The Minimum Effort Ep.5: Alien Covenant

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In space no one can hear you snore…

Join Ben and Lewis as they take a pretty critical look at Ridley Scott’s latest offering- Alien Covenant, complete with literary references, religious allusions, and flutes.
There’s also a brief rundown of the new War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, and the Emoji Movie trailers.

The Minimum Effort Ep.4: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

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Join Ben and Lewis as they gush over Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, and discuss the new trailer for The Dark Tower, Alien Covenant, and some other movie stuff…
It’s full of thrills and spills, a romp of a podcast that in no way sounds like we are entirely sapped of energy and enthusiasm; enjoy!

Mass Effect Andromeda: Before the Patch

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At the time of writing, version 1.05 of BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is sitting on an Xbox One, daring me to quit my productive university work and install it. Issues such as lifeless eyes, a transgender faux-pas, and the now infamous “noot noot” mouth animations are slated to be fixed, alongside some minor balancing tweaks and bug fixes. As a result, now feels like a good time to discuss some of the issues, and the surrounding criticism that has circled the otherwise perfectly enjoyable game since its release.

Before I start, I should probably preface this with a disclaimer- I am a Mass Effect fanboy; Andromeda could be an unplayable mess where nothing works and you have to manually brush your teeth on the Tempest every morning and I would still find myself at least somewhat compelled to defend the game. However, despite the claims of trolls and wildly overreacting members of the gaming community, Andromeda is no such travesty. It has issues, certainly, mostly regarding animation and the occasionally frustrating bug, but overall it is a very solid game, with BioWare delivering on its strongest suits once again, with good, three-dimensional characters, an engaging storyline and a universe that feels like it could be real.

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Unfortunately, while I could talk all day about the nuances of Jaal’s character, or just how ridiculously awesome the Memory Triggers quest was, the fanfare currently surrounding the game is regarding those aforementioned faults, and as such needs to be addressed. I think the upcoming patch is necessary for the game to achieve its true potential, which is sad. On the other hand, in an age of No Man’s Sky and that god-awful Batman game, these issues are, in my opinion, trivial. While it’s unfortunate that more and more developers are relying on post-Day One content to “fix” the problems with their games, context is required- Andromeda is still an excellent game even without the patch, and the willingness of BioWare to release this patch so quickly while dealing with all of the issues fans had with the game, shows that they genuinely care about the quality of their games.

To address the issues directly, I would now like to talk about the animations in the game. Problems with the Pathfinder’s “zig-zag” walk and whatever Foster “Pingu” Addison’s deal was are undoubtedly annoying and immersion breaking, and should not have been in the game at this point in development. Addison, especially, with her expressionless face and make-up that looked like it was applied by a child in the dark, was at times so poorly done that it made me laugh. At some other times as well, with mouth movements in particular, I felt like I was being taken out of the moment by some ropey animations. On the other hand, there are some truly excellent sequences within the game- I have yet to see any grossly unnatural body movements within the gameplay sections, for example, and Cora’s romance scene is flawlessly executed, if surprisingly explicit. And finally, while the default Sara Ryder has come in for criticism by some, I personally have no complaints regarding her animation or appearance.

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Another criticism levelled is regarding the eyes of some human and asari characters, as well as the identical model used for almost every asari within the game (Peebee being the only one with a different face). The default Scott at times looks like he is falling asleep, and the texturing makes some characters aimlessly stare into the middle-distance with lifeless eyes (cue Jaws quote). On the other hand, the more alien species have incredible detail placed on these areas, in particular the Angara and Krogan, who at times look genuinely lifelike. While this inconsistency is annoying, this is another problem fixed in the patch (and from the few screenshots I’ve seen, it makes a huge difference).

Finally, there has been minor controversy with Dr. Hainly Abrams, a relatively insignificant NPC at the Prodromos outpost on Eos. Through dialogue, she reveals that she used to be called “Stephan” and left the Milky Way for a new start. As such, this pretty strongly suggests that Hainly is transgendered (although it would not be unforgivable to not know Stephan isn’t also a girl’s name in the future, as some players assumed), making her the only such character in the game. The problem, to my understanding, is not with her inclusion (assuming you live in the real world), but with her off-handedly “deadnaming” herself- which is not something that people in that situation do, especially to complete strangers. Therefore, some members of the LGBT community were offended by this, and pointed out the mistake. Speaking as someone with little knowledge on the subject, this was not something I was aware of, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have not known this before. In the same vein, I don’t think it is outlandish to assume that Andromeda’s writers, who probably included the detail in the name of inclusivity, also did not know this, and meant no offense. Therefore, considering that Dr. Abrams’ dialogue is listed in the patch notes as a change, they have admitted to their mistake, and corrected it at the first opportunity- again proving that they care about their audience’s enjoyment of the game.

