story itself was done very well. Without going into it too much and ruining it, I felt that they brought in some excellent voice actors. Each character had purpose and added to the story. There’s just enough backstory to help illuminate you on each character’s motivation without really slowing the story down. Cal has a unique ability with the Force that allows him to recall past events with certain objects or places. As you explore, you’ll use this ability to uncover parts of the story that were actually compelling to read.

Overall I really enjoyed this game. The only real point of frustration was the load times felt a little long after I’d die. So if you struggle with a boss or enemy, it gets really frustrating reloading and working your way back to them. My only other complaint is that I wish there were more worlds and more content. I feel like I finished this really fast even though I explored almost 100% of the game. To me, there also isn’t a ton of replay value in this unless they drop a lot of downloadable content; though I’m personally not a fan of spending more money on a game I already bought. I’d give this game a 9 out of 10. I might recommend waiting until the price drops or some used copies are available, because I don’t feel there’s a lot of replay value.

Review of GreedFall

Its been a long time since I’ve gotten to play an RPG that’s really story and character driven. The style is very similar to a BioWare game like Dragon Age or Mass Effect. But is it a cheap knock off or a game worth buying?

The game is set in a colonial style time period. Characters have a lot of the same style, armor, and weapons of that period including basic firearms. Their civilization has been struggling to survive under a plague. But they found a mysterious island with an indigenous people and huge monsters that they hope will have a cure of some kind.

Your character is nobility and charged with helping to lead the new town on the island. As with most RPG games, you build your character as a warrior, magic user, or ranger type but you can also mix their abilities to develop a unique style.

Combat is more difficult than I first expected, it does take some skill. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy, at least on Normal difficulty. Like Sekiro or God of War, you can parry, dodge, or attack. Firearms and magic provide a method of ranged attacks to mix it up.

You’ll have help along the way with two party members in combat. There is no way to control what they do in combat, but they can heal you and tank. There are plenty of characters to join you along the way that you’ll build relationships with, very similar to Mass Effect and Dragon Age. With quests to help them and pursue romantic relationships.

My favorite thing about this game is the quests. Many games like Elder Scrolls have a lot of quests that feel like a chore. Go to this location, retrieve something, bring it back. GreedFall hasn’t done that to me yet. The quests are more complicated, requiring different abilities like persuasion, science, or other abilities to pursue different methods of completing the quest. They’re more fun and don’t feel like a chore.

Another interesting component is your reputation. There isn’t a morality meter or anything of that kind. But there are different factions in the game such as the merchants, a scientific group, religious group, and nautical group among others. Depending on your choices, your reputation with these factions will go up or down. If your reputation goes up enough with groups you get rewards and quests.

All of these features are great and I personally enjoy the story and RPG elements of the game. Unfortunately no game is perfect. One problem is that the graphics and character animations are dated. It doesn’t bother me that much, but other players may find it annoying. I also don’t like the camera and moving around often feels clumsy and slow compared to other games.

Overall, I feel the game is good. I’d give it an 8 out of 10. I’m enjoying it, and recommend it to people who enjoy RPGs and BioWare style games. But I feel it needs something new to set it apart from a BioWare game, and GreedFall looks like an early Xbox One game or even a Xbox 360 game in terms of its graphics. I bought it and feel it was worth the purchase, I’m looking forward to seeing more from this gaming studio in the future.

Take a Break

Election season is here and it seems to be a competition on who can say the most outlandish things to garner attention. I see the outrage machine in the media on both sides calling out bad behavior for their readers to get angry about. There seems to be controversy around every corner, people keep getting angrier and angrier. With more than a year until the presidential election, thing are already ugly and likely to get worse.

It’s tempting to get caught up in all the political drama, but if you just take a step back you’ll see it for what it really is. All the tension and hatred is being drummed up by people to sell stories, get followers on social media, or to get attention for their books or other aspirations. The sky isn’t falling, the world isn’t coming to an end. Americans are still living their lives as they always have.

