Chapter VII: Mea Culpa

Well, this is was inevitable, I suppose.

By now, it should be well known fact that when it comes to Skyrim, I have a passionate dislike for it, bordering on monomaniacal hatred one or two issues with it.

However, upon reflection, I have realized that for all my ranting and raving, I have been incorrect in one of my criticisms about this game.

Dave: Ah, so you admit that you were wrong!

Yes. You see, much like when I wrote the addendum to Die Another Day, I feel that I have a duty towards the people reading this. It’s true that I am incredibly opinionated, angry and hate this game with the intensity of a medium sized star, but I will not stoop to knowingly spreading false information to prove my point. It’s beneath me, and it hurts my position, since I should not have to make up reasons to criticize something.

Least of all this game.

And as such, I will not just make an edit in the previous chapters. Instead I am writing this additional chapter, in order to address my mistake and set the record straight.

Dave: Glad to hear that you can admit to being wrong once in a while. So what is it you were wrong about? The dragons? The lack of choices? Alduin actually had a well defined reason to attack Helgen?

No, nothing that big. This is about my criticisms about the characters in the game. Specifically, that I stated that they are either morons or assholes. I stated that the characters in the game were either evil, stupid or, in some cases, both.

And this, I have realized, is not true. At least not with the humanoid NPC’s. The Redguards, Nords, Khajiit etc.

Dave: Aha! Vindication at last! You’ve finally realized that the characters have depth to them, and that the writers are not as incompetent as you thought! You’re admitting to being too harsh in your criticism!

What? No, I didn’t! The writers are as incompetent as ever, if not more so than I previously thought.

Dave: But you said….

I said that I was wrong about the NPC’s being either evil or stupid. What I mean by that isn’t that I was being too harsh.

What I mean is that I wasn’t being harsh ENOUGH!

It’s not a matter of whether or not the characters are evil or stupid. It’s a question of whether or not they’re evil AND stupid. Make no mistake, they are stupid, just not always evil.

Dave: Really? And how, exactly, did you reach this conclusion?

Very easily, as it happens.

See, among the skills you can train yourself in, there is the “pickpocket” section. Like all skills, it can be improved to the maximum of 100, using the levelling system I have already written about and expressed my dislike over.

Dave: So? What’s wrong with that?

Well, upon reaching 100, you are able to activate the perk “Perfect Touch”. This perk allows you to pickpocket items from your targets, even if the item is equipped. This includes rings, necklaces, and clothes.

You can go up to someone on the street, start picking their pockets and literally leave them standing in their underwear. And they don’t notice anything.

THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

And not only does this apply to clothes, but also to ARMOUR! As in, the heavy, reinforced type of attire, secured and fastened for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of not falling off!

Dave: You DO know this is fantasy, right? It’s just a fun little thing they put in. Surely, you can allow for some willing suspension of disbelief?

Oh, sure, I can! It’s what allows me to accept dragons existing, people turning into werewolves, ghosts rising from the grave, or people being able to shoot fire with just a wave of their hand. But even in the face of all that, I’m calling bullshit on this!

There is willing suspension of disbelief, and then there’s insulting my fucking intelligence! You cannot blitz something like this past me and not expect me to ask a few questions. This “funny little thing” tells me that the characters in this game are complete fucking morons!

Think about it. Look at the clothes you’re wearing right now. Can you imagine what it would take for someone to steal your shirt without you noticing? Or your shoes?

Dave: Well, I…

Actually, I can tell you what it would take. You’d have to be so catastrophically incapable of basic thought, you’d be considered braindead. I don’t mean just a bit thick. I don’t mean plain stupid.

I mean being fundamentally unable to register the information your body is sending to your brain. Remember, we’re not dealing just with the sense of touch here. We’re dealing with balance, vision, temperature and hearing. For all of those not to register something as being amiss, you’d have to be comatose! Brain activity on par with a boiled potato!

Talking would not be an option. Eating liquid food would require assistance. Walking would be doubtful. Remembering to breathe would basically be conscious effort rather than reflex.

But the characters in the game are not unconcious! They’re standing around talking, laughing, shopping, fighting and drinking.

