Interview With Tyson Poulin, Aspiring Filmmaker

Interview With Tyson Poulin, Aspiring Filmmaker:

Hello, everyone! The concept of filmmaking has been around for ages, constantly evolving and growing with each passing decade. Filmmaking is a craft all its own, which requires meticulous planning and skill. Of course, I’m no expert in film production. I know some techniques and terms, but I’m not super knowledgeable on what goes into them.

That’s why I’ve decided to ask someone who knows a lot about films, and what goes into making them. Today, I have an aspiring filmmaker with me to share his craft with you all. Allow me to introduce you to a good friend of mine and a great filmmaker, Tyson Poulin.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, how about you tell us about yourself?

I am a 23 year old independent Saskatchewan filmmaker who does it out of passion. I see filmmaking as the best form of storytelling in the world. From the stories, the characters, the emotions film can evoke, to everything that goes into making a film, there’s a lot involved. I’m also a 2018 graduate of the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon’s Motion Picture Arts program and work a full-time job to pay bills and support my passion. I’m a semi-hardcore gamer (PlayStation for life), am the eldest of three brothers, both of whom I am at least 10 years older than. They also have the ability to make me feel old whenever they like, but they are amazing kids and I love them to death.

What inspired you to get into film in the first place? Was it a movie you saw, or just general interest in the medium itself?

Some of it came from general interest. I was a huge nerd growing up and loved watching things like Star Wars, or the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. I also really enjoyed Disney classics like Toy Story, Tarzan, or Monsters Inc. I was fascinated with those characters’ stories, the worlds I would get taken to, and in some cases the action. I love good action scenes in movies and TV.

However, a majority of my interest comes from life experience in creative arts. My entire life I’ve been involved with drama. From school to community theatre, I’ve always been involved somehow. Growing up. being a drama geek felt like the only safe place I could be myself. I played a few sports, Softball mostly. It was fun, but it never gave me the feeling I had whenever I had fun rehearsing and screwing up lines with my fellow actors, or whenever I performed on a stage.

While attending Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Grade 10, myself and a few people I knew got together and started making short YouTube videos that I acted in. It was during that time I also developed an interest in editing. The guys I made the skits with never let me do any of that. I was also a huge wrestling nerd at the time and in the slightly older WWE games, there was an option to export short twenty second gameplay highlights to YouTube. So with that, a YouTube downloader, and Windows Movie Maker I learned basic editing while making dream match highlight reels. From The Rock vs Shawn Michaels, to The Undertaker vs Sting, to Stone Cold Steve Austin vs CM Punk; I had a lot of fun making those. Then I moved to Warman for my Grade eleven year. When I was going through electives, there was an option for computer media. It was in that class that I learned some more advanced editing as well as some visual effects in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. I started to make live action videos of my own from there.

On top of my like of acting and editing, I also enjoyed creative writing as well. So with this trio of things I enjoyed doing, I wanted to make a movie. So, just before graduating high school, a few friends of mine helped me make my first film called Impulse. It was a 40 minute movie that I starred in, wrote, directed, and edited. The experience and enjoyment I had making that movie, as well as all my other previous experiences made me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

I imagine making your first film to be a rather daunting experience. What was it like making your first film, and what are the biggest takeaways you got from it?

As much as I enjoyed it, yes, it was a little daunting. At that time, just the idea of making a movie felt nerve-racking. I remember on one of the days we were shooting, the thought came across my mind was “We are actually doing this!”. However, just like whenever I was in drama, I always had fun with my friends on set. One of the things that made the decision to go into film much easier was how familiar some aspects of it felt to prior experiences I’ve had in my life.

The biggest takeaway I got from making Impulse was the certainty of wanting to be in film the rest of my life. Despite everything I did in creative arts up to that point, for some reason I wasn’t sure about it being the thing I wanted to pursue full-time. There were times where I would’ve wanted to be a teacher, or a video game tester, or even a professional wrestler at one point. Impulse changed that for me. I’ve been 100 percent certain since that day that this is what I want to do with my life.

Is there any specific film or project you’ve worked on in the past that has left a lasting impact on your filmmaking?
As someone who likes playing with visual effects, two action films I did called Resistance and Retired, taught me that if I’m going to do an effect, to do it well. Both films featured some terribly done 3D helicopters or drones. Next time I do any 3D object stuff I know to be more careful and if it doesn’t work, then toss it out.

