Shadows of Mordor – A Really Dark Game

I'm not very much fun

I’m not very much fun

I’ve played Shadows of Mordor for an hour and a half on my XBox One and so far it has not appealed to me.  I would love to be convinced otherwise.  I love Middle Earth.  I love Tolkien.  I dislike this game.  Why?

Reason #1: This is a really dark game.  I shouldn’t be surprised because the title makes it clear, but Mordor is not a setting that I enjoy.  There is no sun.  There are orcs and goblins all over the place.  There are humans who are bound in slavery.  I would much rather be sitting on a bench in the shire with pipeweed in my bowl.

Reason #2: This is a really hard game.  I don’t feel like there is a learning curve.  The only games I can think to compare it to are Demon Souls and Dark Souls – but those games were at least rewarding in their own way.  In Shadows of Mordor, I find myself failing again and again, but I’m not learning anything from it.

Reason #3: I don’t enjoy the controls.  Maybe I have played too much of the Assassin’s Creed series but I keep holding down the right trigger to run and climb.  In Mordor, it makes me sneak slowly.  The A button is the run button.  I am still getting used to the combat but it is just not enjoyable to me.  I have been told the combat is similar to the Batman games – but I never played any of those.

Reason #4: Stealth.  I am on one of the first missions and I have to be stealthy.  If I alert the guards they raise the alarm and the mission is over.  I don’t even really know how to do a stealth kill move.  I think it is right trigger – X.

Reason #5: I’m not sure how this really fits into the Tolkien worldview.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy always has a glimmer of hope, “That there is good in the world and it’s worth fighting for.”  In this game, I’m some guy who is a ranger.  His name is not memorable.  He is somewhere between life and death (since Tolkien was Catholic this part may actually fit in as a kind of purgatory) and revenge seems to be his motive so far.

So please.  All of you out there who may love this game.  Help me find something to love in it.  I want to like it because…Tolkien….

Wild Man Ted Update & What I’ve Been Playing

Greetings!  Wild Man Ted here, responding to nasty rumors of my disappearance from the internet.  No, I did not perish from a Dramamine overdose and neither did I have to check myself into a clinic for video game addiction.  In fact, it has been something far more mundane – just life.  I don’t know if you have ever felt like this but sometimes just having a full time job can sap most of my strength.  When I would come home, I just wanted to relax and play a game – not try to think up something to write about, find appropriate images, and publish.  So for now, I’m just going to write a little something and see if I can get back into the groove.  I appreciate all my friends from the Theology Gaming University Facebook page for being patient with me.

I have a new piece of equipment in the video game room.  It is one of those video game chairs.  What is cool about it is that it folds over into an ottoman.  It is relatively comfortable to play in.  It has built in speakers but I have not tried them out yet in the game room.  Just a quick test on Christmas morning with my Surface RT plugged into it.

The game I have been playing the most lately is HALO: The Master Chief Collection.  I had never played all the way through so it has been fun getting the whole “HALO” experience.  Plus, it is hard to beat a deal like four full games all in one package.  I am currently on HALO 4, on the fourth chapter.  Here are some of my the Master Chief Collection thoughts:

HALO One was fun to play because it was the only one I was playing as a repeat from the original Xbox.  It did have a new HD remake so it looked better.  I noticed how far game design has come since this game.  I can’t run!  Boy, I thought all FPS’s would let you run!  Second, I remembered how much back tracking I had to do throughout the game.  The best part of the game though is the driving sequence at the end – intense!

HALO Two was the most recent game to receive the HD treatment.  It truly looked stunning and the cut scenes were spectacular.  I liked having the ability to go from the new look to the original look with the press of a button – even the cut scenes.  Game play was more of the same although I personally enjoyed playing as the Arbiter.  I understand some fans didn’t like that very much.

HALO Three almost felt like a graphical let down after playing all the way through Two.  It had a great storyline and the same consistent game play. It had another fantastic driving sequence at the end and wow, what an ending.

At some point I watched Forward Unto Dawn on Netflix, I was told it would help me understand the events from HALO Three and Four a little better.  I guess it did, a little.

Finally, I have been working my way through Four and it has been challenging.  When I am playing alone I have to be very patient or I will die.  I am very motivated to finish the game.  I want to get back to Earth and save Cortana.  I’m going to try to complete another chapter tonight.

When I have completed all four, I can move on to the next game that sits unopened on top of my Xbox One…

VGT – XBox One Timeline (Part 2)

The latest Xbox One setup

The latest Xbox One setup

This blog entry is a continuing story from my first timeline about the Xbox One.  Click here to read it.

In late January, I was feeling good and decided to reconnect my Xbox One in the living room.  So what if it can’t play a DVD in sync.  I have a DVD player right?  Besides, I really wanted to play a game designed from the ground up for the next generation.  Did I really buy an Xbox One so I could play Assassin’s Creed 4 and Peggle 2?

