47 Ronin was released in December of 2013, a fantasy adventure set during medieval Japan, based (partly) on the real events of the 47 Ronin (masterless Samurai) who take it upon themselves to avenged their fallen master and regain their honour. The cast for the most part comprises entirely of Japanese actors – aside from Keanu Reeves and a handful of insignificant characters.
As I mentioned above the above these Ronin are looking for revenge against an evil lord who killed their master and is holding his daughter hostage until he can marry her. Then we have Keanu playing Kai a half-breed with a dark past who joins their quest. The plot is rather thin to put it mildly, there are a few other side plots involving Kai’s past but that is about the height of it.
What the film lacks in plot is makes up for in visuals, with a lot of well-crafted sets and scenes throughout – ranging from a traditional Japanese town, right through to lush forests. The CGI is respectably I feel, there is only so much you can do with it and to be fair they pulled off some of the shots with mystical creatures as well as anyone could.
I wanted to like this film I truly did as it had so much potential however its average at best, minimal plot, some pretty wooden action and overall it felt far too western at times for my tastes (for a samurai film). If you want a good samurai epic then you should check out 13 Assassins or for something a bit more tongue and cheek, try Kung Fu Hustle.
Banished is a recently released medieval City-Builder/Survival game, created by Shining Rock Software (Consisting on one guy). The game has done very well for itself since its release managing to stay the top seller on steam for well over a week fighting off competition for the tenacious DayZ and Rust.
When you start a game of banished you are given a handful of citizens, a small stock of supplies such as wood, fuel, stone and iron – that is all you have to begin construction of your city. How you progress from this point is entirely up to you, prioritising tasks and ensuring your citizens are both happy and healthy. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong!
Banished is a very brutal game and you will fail multiple times before getting anywhere with it. My first two towns died out within a matter of hours because I failed to bring in enough food to support the number of Citizens had and my third nearly failed because of a lack of housing for the population to grow sufficiently. Just when you think your town is doing well it will find some way to ruin you – be it through starvation due to a bad harvest or god forbid a hurricane which can decimate your poor town.
There are multiple types of buildings you can create to help you survive such as crop fields, pastures, hospitals, wood cutters and herbalists. Each of these buildings will need to be manned by a worker in order to produce anything useful. Therefore the prioritization of resources and workers becomes very important throughout your play forcing you to balance out your workforce in or to survive.
I have reached a someone respectable population of about 200 hundred people in my current town, granted there were times where my people were dying and freezing to death but I’ve learnt some useful techniques and strategies for playing banished which I’d like to share with you.
- Food Glorious Food – The first time you lose a town will more than likely be due to a lack of food. While it may seem like a great idea to start using crop fields from the outset, it isn’t an efficient method for the early game. Instead use Gathers and Hunters which should provide more than enough food until you reach a bigger population.
- Finding Balance – You really need to learn to micromanage with Banished, for instance during winter farmers are of no use to you because there are no crops to grow. So during winter you may want to reassign your farmers to gathers or hunters to keep the income of food at a respectable level.
- A New Generation – People need ample housing before they can begin to reproduce, so plan out the amount of houses you want carefully, you don’t want to cause too much of a population boom. This can cause real problems as your people demand more food, tools and clothing – so make sure you’re ready for them!
- Education is key – Education in Banished is very important, it allows your citizens to become more efficient in the work that they do. It can sometimes double to output from a job compared to an uneducated worker. Build your schools early to ensure that your population is educated from an early stage.
Banished is a very fun but an extremely challenging experience, one which I myself have enjoyed very much so. After 20 hours on the game I feel like I might take a small break from it as my latest town is on the verge of collapsing in upon itself but I’ll be sure to start a new game soon.
This game is not for everyone by any means, those who hate to micro-manage items will find it very infuriating but there are those out there who will love it too. I can certainly recommend it.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was released back in 2010 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it took another three years before it was finally ported to the PC and was eventually released in August 2013. I played the Ultimate Edition which included two extra DLC add-ons which had some very significant plot developments. This is the 33rd instalment of the Castlevania franchise (original released back in 1986), it is actually a reboot of the series and has a sequel coming out in February this year which aims to finish this particular saga.
The story follows one Gabriel Belmont, a knight of the brotherhood of light, who is charged with the protection of innocent people from supernatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves. After the death of his wife, Gabriel goes in search of an ancient relic known as the God Mask which is said can be used to bring the dead back to life. The only problem is the mask is broken into three pieces and guarded by three very powerful supernatural beings called the Lords of shadows (Lord of the Lycans, Dark Queen of the Vampires and Lord of the Dead). Gabriel must defeat these Lords of shadow and reform the mask to resurrect his wife.
In terms of gameplay it is 3rd person action/adventure game with a mix of combat, puzzle solving and platforming. The combat uses a variety of combos which can be unlocked through experience points which you get for killing enemies.