My most recent film, The Confessional, on the other hand has taught me my biggest lesson to date. One of the biggest essentials to film is community. You can’t do it alone. Before then, I was always doing too much, from the acting to the directing, as well as everything else. I remember a conversation I had with a friend after making Impulse, and when I told him I did just about everything, he said “Holy crap, that’s a lot! You should get some help.” Over the last few years, I’ve had little to no success. I have a bad habit of carrying too much on my shoulders and doing it all myself. Then in the Confessional, I had help from the very beginning. When I was going through my idea for the project with a friend that would become my Co-Producer for the project, she jumped on board right away and took so much weight off my shoulders, that I don’t think I would have done this film without her. I still wrote, directed, edited, and shot the film. However, I didn’t act in this one. My Co-Producer casted, scouted locations, called people in to help. With her help, as well as the help of a few others, I know what it feels like to not have to carry it all on my own and that I have people in my life who are here and are as committed to this as I am.

When you started making films, what kind of issues did you face? Is there anything you’d go back and change about said films if you had the time/budget?

Finding people to commit to films alongside me. That probably was the reason why I developed the bad habit I mentioned of carrying too much on my shoulders. I knew little to no one when I started that were fully committed to film like me. I also faced then other character flaws like rushing to get certain things done. If I can go back to any projects I rushed when I started, I would take more time with them. I sometimes wish I could go back and either fix or get rid of terribly done effects that I wanted in there, because I wanted to do something cool. There’s a number of things I wish I could change with the proper time, budget and other resources. We’re all human, and we all have things we’ve done in our pasts that we would want to change. However, what I try to do is instead of spending time wishing I did this differently in one of my projects, I accept my film for what it is and learn for next time. I’ve learned from personal experience that I can’t keep looking back at everything that has happened and keep wishing for something else. It’s not how I want to live my life. Same goes for my film career.

Film has a ton of genres and sub-genres, so I imagine it could be taxing to someone starting out in the field. Do you think there’s specific genres one should avoid when starting out, or should a new filmmaker just go with the flow and try any genre?

Do genres you are comfortable with at the start before challenging yourself with genres you are less comfortable with. As you are starting out, you want to build a solid foundation for yourself and have an idea of what you are doing in the filmmaking process. If you challenge yourself right away with a genre you’re not comfortable with, you could get overwhelmed and even say to yourself, “This isn’t for me”. It’s like going to the gym for the first time, going crazy in your first workout, and then being unmotivated to go again, because you are too worn out from that first work out. You need to start easy.

Adaptations are pretty common in film nowadays. With that being said, have you ever adapted anything from a different medium into a film?

Not as of yet. With all the adaptations and remakes Hollywood is dishing out, I’d like to stick to original stories. With that being said, should the right story come along, I would love to make an adaptation out of it. It just has to be the right one.

Should someone starting out on their first project go all-out and make something big, or start off with something small?

This goes back to starting with what you’re comfortable with. You could be like me and go with a 40 minute sci-fi film where you’re blasting lighting out of your hands. You could also start with something small, like one which involves you having trouble studying for a test. It all depends on you, your skill level, and what you are comfortable with doing.

I imagine every film being difficult to make in its own right, but is there any specific thing that’s hard to get right in any film?

Personally, I would say it’s the script. If you have a terrible script, then not even the best acting, cinematography, and editing may be enough to save your film. While those things are also extremely important, the script is the main foundation of a film. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a fantastic story that makes sense, has great well written characters, and that has the least amount of plot holes as possible. There are so many things that can go wrong with a script. If you are not careful, bad writing can bleed all over a film and people will see that.

Alright, so we’re at the end here. It’s been a wild ride and I’m glad you could answer all my questions, Tyson! Anything else you’d like to add?
For any one starting out, one last thing I would like to make clear is that your first number of films will suck. Impulse and several of my other projects are not great. And that’s ok. Every filmmaker makes bad movies, especially at the beginning. Christopher Nolan’s first film wasn’t The Dark Knight. George Lucas’ first film wasn’t Star Wars. Filmmaking is something you learn to get better at with time and practice. Good film isn’t easy to make. Filmmaking is the ultimate creative art form. If you do it, do it because you love it.