Surely, you can see how terrible the writing is, with these two facts blatantly contradicting one another.

Dave: Perhaps the skill involves using some kind of magic or manipulation?

Sorry, but I’m not buying that. Manipulating others to that degree falls under magic, specifically the Illusion school. Pickpocketing falls under the thief’s section of skills. As such, it’s not magic, but a skill based of dexterity and stealth.

Dave: Well… maybe you’re just that good? Did you ever consider that?

Yes, I did. And you know what? That answer doesn’t work either. After all, this would mean 100 in one particular skill is “god-like”. So let’s go with that. Let’s say that 100 in pickpocketing enables you to do something that, let’s face it, only gods should be able to do.

If so, suppose you have 100 in speech? That would make you basically a god of speechcraft. There shouldn’t be a confrontation in the game you couldn’t talk your way out of, nothing you couldn’t convince someone else to do.

In other words, convincing the Blades to spare Paarthurnax should be the easiest thing in the world!

Dave: You’re still on about that?

Yes, I am, because that mission perfectly exemplifies what a failure of an RPG this is.

100 in speech shouldn’t just mean I could convince the Blades to spare Paarthurnax. It should mean I could go up to Alduin and convince him to not destroy the world! Convincing armageddon incarnate to abandon his purpose, his entire raison d’etre, should be a cakewalk for someone with 100 in speech!

Dave: Wait… So you’re complaining about being ridiculosly good… before complaining that in another situation, you want to be ridiculously good?

No, what I want is consistency.

After all, what I’m suggesting is no less ridiculous than what 100 in pickpocketing offers.

Dave: Well, either way, you’re being stupid. There have to be limits to what you can affect in a game.

EXACTLY! But they don’t set reasonable limits! One fully upgraded skill tree should not be infinitely superior to another fully upgraded skill tree. Otherwise, the numbers have no meaning or purpose other than looking pretty.

Going back to Fallout: New Vegas, 100 in speech doesn’t make you the unquestionable king of diplomacy. You can’t go up to Legate Lanius and convince him to leave the Legion and open a small diner. It allows you to, among other things, manipulate him into withdrawing his army, convinced that attacking the west will eventually cost the Legion both the east and west.

It allows you to play to his pride, his fear or his honour.

By the same token, 100 in medicine doesn’t mean you can raise people from the dead like you’re The Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Basically, the people behind this game are still incompetent. It’s just that either their character writing is worse than I thought it was, or their skill system is fundamentally broken by how unbalanced it is.

And while it’s true that the “Steal clothes” thing only works on non-essential characters or characters not wearing unobtainable clothing, my point about the NPC’s being mind-shatteringly stupid in general would still apply.

Of course, there are solutions to this.

Either, you can have every skill culminate in the same kind of god like level. You then assign a level cap, assuring that it’s only possible to max out one or two skill trees, with hard line dedication. Basically, if you want to become a god among pickpockets or blacksmiths, you have to earn it, at the cost of other skills. You’ll be unto a god, but it’ll cost you.

(This, of course, would lead to replay value, since you could play the game several times, just to get a different end result)

OR you can remove the ludicrous, God-like skill. If they just settled for allowing us to steal rings, necklaces and other jewelry, that’d be fine, while also remaining an amazing display of skill. Even stealing a sword or an axe, while impressive, would be allowed as a display of how talented your character is.

Obviously, that doesn’t change the fact that speech, by comparison, is still virtually useless, but it would at least not be as blatant in how worthless it is.

Ideally, you’d create a middle ground, where maxing out all skills is possible, but it takes a lot of planning and patience, resulting in a character who is great at many different things, making him or her a force to be reckoned with, without necessarily being a god among men.

But such a thing, I suppose, is too much to ask. A game like that is only a figment of a hopeful imagination…

That is, unless you’ve played Fallout: New Vegas, where you can play that exact kind of protagonist if you so wish.

Go figure…

Previous Chapter

Back to Main Page

WTFAW: Mad Max

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time or (god help you) had a prolonged conversation with me, you will know that I have a certain fondness for Fallout.