Your main weapon is a retractable chain whip known as the Combat Cross, which your can upgrade with a variety of useful add-ons. You get to use a selection of secondary weapons too such as throwing knives, holy water and a demonic crystal. There is also a magic system which can be very useful in combat, light magic will heal you and is very powerful against undead creatures, while the shadow magic is used to increase your damage to enemies.
The platforming for the most part is pretty simple although there are a few instances which timing the jumps can get tricky, especially later on when you have access to more equipment. The puzzles are an interesting feature in the game, for the most part they are quite fun, not too challenging but granted there are some very difficult ones I had to cheat to pass. One of my favourites was the game of Vampire Chess, which took the standard chess game and implemented the supernatural classes into it.
Overall the game was very fun, it was probably just the right level of challenging for me – tough enough to make you think about how to approach a battle but not so hard that you just felt like giving up (I’m looking at you Dark Souls). I’m looking forward to the Sequel but I may hold off until it is a bit cheaper.
Sid Meier's Civilization V
First and foremost, appologies that this is such a long entry but the game is quite vast and I wanted to cover a lot of the concepts of the game.
Sid Meier's Civilization V is a turn based strategy game released back in 2010 and two expansions were added to the base game in 2012 & 2013. The aim of the game is simple, create a civilization that will stand the test of time and claim your victory in any way you see fit (I will explain the various victories shortly).
You start the game with one warrior and a settler which you use to create your first city, from there you can build various buildings, generate culture and research technologies to advance your civilization. You start in the ancient era, working your way through stages such as the medieval age and onto the modern and future eras.
You are not alone on this world however and must interact with various others players and city-states (small one city players who can aid you). Some players will be more aggressive seeking out war and capturing cities by military might while others may look to trade with you etc. This becomes increasingly interesting as major warmongering can lead to a backlash from other civilization and often leads to your own downfall.
As I mentioned earlier there are various ways to win the game. These range from Time victory (where you have the most points) to the likes of a science victory (where you are the first player to launch a rocket into space) and of course the domination victory (first player to capture all players capital cities).
Civilization V: Gods & Kings
This was the first expansion released back in 2012 and it re-introduced the religion system back into the game. While you can’t win a religious victory it can greatly help you in terms of economics, war and even production of buildings etc. The other major addition was espionage where you could use spies to steal technologies from your rivals or rig elections of city states in your favour.
Civilization V: Brave New World
This is the most recent expansion to the series which added a lot of small but quite important details to the game such as trade routes to gain economic dominance, tourism (which is used to win a cultural victory) and of course world congress where you can vote on important topics such as trade embargo etc.
I can’t recommend this game enough, it is now definitely one of my favourite games of all time, having spent a whopping 176 hours to date on it and I have no intentions of stopping playing any time soon. I know it may all sound very confusing to begin with but give a handful of hours you will begin to really get the hang of it and enjoy it.
Drive stars Ryan Gosling as ‘The Driver’ or ‘The Kid’ (we never find out his real name), who works as a Mechanic/ Part-time movie stunt man and moonlights as a getaway driver. When a job goes down badly the driver finds himself caught up in the affairs of two rival gangs and has to fight for his very survival.
The movie is somewhat an art-house film with some grindhouse violence thrown in there for good measure. The movie balance action and drama quite well, with a large part of the movie focusing on the interactions between the driver and his neighbour and her child whom he grows increasingly close to. However when it does break into these action scenes it does get very violent at times but I personally think it suits the film very well.
Another thing to mention about this film is the soundtrack, it uses a lot of songs that have a 1970’s/80’s Techno/Electronic feel to them. If you have played or seen any of Hotline Miami then you will know the sort of music/theme I am talking about.
Overall I think Drive is a very fun watch and something a little different from the usual films I’d watch. Sure there are some issues with lack of dialogue at times but it didn’t really take anything away from the movie for me. So yeah if you get a chance then try to check this one out.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Alpha Papa was released earlier this year, staring the Steve Coogan as Alan Patridge. This character was originally was previously in the TV series ‘I'm Alan Partridge’ which ran from 1997-2002. This is the first jump to movies for the character and I think it does a pretty good job of it.
The basic plot involves Alan getting fellow DJ Pat Farrell (played by Colm Meaney) fired from the local radio station. Pat then returns to the station with a shotgun and holds the entire building hostage. Partridge is sent in by the police as a negotiator in an attempt to defuse the situation.
I had only seen a handful of episodes of the actual TV show and so I didn’t know the characters particularly well before the film but thankfully that didn’t stop me from enjoying the film. It is very much a British comedy film with lots of jokes that would be lost on American audiences etc.
So yeah this is one to check out for sure, good plot with likeable characters and consistently funny throughout.