Well spoken, Tyson! I’d like to thank you for answering all my questions, and providing some great tips for filmmaking beginners. I’m glad you could provide some insight into filmmaking for both my audience, and me as well. It’s good to have you on the blog, and I hope you have a good one!

I’ll conclude this interview by showing you Tyson’s website, which contains a ton of his amazing work:

https://www.tpoproductions.com/?fbclid=IwAR1sg8yeqAQYA69kGS2gqDtjY8Oho0o8sQMCzWh066wBVaYmx4x8JLWzaOo

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I’m Heading To Ganbatte Anime Convention This Year!

I’ll be honest, I try to be a “one convention a year” kind of guy. I like to save money, and I usually don’t feel the need to attend conventions too often. However, a friend convinced me to head to “Ganbatte Anime Convention” this year. This is a con that’s been going on for the past few years, but I’ve never had a distinct interest in it.

After some fine convincing from a good friend of mine, I’ve decided to take the plunge and attend this year. There’ll be tons of awesomeness at this year’s event, such as a guest appearance from my favorite voice actor: Brendan Hunter! This is a guy who’s been voice-acting for years, but sadly goes unnoticed by the general populace. I’ll talk more about him in a later post, but for now I’ll just say that he’s super talented!

I hope to also find some sweet loot at this convention, preferably some cheap anime! The first anime convention I ever did had cheap anime by the bucket-loads, which was much appreciated. Here’s hoping this convention does the same! I plan on talking to all the voice-actors and writers as well. I have a feeling this event will be fulfilling, and I hope to see you all there!

Midnight Pulp: A Truly Interesting and Awesome Streaming Service

We live in an age where modern media is getting considerably dumbed down. A lot of the newer TV shows and movies are getting censored, while removing a lot of the edginess and weirdness of older franchises. As a result, the shows we consume nowadays feel watered down. I’m a guy who likes his media to have some kick to it, which is why I’m a huge fan of a streaming website called “Midnight Pulp”.

For those of you don’t know what that is, Midnight Pulp is a streaming website that focuses on showcasing the weirder and pulpier side of media. In fact, their slogan is “Streaming All Things Strange”. Midnight Pulp lives up to that name, and provides the viewing audience with a ton of old and extremely out there movies and TV shows.

It’s got old and obscure horror films, like Basket Case. It’s got a ton of forgotten old-school anime, such as Golgo 13. Heck, it’s even got the Toriko anime movie on its platform! There’s so much on this streaming platform that isn’t available on Netflix, or Amazon Prime.  What makes the site so great is that it feels like you’re attending some kind of late midnight screening of old pulpy films.

Another thing I like about Midnight Pulp is the fact that it’s free, for the most part. You have the free version, which enables you to watch a fair portion of their library without paying anything. However, they have a ton of stuff you can only access through “Midnight Pulp Plus”. It’s only 5 dollars a month for a subscription, and it gives you access to their library of strange and surreal TV shows and movies.

That’s why I can wholeheartedly recommend Midnight Pulp, since it hearkens back to that older time when the surreal and strange was more accepted by mass media. I love watching something that’s odd, strange, or bizarre. As such, I highly recommend Midnight Pulp!

Also, I’m not affiliated with Midnight Pulp in any way. I do not work for them, and I’m not being sponsored by them. I just like their service and want to talk more about it! Also, keep in mind that not every show/movie on the service is acceptable for people of all ages.

A lot of the things on the service are horror films, gory anime, or schlock action movies, so it’s to be expected that they’d have a lot of kick to them. Still, if you’re like me and love old pulpy movies, this is the place to go! Show your support for the grit and dirt of old shows and moves by checking out this awesome app/website!

The website can be found here: https://www.midnightpulp.com/

No Man’s Sky Is One Interesting Game

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This is the best E.T. Simulator ever!

If there’s one thing that most people can agree on hating, it would have to be the concept of “disappointment”. No one likes being disappointed, especially after being given promises of something grand and interesting. That’s the problem a lot of people were faced with upon the release of “No Man’s Sky”. No Man’s Sky was hyped up as being this incredible video-game about space exploration. The game’s developer, Hello Games, was hyping this game up a ton!