Throughout February, I decided that we were not watching cable TV downstairs often enough to justify the expense.  We watched the Olympics on NBC and NCIS on CBS – both nationally broadcasted channels.  Plus, my wife noticed that the voices were not syncing to the pictures.  It worked correctly when directly connected to the TV, so I knew the problem was the HDMI input on the Xbox One.  We decided to return downstairs cable box to Time Warner.

Feb. 22 – I received the HomeWorx  HW150-PVR from Amazon.  It is a digital converter box that is compatible with the Xbox One.  After installing it and connecting it to the Xbox One, I was able to watch over-the-air (OTA) television that would respond to channel changes by voice.  Again, this feature is really great – when it works properly.  If there is a room full of people or activity in the kitchen (cabinets closing or pots clanging), it does not respond well to voice commands.  Regarding the HW150-PVR, it has been an interesting device.  It calls itself a PVR instead of a DVR which means that I can connect an external storage device (in the photo below I have inserted a 16 Gig memory stick) and record over the air television.  I can also pause live television.  This feature works well but it is not user friendly and doesn’t compare at all to the DVR experience.  You have to specifically program the time and channel that you want to record, and even though I set it up for recurring once a week it did not record again after the first time.  I’m sure there is something I did wrong but it is not clear.  Even the remote is confusing.

A close up of the digital converter box

A close up of the digital converter box

Mar. 1 – Feeling crazy on a Friday night, I go to a local game store and purchase a used copy of Ryse: Son of Rome, a true next generation game.  The game is pretty fun and does look fantastic.  However, in the week following, I find the screen freezing up and the Xbox One is extremely hot.  This starts to happen even when watching tv as well.  Then I notice AGAIN, that the TV sound and video are not synchronized.

Mar. 2 – I contact Microsoft support through their website chat.  Since I am clearly under warranty, they send me another system through a program called Advance Exchange.  When it comes in, I just swap machines and ship the defective one back at no charge.   If I do not return the defective system, I may be charged for it.  That is reasonable to me.

Mar. 7 – The replacement arrives and the next morning I install it.

Mar. 8 – During the install, I discover that the replacement Xbox One is endlessly looped in an update.  After completing the update, it tells me that it may restart – then it turns off and never comes back on again.  When I manually turn it on again, it acts like I’m turning it on for the first time.  It updates and shuts off.  Rinse and repeat.  I chat again with the Xbox One technical support.  They send me instructions for an offline update.  It involves putting the update on a USB memory stick and holding certain buttons down while turning it on.  The instructions say the Xbox One will make 2 “turn on” sounds but mine makes 1 “turn on” sound and then 1 “turn off” sound.   After that, the system bricks.  I can’t even get the green Xbox power one screen when I turn it on.  I chat back with Microsoft.  I am told my case is going to be turned over to the Advocacy Team, who will contact me.  I am assured that the end result will be my complete satisfaction.

Mar. 10 – After no contact, I chat again with Microsoft and am told the I would be contacted by the end of the day.

Mar. 12 – Still no contact.  I connect again through chat and I am told that the issue has been escalated and that I would hear something soon.

Mar. 13 – Still nothing.  I contact them again and inform them that I am shipping back the replacement unit since it is bricked.  I don’t want to keep it any longer than necessary.  I am once again assured that I will be taken care of and there will be no charges.  When I mention that it is taking a long time, I am told that is a normal timeline for Microsoft.  I am told to be sure to check my Junk Mail folder, just in case I have been contacted.  I check it.  There is nothing from Microsoft there.

Mar. 15 – I still have not heard anything, and now sadistically am committed to wait it out just to see HOW LONG it will take for Microsoft to take care of a good customer.  It will give me something to write about right?  In the meantime, I have my super hot original game system that still freezes up and plays television out of sync.   But at least I can create art on my laptop using Microsoft Paint!

I made this myself with MS Paint

I made this myself with MS Paint

I think we can all see where my son gets his artistic talent.  Let me compare something he posted on Facebook.  Compare the talent.  You be the judge.

3D Drawing using Maya by Nathan Loring

3D Drawing using Maya by Nathan Loring

I look forward to writing a blog post with good news from Microsoft.  I still believe in them and I like this product.  I can’t wait to get the same experience that my friends are having with it.  For now, I am just in limbo.

VGT – XBox One Timeline

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My Xbox One setup with a Time Warner cable box

Nov. 22 – XBox One is waiting on my front porch.  No staying up all night in the cold at a Wal-Mart.  No feeling of, “I earned this”.  Just a box sitting there.  I don’t have time to take it out of the box and set it up because I have class that night, and all day Saturday.