I don’t know why, but something about a post-apocalyptic environment appeals to me. Couple it with my love for science fiction and, in the case of Fallout: New Vegas, my weakness for old west weaponry, and you’ve got a match made in heaven

So with that in mind, I suppose it’s not really surprising that I really enjoyed Mad Max and it’s sequels. Even before I watched them (which was almost embarrassingly recently), I’d of course heard the name, and knew the general concept. And after watching them, I thought they were pretty good movies.

This lead to me even more recently watching Mad Max: Fury Road. And unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed it. Great action, good acting, memorable quotes, memorable characters and good writing. All this, plus the amazing attention to detail and the overall passion clearly going into making it results in making it one of my favourite movies.

Dave: And I’ve got a fan theory about that movie! Great, isn’t it?

Oh, sure. Absolutely fabulous! Really! Don’t let my sarcastic tone fool you. Nothing could possibly make me happier than hearing a fan theory about this movie…

Dave: Right! The theory is that Max in “Fury Road” is actually the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior”!

Ok, I’ll bite. Tell me the arguments.

Dave: There are plenty of arguments to support this. When Furiosa asks for his name, Max just gives her a blank stare, and it’s only towards the end when he, hesitatingly, says “Max. My name is Max”. That could mean it’s not his real name, and he only then decided to appropriate it, inspired by the man he met in his youth.

I see.

Dave: Then there’s the flashbacks Max is suffering in the movie, being haunted by people we don’t know. It isn’t anyone we see in the previous movies. They don’t add up with the things we see in movies 1-3.

Uh-huh.

Dave: And, of course, there’s his limited dialogue. Most of his “dialogue” is done through grunting or growls. This is very similar to The Feral Kid, who didn’t speak.

Is that all?

Dave: Not quite. I have one last trump card left, but I’ll keep that in the unlikely event those arguments won’t be enough.

Right. Let’s go trough these in turn, shall we?

First off, you say that Max reveals his name with hesitation, like it’s not his real name. Are you forgetting the opening narration, given to us by Max? What is literally the first thing said in that narration?

My name is Max

There’s no hesitation, no doubt, no “my name does not matter”. He states his name is Max to us, the audience, through internal narration. His reveal of his name to Furiosa is not intended as him “accepting” the name or, as some suggested, as a dramatic reveal. It’s intended to signal that he opens up to someone else to the point where he reveals his name.

This also addresses his grunting throughout the movie. It’s clear to us throughout this movie that, due to unknown circumstances and misadventures, he has gone off the deep end, psychologically.

This means him revealing his real name could be seen as a sign of him getting closer to reality, sanity and humanity.

As for the hallucinations, all they tell us is that something traumatic has happened in the past for this person. It’s not like they make more sense if we assume the person having them is the Feral Kid than if it’s Max.

Then, of course, there’s the problem that we know what became of The Feral Kid in The Road Warrior. He grew up and never saw Max again, eventually becoming the chief of his tribe.

Dave: Well, many tribes will require their prospective leaders to go on spiritual journeys or pilgrimages to prove their worth. Maybe this movie takes place during that journey?

I suppose it’s true that some tribes do that. However, do you remember the tribe from The Road Warrior? Their whole point was that they controlled an oil refinery. They were into big guns, hockey pads and flamethrowers. They weren’t terribly spiritual.

Also, who took over the tribe after the chief died in that movie? The Gyro Captain. Truly the most spiritual and pure member of the tribe!

I’d say that covers most of it, apart from that “trump card” you mentioned. So I’m curious. What is it?

Dave: Right! Here’s the trump card. In The Road Warrior, Max gives the Feral Kid a handwind music box. In Fury Road, we see the music box again! The Feral Kid kept it! This proves he’s the Feral Kid!

Was that all? It’s not much of a trump card, seeing as it doesn’t work. You want to know why?

First of all, the music boxes look different, with the one in Fury Road having a wooden plate underneath it. Secondly, the music box given to the Feral Kid was played by turning the handle clockwise. The one in Fury Road was wound counter-clockwise. Thirdly, the first music box played “Happy Birthday”. The second music box is hard to hear, but whatever the melody is, it’s clearly not the same tune.