After several delays, the game was released to the public. Unfortunately for the people who bought the game, they were given an incomplete package. No Man’s Sky was missing a large percentage of its advertised features, and was considered a very underwhelming game as a result of this.

The lack of features, the simplistic gameplay, and the bland story were all big contention points for most people. Still, Hello Games didn’t give up on the game. Sure, they released a bad game, but they weren’t content with just leaving it in that state. Over the course of three years, they got to work on updating and fixing the game.

At this point, it barely resembles what it started out as. It’s still a grind-heavy exploration game in space, but it now has many features that made it more approachable. Character creation was added, along with a new story mode. You could now command a massive freighter and a group of frigates.

I’ve started playing No Man’s Sky just a week ago, and I’m enjoying this newer version of the game. While I’ve never played the old version, I can definitely see why it was so bad. Gameplay videos of the game’s previous version would put me to sleep every time I watched it. However, playing this new version fills me with a sense of wonder that I haven’t felt in ages.

Flying through space in my personal spaceship is definitely a fun experience! Being able to mine on planets, hunt for rare treasures, and buy new gear just helps add to this already great game. There’s so much to do and see, even if the game becomes extremely grind-heavy in just an hour or two.

I’m still in the early stages of the game, so I’m not going to review it until I’m far enough into it. I’ll say that it is a solid experience, and I genuinely enjoy this game! I’ll be sure to talk more about it in a week or two. Keep your eyes peeled for the full review!

Phantasy Star Mini-Retrospective Part 2

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve talked about Phantasy Star! Due to Phantasy Star Online 2 finally being announced for a US release at this year’s E3, I felt it was a good time to talk about the games I haven’t covered yet. After all, Phantasy Star is my passion and there’s still a ton of games left to talk about! So, let’s continue where we left off.

Phantasy Star Universe is certainly the black sheep of the franchise, and one of my least favorite games in the series. While I definitely wasn’t a big fan of Episode III, at least it felt like a Phantasy Star game. Universe is trying too hard to be “Monster Hunter In Space”, to the point where it falters under the weight of its own ambition.

The game revolves around a young man named “Ethan Waber”, who happens to be the playable character for this game’s story mode. The game starts off simple enough, showing Ethan bopping around and having fun. He’s then drafted into a war against an alien menace, and becomes a “Guardian” as a result.

Ethan is probably the worst part of this game. His voice is pretty obnoxious, and his design is overall bland. He looks and acts like some kind of “space hipster”, and it gets really grating after a while. It doesn’t help that you’re stuck playing as him through the game’s entire campaign, as opposed to the custom characters of the past few entries.

While you can still create a character in this game, it’s only in online multiplayer. There’s also another mode where you can create a character, but you have to play through the entire game to unlock the mode and all the quests available for it. Even then, you can only play through quests that are available in the story mode.

There was also a severe lack of quests in online multiplayer, which made the whole thing feel rather lackluster. Couple that with the game’s needlessly complex crafting system, generic story, and a lack of the classic Phantasy Star staples, and you have one of the more hollow experiences in the franchise.

Surprisingly, Sega took the fandom’s dislike of Universe to heart for the game’s sequels. The game was followed up with an expansion just a year later, “Ambitions of The Illuminus”. It added in a better story mode, the ability to play as a custom character from the beginning, elements and monsters from the original Phantasy Star Online, and tons of new content. Even better, Ethan was working for the villains this time around! Yes, that means that you get to smack around the unlikable protagonist of the previous game!

Illuminus also replaced the J-Pop theme song of the previous game with an epic rock cover of it. Almost everything about the expansion felt like a step up from the previous game. Unfortunately, Illuminus also created an odd “identity crisis” for the Phantasy Star Universe sub-series. The franchise kept flip-flopping back and forth between trying to use its own elements and stories, and trying to pander to fans of the PSO games. As a result, it made the later games feel a bit disjointed.

Regardless, Illuminus was a fun return to the Phantasy Star games of old. With Illuminus, Sega realized that people seemed to like the PSO stuff more than the PSU stuff. This resulted in them releasing a pair of games in 2008, each one being in set in the two different universes. Phantasy Star Zero was a prequel to the original Phantasy Star Online, and was certainly an interesting game.

