Weekly Update: The Batman, Moon Knight, Valkyria Chronicles, Trine 4

Spring Break for me, which means I have extra time to do stuff. Of course, somehow it still doesn’t seem enough time to do what you need. But I finished the first draft of The Teutonic Doctrine! It’s horrible. But that’s the point. Now all I have to do is rewrite the whole thing from the beginning. Hopefully I can do that a lot quicker.

Also I’m starting a video series where I read off fairy tales from Andrew Lang’s Fairy Book collections! You can see it here. I visited my sister on Monday and apparently my neice loves listening to fairy tale stories. The readings are considerably less… abridged than the ones I was desperately compiling from memory, but it should hopefully be an entertaining distraction for her.

What I’m Watching: The Batman

I visited my sister in part to watch Matt Reeves The Batman with my brother-in-law. I found it very enjoyable–it’s three hours long but never felt tedious or drawn-out to me. All the characters feel on-point, from Jeffrey Wright’s loyal but world-weary Gordon, to Zoe Cravitz’ aggressive and sensual Catwoman, to the Riddler (no spoilers there.) Robert Pattinson does an excellent job as a Batman truly struggling with deppresive issues and potentially suicidal impulses. Most Batman adaptations acknowledge that Batman’s life is mentally unhealthy, but it’s usually a more token acknowledgement than what you see the truly unwell Bruce Wayne presented here. The one misstep maybe is Alfred, who has more snark than poise and comes across more as bodyguard than butler.

The plot has a refreshing crime-drama focus sharply different than the franchise-based superhero flicks we’ve seen of late. Everything follows criminals within the city and the corrupt politics within, as well as the serial killer offing them. It feels genuinely like a crime drama starring a near-invincible detective–which is how Batman started (An interesting much longer discussion I should write up sometime is what specifically defines Batman, after all the takes on him over the years).

The movie is good, the show is meh, the two games are fun.

The main problem, as a friend of mine pointed out, is the ending, which isn’t so much flawed as bloated. The final fight isn’t well choreographed and has some truly unnecessary deus ex moments. I think they could have gotten away with the multiple endings if the Catwoman ending hadn’t gone on so long and if they’d cut the unnecessary sequel bait. (Honestly the sequel bait worsened the movie in a lot of ways–it was more intriguing as a standalone crime drama than a potential new trilogy).

Despite that, though, I enjoyed it (TBH the sequel tease was the only thing that bothered me as I was watching it) and I’d recommend it to friends.

What I’m (Also) Watching: Moon Knight

This series just started, so I just watched the first episode. Not really impressed thus far. It’s billed as horror, but the monsters were typical CGI stuff, the cult is frankly boring (Ethan Hawke’s villain just looks like Ethan Hawke in a mullet) and the multiple personality stuff isn’t really developed enough to be interesting. There’s one moment midway through that I thought was good, where Stephen starts seeing things from his dreams on the street, but then that never goes anywhere.

I’m planning on sticking with it, but thus far I’m not impressed.

What I’m Playing: Valkyria Chronicles 4

It’s anime WWII where you get exactly one tank to back up your ten guys. (and later an armored car). There’s a mysterious ancient civilization of super-magic Valkyrie people and an evil Empire combatted by a possibly-also-evil Federation, and your tiny country of France–sorry, Gallia–in between the two.

The game spends a lot of time on its story. The game is presented as laid out on a book, where you need to click from one cinematic story-telling sequence to the next until you get to the actual combat. So there’s a strong focus on the characters and on the lore.

The team dynamics are a big focus of the game–any one of your soldiers can have up to eight context-specific traits (love/hatred of different environments, anger/fear at specific units, even ways they react to other members of the unit they’re next to. And each character has their own specific lines for kills, misses, and death scenes, which fit with much longer backstories that you can read if you have a mind to (I didn’t). They can die permanently, too, if you don’t recover them in time, which overall has an effect of really making you feel a personal cost to war–your soldiers aren’t just pawns on a board.

It’s a fun game–the story isn’t terribly profound, but it is affecting. The combat is challenging but not infuriating (except when you get hit with Attack Down modifiers). Battles can take a long time to work through, but there is a great feeling of having outsmarted or outgunned your opponent. I really enjoyed it.

What I’m (Also) Playing: Trine 4

Trine is one of those game series that you don’t really hear about, but which has managed to carve it’s own comfortable niche. It’s a pretty game, the puzzles are simple, the combat very average. It doesn’t generate any buzz because there’s not anything really new that it does–honestly Trine 4 is basically the same gameplay as Trine 1, with some minor refinements.

Aesthetically, it reminds me of the Hildebrand-esque 1970 fantasy illustrations you’d see. Whimsical, possibly over-detailed, slightly cartoonish but generally cheery. The basic outline of Trine 4, at least, is remarkably similar to the Lang fairy tales. You have a general quest, and you visit three fairies to provide three different ingredients, whilst helping beleagured animals along the way who will in turn help you later.

Thrown in is some quasi-reflection on what each of the three protagonists fears, which frankly is more character development than any of them have received over the past four games (I never played Trine 3, but the playthroughs are not flattering.) There’s also some general messaging about overcoming your fears, but really it’s extremely basic stuff.

But for all that, it’s enjoyable, and an easy game to play for a few minutes before you need to leave for whatever. I like playing it as a simple destresser, which is what I wanted over Spring Break. It served as a useful counterpoint to the intricate Valkyria Chronicles.

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