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Overall, while I can accept that I perhaps view the game with Element Zero-tinted glasses, and what I look for in the game is not necessarily universal, I refuse to accept that Andromeda is an objectively bad game. For every wooden animation there is a stunning backdrop; for every doll-eyed stare there is a heartwarming character moment, and for every irritating bug there’s a boatload of great gaming experiences. So, for anyone who thinks the game is “literally unplayable” or any other unnecessary hyperbole, I suggest you put down your pitchfork and take the game at face value. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy yourself.

 

The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Minimum Effort, who are probably sick and tired of Pete playing Mass Effect for the 5th time in 18 months.

The Minimum Effort Podcast Ep.2: Ghost in the Shell and Obi-Wan?

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Ben and Lewis finally get around to recording the second exciting episode of the new-canon podcast, and boy is it packed with content!

Join them as they talk about movie news, The Walking Dead, Ghost in the Shell, Star Wars Rebels, and the strong rumours about an Obi-Wan movie that have dredged up just a little bitterness…

Rebels Review: S3E6 “The Last Battle”

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Lewis: So another week, another Rebels episode. This time we were thrown back into the Clone Wars when Rex, Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Chopper find an army of droids that weren’t shut down.
Getting a Rex episode was pretty cool, shall we talk about that first?

Ben: Yeah I suppose- it does expand his story, but I wasn’t a big fan of this episode to be honest.

Lewis: No? I quite enjoyed this one. It was a fun little adventure that, while it didn’t really have much of an impact in the grand scheme of things, gave Rex a bit of limelight that was sorely missing. What didn’t you like about it?

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Ben: I didn’t mind Rex and the crew, and you are right it was a nice little side quest, but I really hate what happened to the battle droids. I don’t like how they’ve become the comic relief of Star Wars, and the stupid bit about the Jedi blocking the laser shots into the proton bombs because the droids aren’t accurate enough was annoying. All of it just undermines them as villains.

Lewis: Well to be fair, the droids have been comic relief since the prequels introduced them, and the way they were portrayed in this episode was the same way they were portrayed in the Clone Wars. However, I totally agree about Jedi blocking bit. I know droids aren’t known for their accuracy, but that was just silly…

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Ben: They weren’t mocked so much so in the Phantom Menace. And I didn’t like it in the Clone Wars either, it was just a bit too much for my liking.

Lewis: That’s fair, although I think your stout devotion to British humour probably didn’t help.

Ben: That is probably true. I’m not going to change though.

Lewis: We wouldn’t expect you to. Anyway, apart from the droids, did you like the plot?

Ben: Yeah it was a nice idea- finishing the Clone Wars for good, and not by killing each other but by working together.

Lewis: A nice, optimistic ending. I did like that they addressed the whole “Oh the droids were all deactivated just forget about them” thing. It makes sense that not all of them would just disappear into thin air.

Ben: The ending was a bit corny for me; I appreciated the idea but not the execution.

Lewis: I can understand that. How about the Super-tactical droid? I didn’t watch the Clone Wars very frequently so I don’t know if they were in it, but I thought it makes sense that the droids would have intelligent leaders.

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Ben: They did use them a fair amount. It was fairly imaginative for a droid, and it made sense to include a Super Tactical Droids rather than a Separatist general that survived.

Lewis: Although that would’ve been interesting too… I don’t really know what else to say about this episode? I mean, it was pretty much just a nostalgia trip for all the old Clone Wars fans, which isn’t a bad thing, but it did mean that there wasn’t a lot to it in terms of plot development.

Ben: I know what you mean. To me this felt like the first filler episode of the series- it didn’t really serve a purpose. It was fine and all but definitely not my favourite.

Lewis: I hate describing things as “filler”, but if someone had a gun to my head I would admit that, despite Rex’s character development, this was pretty much a… “filler”… episode.