Zero takes what people loved about Phantasy Star Online, and brings it to the Nintendo DS! In this game, you play as a custom character who has just joined the “Hunter’s Guild”. The Hunters in this game are similar to the Hunters in the original PSO games, right down to the fact that both destroy alien mutant creatures and save the world. It’s pretty awesome to go back to being a Hunter, especially since the Universe series introduced their less cool counterparts, “Guardians”.

Zero was interesting in that it brought back a lot of gameplay quirks from PSO. This included removing the crummy vehicle sections and weird crafting system from Universe, and bringing back the “MAGs” from the original game. A MAG is a tiny creature that floats over your should and requires subsistence, which means you have feed to him all of your excess items. Feeding the creature will result in his eventual evolution!

Zero also brought back the monsters and general feel of Online, while giving the game a rather interesting story mode. The thing that made this game’s story interesting was that the race you chose to play as DEFINED your character. Each of the three races got their own unique intro to the game, and choosing a certain race would also define which areas you go to first. While it doesn’t change what happens in said areas, it does add for a bit of variety on repeat playthroughs.

Of course, Zero wasn’t the only Phantasy Star game to come out in 2008. The PSP also got Phantasy Star Portable earlier that same year. Phantasy Star Portable was a handheld spinoff of the Phantasy Star Universe series. The game takes place after the first game, but before the events of the expansion.

You help a “CAST” (which is a robotic being) named “Vivienne” stop yet another alien invasion. Phantasy Star Portable is a decent game, but its status as a handheld game holds it back. It lacks a lot of the more interesting elements that made previous Phantasy Star games fun. There was no online multiplayer, you couldn’t walk around the store areas, and the game’s story was sufficiently lacking.

I’m not saying Portable 1 was a terrible game, but it was just too bare-bones for me to get into. Thankfully, it’s sequel more than made up for it! Phantasy Star Portable 2 was released a year later and fixes many of the problems I had with the previous entry. For one thing, the game has online multiplayer!

Being able to go online and play with random people on a portable device was extremely fun! Of course, the online multiplayer was prone to hacking and cheaters, but what online game isn’t? Phantasy Star Portable 2 also brought back the ability to walk around the space-station, while talking to various NPCs along the way.

The game featured a ton of weapons to collect, over 3000 to be precise! The combat was the classic combat you’d come to expect from this franchise, with a few slight changes made to streamline things. For example, “Photon Points” were no longer tied to weapons at all now, and were instead tied to the the character itself. This meant that you couldn’t just switch out your weapons when you ran out of juice, you’d have to just wait for your character to recharge.

By far, the best part of the game was its room customization. I know talked a lot about this in the Phantasy Star Portable 2 review I did a while back, so I’ll keep this brief. PSP2’s room customization is amazing! Imagine being able to choose from hundreds of different room layouts, and almost a thousand different decorations to fill the room up with. There are literally millions of possible room combinations. Best of all, you could go online and visit the rooms of other players, as long as they were in the same lobby as you.

PSP2 is probably one of my favorite games of all time, but it’s sadly also responsible for killing the franchise in the West. The lack of sales for the Portable games meant that the games stopped getting released over here. Sega blamed the fans, despite the fact that it was their lack of advertising that killed the franchise.

Phantasy Star did continue on in Japan, however. Phantasy Star Portable 2 received an expansion which tied it closer to the Phantasy Star Online series, which is pretty awesome. It just sucks that we never got that game! We also never got Phantasy Star Online 2, or any of its many spinoffs… At least, not until the aforementioned E3 announcement just a few weeks ago.

After the series being stuck in Japan for almost a decade, it’s finally making its return to the West. I’ve been waiting for PSO2 forever, so it’s gonna be awesome to finally get my hands on it! Hopefully all this waiting will be worth it! Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this Phantasy Star mini-retrospective! I apologize for part 2 taking so long, but at least I finally get it done.

Fallout 76 Review

Well, here’s a review I never thought I’d make! Fallout 76 is one of the most polarizing video-games to come out in the last decade. It was controversial, due to broken promises and tons of issues. It’s poor quality became an internet meme and was talked about nonstop by pretty much everybody. The game’s developer, Bethesda, even had to formally apologize at this year’s “E3” event.

However, something really interesting happened at that same event. Todd Howard (Bethesda’s President) announced that they would not only fix the game, but add many new things to it. This included a Battle Royale mode, numerous fixes, a new story mode with NPCs, and tons of new weapons and gear.