Nov. 24 – I finally have time to unbox and set it up.  Seems pretty cool with all the voice recognition.  The TV feature is wasted on me though, because I don’t have cable or satellite.  I didn’t buy any games but a friend gave me Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.  I’m too tired to play it

Nov. 26 – The Homeworx Digital Converter Box arrives.  I want to try out the TV features without the pain of a monthly cable TV bill.  So I try connecting the antenna to the converter box, then to the HDMI input of the XBox One.  It actually works with a crystal clear picture.  I say, “Xbox watch TV” and it magically changes.  It responds to my voice for volume up, down, and mute – but not to change channels.  I try different settings but the Homeworx HW1080STB isn’t on the list of devices that the Xbox One will work with.  I should have checked out compatibility before ordering.

Nov. 27 – Shelia and I decided that we want to get cable again.  She enjoys the HGTV network and I want the gadgets to work.  She picked up new cable boxes and I install them.  I connect the cable box to the Xbox One and turn it on.  I get a message that the cable box is not authorized.  After two phone calls with Time Warner I end up with an appointment for a tech to come on the day after Thanksgiving.  Neither of the two boxes worked when connected to the Xbox One.  However, I was eventually able to get one working by going through the cable box setup when directly connected to the TV.  Once the cable box is set up, I connect it to the Xbox One and things ARE FINALLY WORKING.

Nov. 28 – I watch football games on TV with the NFL app snapped on the right side.  OK, it was pretty cool.  I also like going from games or Netflix back to TV.   I start the process of teaching Shelia how amazing it is to just talk to your TV and have it respond rather than the laborious process of reaching for the remote.  Her keen legal mind argues that reaching for a remote is really not very exhausting.  She is not fully convinced but willing to give it a try.

Dec. 3 – I come home from work to a frustrated wife.  She has been saying, “Xbox on” but with no results.  I try it and nothing happens.  It doesn’t work until I manually start it.  Apparently either the Xbox One had an update – or my cable box had an update but either way – it all stopped working.  The only way I get things fixed is by connecting the cable box directly to the tv and going through the painstakingly slow reboot process.  Once it is back up and running, I reconnect it to the Xbox One and things are working again.  Will I have to do this every time there is an update to my Xbox One or to the cable box?

Dec. 11 – It has been a pretty smooth time with the XBox One.  We are starting to get used to the whole television integration element.  Maybe Microsoft is really on to something here.  Shelia’s parents arrive for the holidays today and after they are settled in, I bring my father-in-law into the living room to show him something modern and extraordinary.  I say, “Xbox On”.  Nothing happens.  I say it again, louder.  Nothing happens.  I practically shout, “Xbox On!”.  Again, there is no response.  Well, what do you know, there was another update so I have to disconnect the cable box and reboot it.  My father-in-law walks away chuckling to himself.  I feel embarassed and a little humiliated.  After the cable box has been rebooted, I just leave it directly connected to the TV.  There is no way I’m going to be able to train my in-laws on how to use the TV through the Xbox.  They are going to be here for several weeks too.

Dec. 20 – I have only been using the Xbox to play one of my two games: Assassin’s Creed 4 or Peggle 2.  I find myself missing the voice integration.  However, tonight Shelia and her mom want to watch a DVD.  I suggest watching it through the Xbox One since I had to disconnect the DVD player when her parents first arrived.  (My TV has two HDMI inputs)  She agrees and they put in the “White Christmas” DVD.  I’m sitting in the living room with them working on a paper for school and it seems like all is going well.  Eventually Shelia mentions that the audio is out of sync with the video.  I notice that it is off – really off – like asian martial arts film off.  I know the disc is fine because they use it every year.  I search online and discover that there is an issue with the Xbox One and audio sync with Blu-Ray and DVD.  The suggestion from Microsoft is to change a couple of settings and to give the machine a fresh reboot before watching a movie.  What?  This “all in one” solution for my living room can’t even play a DVD correctly?  Perhaps I broke up with my Xbox 360 too hastily.

Dec. 21 – I have completely disconnected my Xbox One and moved it out of the living room.  It sits on the floor, unplugged for the rest of the holidays.

I have mixed feelings about the XBox One right now.  I have gone from thinking it is the coolest thing in the world to completely taking it out of the living room.  Sometimes it works so well.  It recognizes who I am.  It follows my voice commands flawlessly.  Then there are those other times – the times that I am trying to show it off – that it doesn’t work.  I’m a techie person, and I don’t mind troubleshooting a little when things don’t work, but most people would not have the patience to find solutions and would simply return the system.  If I was Microsoft, and I was promoting a complete home entertainment solution – I would have made sure that it could play DVD’s correctly.  That really bugs me.  The verse below might apply to Microsoft, and also to me as well…

Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.