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Ben: I think it’s because it is such a standalone episode compared to the previous four, which seemed to be building towards something in their respective storylines.

Lewis: Indeed, but hey-ho, I thought it was still an interesting episode. And I did enjoy the war games between the droids and Rex and Co. purely for nostalgic reasons.

Ben: Hopefully there is a bit more going on in the next episode.

Lewis: Indeed. We shall see…

Well that was a little shorter than usual, but I think I speak for both of us when I say this episode was a bit lacking, but still enjoyable. Are we wrong? Right? Please let us know in the comments below; we crave attention.

Supergirl

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Benportrait1It has been a while since the superhero show’s first season came to an end (the delay is mostly Lewis’ fault), and while I had a free weekend I thought I’d do a bit of a review for you if you’re interested, and if you aren’t it doesn’t matter, I will write it for my own amusement.

So first off, let’s do a season overview.

We start off with a young Kara Zor-El being put into an escape a pod before being sent after her new born cousin Kal-El to look after him while he grows up on Earth. However, her pod gets knocked off course and by the time she reaches Earth Kal El has become Superman. Once she becomes an adult, Kara decides to come out of hiding and use her powers to protect the people of National City, working alongside her adopted sisters and the DEO. So for this first outing of Supergirl we see her developing into her own superhero, attempting to move out of her cousin’s shadow, while fighting some slightly altered Superman villains.

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Enough of that, if you have seen the series you know what happened, and if you haven’t watched it I’d go and do that before you read anymore; just in case I give anything away.

Comparing this (CBS show) to the other three DC TV properties on THE CW (Season 1 wasn’t run by THE CW but season 2 will be so it is the natural comparison), the others being The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl comes in a strong yet distant 3rd which seems oxymoronic but let me explain. I think Supergirl is better written and acted than Legends, but compared to The Flash and Arrow Supergirl is inferior. However, some small changes could fix the issues I have with the show… the script needs work but I am going to focus on the story elements here.

A major issue for me surrounding the series is the use of the Martian Manhunter; I know he keeps cropping up in things I write but he is one of my favourite characters and I just want him to be used properly. For most of the season MM spends his time disguised asHank Henshore, the human director of the DEO, and this does limit him, as does his reluctance to use his powers, which makes for a strong character-developing story for the character.

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However, on multiple occasions when MM does use his powers the character seems incredibly watered down in order to make Supergirl look more impressive. In the comic book universe, The Martian Manhunter took on the entire Justice League at the same time and was recruited to the JLA in the New 52 to fight Superman if the Kryptonian got out of hand. Superman described him as the most powerful person in the DC universe, but in Supergirl he is demoted to sidekick duty and, as a fan of the character, it really grinds my gears.

Secondly, I am not keen on the Kara Danvers alter ego. Part of the point behind Superman’s minimal disguise is that Kal El and Clarke Kent’s mannerisms and demeanour are polar opposites. While Superman is a confident and impressive individual, Clarke is a nervous nobody that blends into the background; something perfectly encapsulated by the Reeve films (less so by the newer Caville films). Supergirl/Kara Danvers is the same character, the only difference between the two being that Kara wears glasses (that she can’t go two minutes without pushing onto her face, which could be interpreted as a nervous tick but the alter ego needs more than that). Furthermore, the introduction of a love interest from minute-one of the show tarnishes the otherwise fairly strong female superhero. Most Superheroes need a love interest, it is part of the genre, however the issue with the blossoming Kara/Jimmy Olsen romance is that it isn’t written particularly well, and the Kara character comes across as a bit wet and desperate for his attention. Personally, I think the season’s story would have been stronger without it.

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Finally, and most importantly, I think that there are more interesting characters that deserve their own TV show, primarily the DEO. Every minute spent there with the Martian Manhunter and Alex Danvers (Supergirl’s adopted sister) is far more interesting. Also, there is a difference between being hopeful, which is a requirement for any Superman related property, and just saying “hope” a lot. Unfortunately, Supergirl’s script falls into the latter category.

So that brings this to an end. I do realise it sounds harsh as, on the most part, Supergirl is a fun take on the Superhero genre, but now that The CW has the franchise perhaps we will see an even better show.

If you agree or disagree and want to tell me about it please post a comment, it will give me something to think about during my lunch break. And if you enjoyed this review, why not give it a like?

Cheers,

Ben