On top of this, they announced that they would be doing a “free trial” of the game for an entire week. Naturally, I decided to get in on this. I downloaded the crummy “Bethesda Launcher”, installed the game, and started playing it. Before I fully get into my thoughts, allow me to explain what Fallout is.

Fallout was originally an old-school RPG released in the late 90s, in a time when the RPG genre was starting to truly take off in the west. It was a post-apocalyptic RPG developed by people with a real passion for story-telling and world-building. These people cared about making a game that let the player role-play as their own character, while playing the game the way they wanted to.

The series had two entries and two spin-offs, before being bought out by Bethesda Game Studios. They then proceeded to turn Fallout into something it wasn’t, by removing all of the complex characters and writing. The series gradually became more dumbed down, and eventually felt like an entirely different series altogether.

Fallout 76 was the ultimate culmination of this dumbing down, while also being the point in which the fans put their collective feet down. Regardless of the main controversies and negative reviews of this game, I went into Fallout 76 with a fresh perspective. I tried to view the game through the lens of a new player, while ignoring the various controversies that plagued the game.

Unfortunately, this didn’t really help my experience at all. I hate to say it, but Fallout 76 is a bland and terrible game. My experience started off promising enough, I awoke in the titular “Vault 76”. While acquiring the starter items from the vault, a player started yelling at me not to leave. If only I heeded his advice, if only…

After leaving the vault, I wandered into the large vast world of Fallout 76. At first, things seemed cool. The environments were nice enough, and I found myself getting lost looking at the scenery for a while. I eventually made my way back to following the game’s compass, which lead me towards the main quest locations. Unfortunately, Bethesda had yet to add in all of the promised improvements they said they would.

This meant that the story was still bare-bones, and that I was stuck following random objectives until the end of time. Every quest involved finding holotapes, or going to a specific area. The inventive quests of previous games were gone, replaced by a bunch of pointless fetch quests.

The game’s story and side-quests are just lacking, much like the combat. All you do is run at enemies and swing awkwardly with a melee weapon, or camp out from afar and pepper them with bullets. The CPU is dumb as a sack of hammers, so it’s extremely easy to kite them into an area and pick them off one-by-one.

The combat is pretty boring overall. The “V.A.T.S.” targeting system from previous games doesn’t really function well at all in an online space, and there aren’t a whole lot of diverse weapon choices in these games. Something I did like about the gameplay was the crafting system.

Sure, they basically just copied the system from Fallout 4, but at least it functions well. Being able to craft better gear using random junk is definitely fun, even if your inventory has a tendency to fill up extremely fast. While creating new stuff is fun, your character will end up dropping items every time he dies. This could include valuable crafting supplies, prompting you to have to go out and retrieve them… By going to the area where you originally died. This means that you have the chance of dying again while trying to get that stuff back, risking the chance of losing even more stuff in the process.

Interactions with other players was scarce. People barely spoke to me, and would always run away as soon as they spotted me. I even bumped into a level 155 player, one who spent the entire time crouching for some reason. The social interaction aspect of this game was just bad, if I can be brutally honest. In fact, the whole experience felt very hollow.

While I appreciate that they fixed up most of the bugs and connection issues, there’s just not anything there to keep me enticed. I was only able to play the game for a few hours, since it became very boring very fast. While I’m sure the game will be more fun once more stuff is added, I just find it hard to recommend in its current form.

My suggestion is to wait for all of the game’s promised features, and then decide if you want to take the plunge. I would recommend not spending more than 10-20 dollars on it if you can, since it just doesn’t feel like something worth 60 dollars. Regardless, I did have a bit of fun with the game. It’s grindy and repetitive, but at least that first 30 minutes kept me engaged. At least it entertained me more than Fallout 4 did…

Why The Divinity Games Are So Awesome

One question people often ask is this: What makes a classic a classic? What defines something as being so good that it transcends its medium? This isn’t an easy question to answer, and there’s no definitive answer for it. To me, what defines a “classic” is what it does for the genre as a whole. A true “classic” sets trends and becomes remembered for what it does well.

A good example of this is the “Divinity” series of RPG video-games. If you’ve never heard of Divinity before, allow me to explain. Back in the early 2000s, a fledgling game studio released their second game, “Divine Divinity”. Their previous game, “LED Wars”, was immensely obscure, so this second game needed to be a hit to make up for it.