And of course, lastly:, who said the music box belonged to Max? We only see it once in the movie, used by Toast, one of the wives. There is no indication Max gave it to her. For all we know, one of the Vuvulini gave it to her, or she found it in the war rig, or she had it while in Joe’s vault.

All those sound more convincing, considering Max was captured, tattoed, had surgical tubing stuck into his neck and his car stolen and modified. I’m guessing whatever he had in his jacket or trouserpockets would be stolen as well.

So no, it’s not the Feral Kid. You see my reasoning?

Dave: Hmm… I suppose…

However, you might be right about one thing

Dave: I am? Really? What is it?

That it’s not the same Max.

Dave: What? But… you spent all this time explaining…

I’ve explained why it’s not the Feral Kid. I also said that he calls himself Max. But “Max” is not a unique name. Somewhat uncommon, perhaps, but not unique. Just because his name is Max doesn’t mean he’s THE Max.

Dave: Are… are you suggesting that someone else, with a Ford Falcon, named Max, is also driving around the wasteland?

Sure. I don’t see why not. The Ford Falcon was very common in Australia before the end of the world. It was the standard pursuit vehicle of the MFP. Modifying one would be tricky, but not impossible. And seeing as the original BLEW UP in the second movie, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not the same car.

Dave: Wait a minute. I thought you hated fan theories!

What!? Of course not! I have nothing against fan theories! I’ve even constructed a fan theory of my own about The Hobbit! If I went out and said I hated all fan theories, that would make me an enormous hypocrite!

What I dislike are LAZY fan theories. I dislike when people don’t put effort into them.

I’ve explained the formula for a bad fan theory before. A bad fan theory twists facts to suit its purposes. A good fan theory adheres to facts and changes accordingly. If you create a theory that doesn’t add up, I will talk about it. But if you put effort and care into it, I won’t argue with it.

With this theory, there is of course the problem with Max referring to himself as a cop, and the credits referring to him as “Max Rockatansky”, but I maintain that, with the facts presented in this movie, it cannot be the same Max in Fury Road as in the first three movies.

Dave: Why not?

Well, in the first movie, while they never specify his age, Max cannot be younger than 20. Seeing as Mel Gibson was 23 at the time of its release, I’m going to say Max was in his early 20’s.

When Max is captured in Fury Road, they tattoo information onto his back. His blood type, his mental state (which is categorized as “psychotic”) and the status of his genitals, eyes and limbs.

And at the very top, they write “Day 12045”.

12.045 days. That’s just under 33 years. Specifically, it’s 32 years, 11 months and 20 days. Since it’s unlikely they’d be able to tell Max’s age to the day, we can assume that this is referring to the day he was captured. And we can also assume that this is counting from when the Citadel was established. Either that, or it’s counting from when the world ended in nuclear destruction.

Director George Miller, in the art book for the movie, suggested it takes place roughly 45 years after the end of the world.

Whatever the case, it would mean Max would be about 55 years old in this movie (or 68, if we were to take George Millers word as gospel). Since he’s not, this cannot be the same Max as in the first three movies.

Be it someone else named Max and this is a coincidence, someone taking up the mantle like a post apocalyptic Batman Beyond or just Max Rockatansky in a separate continuity, it is not possible that it’s the same Max in all four movies.

Either that, or Max has become immortal and perpetually in his late 30’s. Not that it would surprise me. That tribal shaman magic is freaky shit…

Back to Main Page

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

Well, Halloween came and went as it is wont to do, so I think I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Castlevania, belated as it might be.

While I’m far from an expert, I have a certain fondness for this series. Castlevania for the Nintendo 64, as it happens, was among the first videogames I ever played, way back in the late 90’s. And call me an old nostalgic, rose-tinted-glasses wearing sentimental fool (which I am) but I still think it’s a very good game.

At some point in the future, I’ll talk about it in more detail, but for now I’ll just say that Castlevania for the N64, and the sequel/prequel/sidequel/remake “Legacy of Darkness” are among my absolute favourite games, with good music, good graphics (for the time) and interesting designs.

