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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this, the 149th Official American Thanksgiving, I would like to let you all know what I am thankful for.  First of all, I am thankful for my family.  My wife and daughter are my life, but I am also thankful for my parents, sister and umpteen other relations, both kith and kin.  Secondly, I am thankful for my good friends, even those that I have not seen or spoken too in far too long.  Third, I am really thankful that I live in the greatest country in the world (no slight overt or implied to my foreign readership, I’m just a patriot).  Lastly, I am thankful that I have a good job and can provide for those that I need to.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aquaman? You like Aquaman?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.  In fact, I think that I have more Aquaman comics than any other (barring Superman and Nightwing).  I know, I know, most people think Aquaman is a useless superhero, but I don’t agree.  I first really got into the character with the Time and Tide miniseries, where they retold his origins as a set-up for the new on-going series by Peter David.  This is the series that had Aquaman lose his hand early on and replace it with the infamous hook.  Between this book and JLA: Year One, it really fleshed out a character that I really had only known from Super Friends.  Plus, once your read how they treat him in Justice, it’s hard not to have a huge amount of respect for the guy, even if you thought he was a joke going in.  So, let’s take a look at the Aqua-Powers:

        1. Command Sea Life – Yes, I said “Command” not “Talk to”.  He doesn’t have a conversation with fish, he tells them to do what he wants.

2.       2. Super Strength – No, he’s not on the level of Superman or Wonder Woman, but he is able to impale a speeding van on the end of his “trident”* (without being pushed back, I might add) and flip it up and over himself, landing it on its roof.  That’s pretty dang strong.

3.       3. Invulnerability – Again, not on the level of Superman, but here he is one up on Wonder Woman.  Where Diana will have the same injury you or I would if she got shot (luckily she has those bracelets and super speed to save her), Arthur can take multiple bullet strikes and only have a few scrapes.  Quite good, if you ask me.

4.       4. Super Speed Swimming – The guy can swim up to 1,000 feet per second (682 miles per hour) and can swim UP Niagara Falls.  Wow. 

5.       5. Breathing Underwater – This is the one I always wanted as a kid.  Of course, growing up at the Shore I swam like a fish anyway, and I was able to hold my breath for a good, long time, but I always wanted to be able to dive down and explore for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  Not that there was much to see, mind you.  New Jersey water ain’t anywhere near as clear as the Bahamas.

6.       6. Absolute Ruler of 2/3 of the Planet – Don’t think this is a super power?  Just try getting your goods to market by boat if he doesn’t want you to.  In fact, in the series I mentioned above, Atlantis actually invaded a surface country and kicked the snot out of them.

Now, after his treatment in Blackest Night and Brightest Day, Aquaman has become one of the premiere characters in the DC Universe.  If you haven’t checked the new comic out yet, I would recommend it.  And don’t take my word for it, check out The Aquaman Shrine (who were kind enough to induct me into the Friends Of AquaMan, aka FOAM, recently) for all the up to the minute Aqua-News.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank a Vet today

I would like to thank all of those out there that have served our country and defended the rights and freedoms of all of us.  I am proud to number among my friends and family several of these great americans.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Guess I’m an Old Fogy

Listening to the radio at work we heard someone call in about standing in line on Black Friday to buy his 11 year old a laptop. I commented afterwards that the only thing I got out of that story was "Why does an 11 year old need a laptop?" My coworker then piped up that her niece's daughters, 7 and 9 mind you, each have their own laptop & televisions, and the 9 year old is getting a cell phone this year. Why? Why can't these kids use the family computer or television? Why does a 9 year old need a cell phone? (Her answer to that last one was that the mother forgot to pick her up after track practice one day so the father needed to be called. Ugh.)

OK, I'm 35, which I don't think is old, but I just don't get it. <grumpy old man moment>When I was a kid, I didn't have my own TV until I finished 6th grade and I didn't have my own computer until college. Yeah, I had a phone, but it was in my room and I didn't get it until High School! In other words, until I was no longer able to use the family computer, or until I proved that I was responsible enough for my own TV/Phone, I used the family's.</grumpy old man moment>

I know that things are different today, but that doesn't mean its better. People have to have parental controls because they don't watch TV with their kids, or let the kids use the computer out of site of the parents. Do you think I watch My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake because I like them? Not a chance! I watch them because I have a 3 year old and I want to see what it is she's watching. If she's watching TV alone it's because I know what it is she's watching and I need to run upstairs for a minute to get something. The TV is not a babysitter!

"But they need to do reports for school," my coworker said. So? I needed to do reports for school, too, and I was perfectly able to do them on a computer that wasn't mine. Is it really that hard to make kids use something that belongs to the family rather than the child? Oh, I'm sorry but I'm too busy being her parent to be her buddy.

Rant over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled geekiness.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Case for Kid Devil

The Aquaman Shrine recently asked for submissions for who we would like to see as a new addition to the team on Young Justice.  For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it runs on Friday nights on Cartoon Network.  It consists of Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, and Artemis, led by Aqualad.  They are a covert team that Batman uses to gain information or run ops against supervillians.  Quite the enjoyable show.

Having read the most recent run on Teen Titans, with many of the same characters, I thought that Kid Devil (the demonic sidekick to the JL member Blue Devil) would be a nice addition to the team.  So, I sent an e-mail and made it to the second round.  I won’t rehash my ideas about the character here, since I’m not sure if the others have blogs to use as a pulpit, so please click on the link below to see my reasoning.