I noticed the other day that I’m always reading articles, or watching videos on YouTube. My brain has been occupied with other people’s thoughts and opinions. Lately I’ve been making an effort to put the phone down and engage more with my family. To pursue my goals and passions more. Spending too much time engaged in other people’s thoughts and opinions, or just mindlessly scanning the internet for something entertaining just turns you into a mindless drone. Always looking for something interesting but not finding it while ignoring your own passions and the people you love in your life.

So my very simple advice is to take a break. Take a step back from the election and political drama. Put your phone down or step away from the computer. Engage with your family and friends, pursue your passion, travel, do something! You’ll be much happier for it.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Where do you see yourself in five years? In interviews, this is probably the question I hate the most. I know they’re probably looking for something where you display your ambition and interest in working for the company. But in general I struggle with questions like these because I want to speak honestly and questions like these force you to think of ridiculous and often unrealistic answers. Another I heard recently was, “What do you want your legacy to be in this company?” Um, to work and get paid? I don’t know, to me the people that answer these types of questions well are full of crap. Do you want someone working for you that can speak honestly or do you want the person that can smile and tell you what you want to hear?

But that’s interviews in general, with some rare exceptions. My best interviews were with companies that asked me straightforward questions where I could answer honestly. The worst interviews were these open ended, generalized questions that I doubt most people answer honestly.

What made me think of this was, surprise, an anime. I was watching Hunter X Hunter (for the second time) and towards the end they say the best things in life come in the pursuit of your goals and not from reaching your goal. I’ve often found this to be the case in my life. Various career goals I’ve had fell apart completely, but other opportunities that I didn’t expect came along and were usually far better than my original goal.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be writing novels, yet here I am with two published books. I also never imagined moving to the east coast, yet here I am. Life has a funny way of mercilessly shoving you out of a path you were on and pointing you in a new direction. For me, it took years of struggling before I was finally inspired to write. For anyone that’s really struggling right now, just know that you’re probably being pushed into a different direction in your life. Whether that’s a relationship, career, or a big move, I bet you’re meant to be doing something else.

So to answer that interview question. I have no idea where I’ll be in five years. Life is too unpredictable, about the only thing I do know is that there will be great events that I won’t see coming.

My First Trip to the Atlantic!

I’ve lived most of my life on the west coast of the United States, so most of my beach experience was California or Oregon. Beyond that, I also spent a few years in Japan and I got to enjoy some spectacular beaches in Okinawa. So I have been to the Pacific many times but never the Atlantic.

Now that I live on the east coast I have the opportunity to travel to so many new places. This past weekend I intended to take my family to Virginia Beach. Unfortunately most of the hotels were booked and the ones that weren’t were really expensive. By chance we ended up in a nice town called Cape Charles. We went over some stunning bridges and even some tunnels to get there.

Luckily the beach access was easy from our hotel. My girls were insisting we go to the pool instead of the beach. But my wife and I told them we didn’t drive all that way to avoid the ocean so we practically dragged them to the beach against their will. Once we arrived they found plenty of shells and immediately forgot about the pool. The water was warm and shallow, making it an ideal location for young children. My wife and I joined them in the water, making our first experience going to the Atlantic a very pleasant one.

The second thing we experienced there was the dining. We snuck into our venue, The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery, without interrupting the nearby beach-side wedding. Our dinner was outside on a balcony overlooking the ocean with a stunning view. I’m blessed with children that won’t generally eat kid friendly food like lasagna, but will eat seafood. So we got a large platter of seafood for everyone to enjoy.

After dinner, our waiter suggested getting ice cream at a local destination called Brown Dog Ice Cream. That area had a lot of fun gift shops and restaurants that were all family friendly. Brown Dog Ice Cream turned out to be an excellent suggestion. It had some of the best ice cream flavors I’ve tasted. If you get the chance, I highly recommend their coffee flavor. The local gift shops actually had some very reasonable prices and very friendly staff.

Our evening there was very unpleasant. My youngest daughter, that’s four years old, was up screaming most of the night with ear pain. So none of us got very good sleep and we struggled for hours to find a way to relieve her pain before my wife got a warm washcloth and applied it to her ear. My daughter’s ear pain finally went away but we were all exhausted.