However, this article is not me gushing about a game I like a lot. After all, you’re not here because you want to read about stuff I like. You’re here because you want to hear me nitpick stuff. Besides, I’m better at nitpicking than gushing anyway.

With that in mind, I’d like to talk a little about the more recent entry in the series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.

Now, I should point out that this is not a bad game. True, I didn’t find it as visually interesting as the previous game, but it wasn’t a bad game by any stretch.

So, why then am I talking about it?

Because, as with Alien: Isolation or Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, there are still things that I find confusing, things that I find don’t add up. No game is perfect, and this game is no exception.

And while my issues with the game are fairly simple, I believe they are still valid.

So, what are my issues?

Well, you play as Dracula. I’d call that a fairly legitimate issue.

Of course, I am not against the concept of playing as Dracula in and of itself, nor am I opposed to portraying Dracula as a sympathetic or tragic character.

(Which you’d think was a given, considering his role as the main villain of the series up until this point…)

No, my issues are far simpler.

See, this game is very similar, gameplaywise, to the previous game. That is to say, it is an action platforming game. Get from A to B by jumping, climbing, crawling or shimmying, interspersed with fighting strange enemies. And there is nothing wrong with that. With a few exceptions, that goes for most games in the series, not to mention other games such as Devil May Cry and Dantes Inferno.

However, the problem is that in this game, I am playing a platforming game, and I’m playing as Dracula.

DRACULA CAN FUCKING FLY!

Why the hell am I going around climbing walls and jumping chasms, when the character I’m playing can defy gravity!?

And if that wasn’t enough, if any of you have played a Castlevania game before, and fought Dracula in those games, what is the biggest, prominent trait about him?

Not only can he fly, but he can TELEPORT!

Now, of course, you might argue that this is a Dracula in a separate continuity, and this Dracula might work differently, with other limitations.

Which, of course, is complete bullshit.

In the games intro, we SEE dracula fly. Not the Double jump thing, but him turning into a cloud of smoke and shoot out over a battlefield like a giant, evil comet. We see him teleport around the battlefield and killing people by the hundreds with a single attack.

However, when you unlock the ability to turn to mist in the game, all it does is make you a puff of smoke that sloooooowly moves along, and after about 5 seconds, your stamina runs out and you turn back to normal. The only time you really teleport in the game is if you fall off a ledge and instantly teleport to a safe place to try again.

A process, by the way, that HURTS you.

(Oh, and don’t try to tell me the warp points is teleporting. That is not the same thing, and you know it.)

And before anyone points out that the game revolves around you rediscovering your powers and regain your strength, in order to fight Satan himself, you didn’t have those powers in the prologue either. The prologue which, need I remind you, IS THE SAME SCENE AS IN THE INTRO!

I hate when games do that! They show these awesome powers, showing Dracula as a demon, just an unstoppable killing machine, making you think “Wow! I can’t wait to rain down this kind of destruction on my enemies. This’ll be awesome!”.

And then the game goes “sorry, you’re not allowed to use those powers. Even when you unlock them, they’re not NEARLY as cool as when we showed them earlier”.

It’s not like it’s a trailer to make me buy the game! It’s the fucking intro! I have already bought the game! You don’t have to try and sell it to me anymore!

Now, some might argue that giving you those powers would be gamebreaking, and you can’t have a platforming game where you can just FLY PAST all the platforms, or battles where you kill enemies by the hundreds. That’d make the game completely meaningless. If you are this unstoppable force of nature, wreaking destruction on all around you, there’s no real threat.

Which is an excellent point, which raises a perfectly simple question.

Why am I playing as Dracula?! Why make the main character Dracula, and then not let me actually PLAY as Dracula?!

And if you’re not going to let me do stuff like that, the least you can do is NOT SHOW DRACULA DOING STUFF LIKE THAT IN THE FUCKING GAME!

It’d be like playing a superman game where you’re not superstrong or superfast, and you can’t fly!

WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT?!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for this game. Like I said, it’s very good game, with great visuals, interesting gameplay and top notch voice acting.

It’s just that the concept gives me a headache.