Holiday weekend recap: Still a little baffled by Shadow of Mordor

Even though I had a 3-day weekend thanks to the New Year, I didn’t do a ton of gaming this weekend. Instead I watched a lot of TV. Football for one thing, and after a long and idea-filled thread at Imzy, I started in on a new (to me) anime, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, which I’m enjoying so far.

Next week we’re canceling cable so I signed us up for Playstation Vue, and I’ve been messing around with that a lot. I find the interface is taking some getting used to, but overall we’re fairly pleased so far. Anyway in the course of messing about I started watching Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel and got inexplicably hooked. It’s about some townie from Boston who travels around the world sampling various alcoholic beverages while taking in the local culture. I like booze so I’m interested in that aspect, and it’s fun to see the places he travels to. It’s much better of a show than I expected it to be.

I also watched Tiny Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the true story of journalist Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan. I enjoyed that very much, and I was delighted to find it on Hulu. Since when does Hulu get recent movies?

Beyond that, we’re working our way through the DC superhero shows on Netflix. So yeah, lots of TV.

I did start up Diablo 3 again. After one session on the launch PS4, I installed it on the PS4 Pro. It hasn’t been patched to take advantage of the Pro’s extra horsepower, but it runs much quieter on that system. It’s one of those games that makes the fans on the launch PS4 start to scream in protest.

I’m playing D3 as a barbarian on Hard mode and it is still ridiculously easy, at least for the parts I’ve played (I’m in Chapter 2). And so much loot. Too much, really. As a natural pack-rat I can’t just leave stuff laying in the dirt, so I’m constantly heading back to town, trying not to be overwhelmed by all the choices I have, and feeding most of the stuff to the Salvage yard. Honestly I get bored playing D3 pretty quickly, which makes me sad since I loved both Diablo and Diablo 2 back in the day.

The other thing I played was Shadow of Mordor and man I’m confused by some of the choices the devs made in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast playing but I feel like the more you struggle, the harder it gets, and vice versa. I haven’t really been focusing on the “main quests” but have been roaming around the world collecting things, doing side quests and slaying lots of orcs. There are these “Conflicts” on the map that tutorial text told me were struggles between orc captains and that if I didn’t break them up, one of the orc captains would win and grow stronger. This wasn’t happening for me. I also had a bunch of skill points I couldn’t spend because I wasn’t powerful enough.

Then finally, I died. And when I did it was like time moved forward. The conflicts got resolved and some of the Captains got stronger. I also gained power somehow, which unlocked the next tier of abilities. Seemed odd that my death resulted in enemies getting stronger. Then I died again shortly thereafter (when a cave troll noticed me hiding in some bushes) and more conflicts got resolved and more Captains got stronger.

I wrote a while ago about how Shadow of Mordor seemed much easier this time around and now I think the reason is that I’m moving cautiously, gaining power while not dying much, so the orcs aren’t getting more powerful.

I’m really enjoying it though. I’ve started playing this game a few times before and it never ‘stuck’ for some reason, but this time it sure is. Even more so now that I’ve encountered this old villain:

Blue Gender

If you look at’s Blue Gender page, you’ll see the fans have given this anime series a 5 star rating (based on 12 reviews).

I just don’t see it.

I’d give Blue Gender perhaps 2 stars and I’d have to be feeling generous when I did it.

But let’s back up a little. Yugi Kaido is put into stasis at the ripe old age of 20-something. When he is awakened, he finds the world is overrun with bug-like (sometimes reptile-like) creatures known as “the blue” and mankind has been all but eradicated on earth. Marlene Angel is a tough-as-nails hard-ass who is responsible for getting Yugi to ‘second earth’ (an orbiting space station). For the first disk or so, Yugi whines (and every other scene uses the ‘quivering eye’ effect to show how much torment he is in) and Marlene orders him around. Very formulaic. They’re fighting in powered mech-suits called shrikes. Bipedal, but on wheels. Very odd…apparently post-apocalyptic earth is really really smooth.

As the series progresses, we learn that Yugi has some special qualities (gasp!) and there are other like him. Others who keep to themselves, act weird, and excel in combat. Hmm, I wonder who the bad guy is going to be? Yeah, everything up to the end of this series can be seen hours before it happens. Hmm, Yugi has “B-Cells” and the creatures are called “Blue”… could there be a connection?!?

As to the end… well, it’s one of those horribly unsatisfying anime endings that make very little sense. Yugi sees a plant growing and says “I see!” and we’re supposed to understand what that means. I’m being a little vague so as not to totally spoil things, but suffice to say that the ending of Evangelion is as clear as can be compared to this work.

Even that would be ok if the characters, and in particular Yugi, were even vaguely likeable. But you’ll hate this guy from the first disk to the last. He screams constantly at the beginning, giving away their location to the bugs…er, the blue. And when he isn’t screaming he’s whining. Then he turns ito a homcidal maniac for a while, screaming for new reasons, and you’ll hate him then. Eventually he returns to something close to normal, but still… this guy is Mr. Empathy. Someone, in the midst of a killing spree, comes at Yugi with a gun, lifts it, points it at his face… and a third person bursts in and shoots the gunman. Does Yugi say “Wow, thanks for saving my life!”? No, instead he screams “What the hell is wrong with you!? You didn’t have to kill him!!!” This happens approximately 253 times during the series (ok, I exaggerate a bit). When another homicidal maniac tries to kill off the last remaining humans and is killed in the process, Yugi laments “Why did he have to die?” And so on and so forth.
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