I would encourage you to vote for my choice (obviously) but please make sure you read all of the options and vote whichever way you feel you should.  (BTW, this goes for the elections being held today, too.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DC Universe Online Review

Here it is, the long awaited (by who I don't know) review of DC Universe Online. First of all, let me say that I am a casual gamer. I play on the weekends, having to hold down a job and take care of my family, and even then I only play for a few hours at a time, so please take what is below with a grain of salt if you are a hard-core, play every day type. Also, which I have been in instances/raids/etc, I general do not prefer that type of play. If possible, I will solo and maybe help out other players on missions. With that boilerplate out of the way, let's get on with it.


Character Creation

Creating your character is quite easy, but also in depth. You are able to pick from Male/Female and from 3 Body Types in 3 Sizes each (none of which has any bearing on the character other than looks). From there you can pick a Hero/Villain to be inspired by, which will give you a character with random powers and a costume based on that person, or you can go the custom route. I prefer the custom way, but then I was trying to create a specific character when I first played the game. You have a wide variety of powers, fighting styles and origins, so that you are able to get a very custom character. The same can be said of the costume choices. I had a costume in mind for Lupine (who has since been renamed to Lupine Prime when the servers merged), to match the one I own in real life, and I was able to get close enough that the differences don't really matter. You will also have a choice of which Mentor you want to follow. They are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman on the Hero side & Lex Luthor, The Joker and Circe on the Villain side. Regardless of which mentor you choose, you will still have access to all the missions on that side, which is a little rough on replayability.

One thing I would like to see them add would be secret identities. While it's great to be super all the time, I would like to be able to duck into a phone booth (yeah, I still remember those) and change into a civilian. Maybe have some missions where that is necessary, or just remove your character's information from the map. There might even be a way that heroes/villains that know your SID could see that information but no one else can. For example, if Clark Kent were walking around the street and both Lex Luthor and Batman say him, Lex would see him as an NPC and Batman would see the same info as if he were in his Superman costume. Just something that popped into my head when I was doing the character creation for the first time.


Early Missions

I really like how they scale missions to match where you're supposed to be, level-wise. You also have options as to what you want to do when, so it is definitely non-linear after the first couple of missions. There is a decent amount of variety to them and it shows you how to do everything you'll need to in the game. The issue here is that you can do missions from every mentor, which means that all characters end up with the exact same experience. I would much rather triple the missions for each mentor and only allow a character to do the missions associated with their mentor, except for a few crossovers that would make sense or if another character shares the mission with you. That would give people more incentive to play different characters just to get the full number of missions.



The graphics are definitely up to snuff, especially if you look at it compared to World or Warcraft or Star Trek Online, both of which I have played. What makes this even more impressive is that it was designed to run on a console rather than a PC. The character models, both NPC's and Players, look clean and not very blocky. The emotes are nice, if limited, and do add to the game. One of the problems with the characters, though, is that if you interact with someone, they turn to face you but keep doing what they are doing. The Flash, for example, is busy typing something when you speak to him in Metropolis, but he keeps on typing when he turns to you. Just a little odd.

The backgrounds are exquisite, with lots of nice little touches that comic geeks will get a kick out of. They really planned out the cities of Metropolis and Gotham well, and that makes me sort of regret what I'm going to say next. I wish there were more cities out there to explore. Don't get me wrong, I love what they've done, but there's only so much of these two areas that I can take. I know, there are alerts, etc, but those aren't really meant for exploration (and I have other problems with them that I'll get into later on). I would REALLY like to see Star City, Coast City, Keystone/Central Cities, or just somewhere else.

One other issue that I have, and it's not like it detracts from anything, is that I have to play in 720p rather than full 1080p. It's probably due to internet connectivity and other technical issues, but I've got the TV that can handle it and I really would like the higher resolution. But that's just me.



I had a number of issues with the sound for the game, but that was a few months ago. It would cut out at times, so I could see Wonder Woman's lips moving but not hear anything. This seems to have been fixed and the sound is quite good. Both the music and the sound effects add to the game and give it some added flavor. It is a bit odd to hear conversations of people with microphones (I don't have one) when going past them, but it is part of the experience I suppose.



 They did their research, I'll give them that. The universe in this game has a whole lot of depth. There are characters all over the place, some of which you really have to search to find. Again, though, I would like to have a Secret ID available so I could go into a place like the Ace of Clubs, or the Lexcorp building and not attract attention (or, heck, just go into them period). The number of heroes and villains they crammed in here are great, but I would like to see more of the background players, like Bibbo, Jimmy Olsen, Harvey Bullock, etc.

The layouts of the cities, as I mentioned above, are great with lots of little achievements for finding certain iconic locales. The first time I found the Bat Signal in Gotham I definitely geeked out, and that just shows how much thought they put into the game and what's the players want. Although, I would like to see more things available, but that will probably be after the whole "Brainiac is attacking" thing runs its course, since the Daily Planet Building is currently bubbled and you can't get to it.


Later Missions

Being a casual player without a huge amount of time to play, I don't have much success with the end game missions. They are made to be done by groups, and I tend to solo everything. Even the PUG's I'm in for the alerts seem to be made up of people that take the game MUCH more seriously than I do, so there's not much here that I've enjoyed. I guess I won't be doing much of this stuff anytime soon, since I don't relish the idea of getting killed over and over, but I'll give it a shot now and then. It would be nice if these missions were scalable so that you don't need three or four people to get through it.

The major problem is that the missions I listed above are really the only ones out there. Sure, I could go and do the instances that I did before, only tougher, again but I really didn't get that huge a thrill out of it the first time. And, once those are done, then what? Oh, I can create another character and do all the same stuff over again. Thrilling.


Bottom Line

OK, here's the total of what I was saying above, and I'm not going to just give one rating, since the game's too complex for that. Just remember, this is only my experience so you might have a completely different take on it.

Initial Play = 4 out of 5
Replayability = 3 out of 5
End Game for Casual Players = 2 out of 5
End Game for Hard Core Players = ??? (I'm not one, so I don't know)