The next day we decided to leave but went to another beach in Cape Charles. Parking was easy and beach access was no problem. Again we had a shallow beach that was very kid friendly and my girls both had a good time.

I think everyone has had a trip where everything went wrong for them. This was apparently that kind of trip for my youngest daughter. On the way back to the shore, she ignored my wife’s warnings and got too close to a large pile of rocks. She scraped her leg on one of the jagged rocks. It was a deep gash, but fortunately we had a first aid kit in our vehicle and patched her up.

Exhausted from the previous night, we decided it was time to head home. Despite the hard time my daughter had, we all had a great time in Cape Charles. It’s a beautiful area with lots of great shops, food, and beaches. If you’re ever in the area you should at least take the time to go get ice cream at Brown Dog, you won’t be disappointed.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice Review

Sekiro was made by “From Software,” they’re well known for the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne. They’re renowned for creating challenging games where you die a lot. The only one of their games I’d tried previously was Bloodborne and I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan. So I was skeptical when I heard Sekiro was a great game, but eventually I decided to give it a try.

I’m really happy I did. If you go on YouTube you can find countless videos of people complaining or raging about this game and how hard it is. The game is difficult, but I like that. Most games these days are so easy, they have maps and minimaps to follow. If there are bosses they’re easily beaten, even on harder settings. But that is definitely not a problem with Sekiro.

Sekiro is like the games I used to play where you have to learn your way around without any maps or guides. There are secrets littered all over the place if you look carefully. Learning different skills isn’t just entertaining, sometimes it’s necessary to beat certain bosses (not required, but it makes them easier.) Best of all, there are a lot of challenging bosses and sub-bosses. Each one takes some skill, learning their moves and properly deflecting to find prime opportunities to attack.

The feudal Japan setting is fantastic, the game looks amazing. The story was okay, you’re a shinobi trying to protect your lord. Your lord has a power that others want, and that’s where the protagonist comes in. Frankly, I didn’t really care about the story that much. It was okay, but not riveting. That doesn’t detract from this game, as the graphics and gameplay are incredible.

My favorite part of the game is the replay value. Once you beat the game you can keep all of the skills you’ve earned, your vitality bar, items, attack power, and your prosthetic arm abilities you acquire. As tough as the game is, it rewards you with another play-through with everything you had in your previous play-through. I love it when games do this, otherwise you beat the game and that’s it. You can replay it again, but then you have to re-acquire everything and it loses its luster.

No game is perfect and Sekiro certainly has some flaws. My only major complaint is the camera. There are situations where you’re in a cave, or you get backed into a wall or corner where the camera goes nuts. When this happens you can’t really see what’s happening. Almost as if sensing this, the boss or enemy you’re fighting will wail on you dealing heavy damage before you can get away. This led to a lot of swearing on my part and it really gets frustrating at times. But in a way it adds another element to the fight. Don’t get yourself backed into a wall or corner where you don’t have room to move, the game will punish you for it.

Needless to say, if you aren’t looking to be challenged and you hate dying in video games, you’re going to despise this game. If you want to just power through a game with no trouble at all, Sekiro isn’t for you. However, if you like games that take a lot of skill and you’re willing to put up with some punishment, Sekiro is a fantastic game. I give this game a 9 out of 10 and definitely recommend buying it.

Wix is Horrible!

Previously, my website was designed and maintained through Wix. At the time, it seemed like the easiest way for someone without web design experience to build a decent looking site.

Unfortunately, the people at Wix are swindlers and charlatans. Apparently they like to charge you more than the services you want without even notifying you! Then they wouldn’t let me cancel and get a refund for the full year that they overcharged.

Thankfully my bank came to the rescue. Since Wix is shady and likely knows their customers wouldn’t approve their ridiculous rates and didn’t inform me of the charges, my bank was able to successfully dispute the charges!

So now that I escaped from the clutches of Wix, I am now in the middle of redesigning the page. I appreciate everyone’s patience during this transition.