Surprisingly, this new (at the time) release proved to be extremely popular! It became a cult classic in a short amount of time, launching a large franchise that continues to this very day. The original Divinity had the player select from one of several classes to create their character with, before being thrust into an action RPG adventure of grand proportions! The game introduced the land of “Rivellon”, a world full of great characters and fantastic adventures.

Divine Divinity played like your typical “dungeon-crawler”, but had a larger focus on story-telling and lore. DD had this level of depth not seen in most games, due to its massive world and many skills. It told the story of the player character travelling across a fantasy world, while doing battles with the forces of darkness. What starts off as something basic soon becomes a quest to ascend to godhood, full of twists and turns that make this game a true treat to play. DD was followed up two years later by “Beyond Divinity”. This game wasn’t very good, if I can be brutally honest.

This game had you controlling two different characters, both of which were pretty bland. The game has you playing as a Paladin stuck to a “Death Knight”, while you both fight your way out of the underworld. While it does sound cool, a lot of the game doesn’t factor into the previous entry at all. In fact, the only part that continues the previous game’s story is this game’s ending! You learn that the Death Knight is “Damian”, who was the son of the previous game’s playable protagonist.

While I’m glad that the game does continue the previous game’s plot in some way, I just couldn’t get attached to this world. Setting the game in what is essentially “Hell” limited the setting, taking away the fantasy trappings from the previous game. While some may view this as an improvement, it works against it feeling like a true sequel.

In essence, Beyond Divinity is more like an over-glorified expansion pack. It wasn’t a true sequel, and was essentially a canonical spin-off of the main series. We would eventually get a true sequel to the original Divinity… 5 years after Beyond came out. In 2009, we got “Divinity II: Ego Draconis”.

The concept of Divinity II was pretty damn interesting, since it dealt with two new factions: Dragon Knights and Dragon Slayers. Dragon Knights are humans with the magical powerful to transform into dragons, while Dragon Slayers are a sect of knights sworn to slay all of them.

You play as a Dragon Slayer recruit, who comes into contact with a Dragon Knight during their first mission. You are then forced into becoming the last Dragon Knight, while your former order turns against you. Worse still, Damian has returned and is plotting to destroy all of Rivellon.

Divinity II was my introduction into the series, and it was definitely an interesting one! Few games I’ve played have done this good a job of easing me into an already existing world. Sure, there was stuff I didn’t get. There were characters from previous games who showed up, but weren’t given much development. Regardless, I still felt at home here!

Divinity II was an open-world action RPG unlike any other. It was entirely in third-person, had a simplistic combat system, the ability to read the mind of any NPC in the game, and the awesome power of being able to transform into a FREAKING DRAGON! Not only that, but you even get your own kickass battle-tower, complete with a Necromancer who can make zombie minions for you!

While Divinity II was far from perfect, it still presented one of the more satisfying open-world experiences I’ve ever had. It helps that that open-world itself is split into multiple areas, which you’ll explore one-by-one while progressing through the game. Divinity II is probably the best Divinity game I’ve played thus far!

Thing is, it’s far from the newest game in the franchise. In fact, there’s been 3 new Divinity games since then! I just picked up 2 of them today, which are “Divinity: Dragon Commander” and “Divinity: Original Sin”. With Larian’s announcement of a new “Baldur’s Gate” game just a few days ago, I thought it was a good time to talk about and get back into playing their other games! I plan to play through all the Divinity games and review them when I get the chance, so look forward to that!

Obscure Anime Gems: Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger

You ever stumble across some obscure 90s show, one that makes you wish you had grown up with it? Well, that show for me would have to be an extremely obscure anime known as “Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger”, which roughly translates to “Twelve Warrior Explosive Eto Rangers”. Eto Rangers came out in 1995, and was released exclusively in Japan. These was an English version planned, but it was never finished or released.

This show takes place in a fantasy world named Mugen, which is home to a variety of anthropomorphic animals. 12 of these cartoon animals are chosen to be the “Eto Rangers”, a group of powerful dimension-travelling warriors based off the Chinese Zodiac.

Each episode involves them travelling to a different fairy tale and setting it right. In a way, it’s similar to the Kingdom Hearts series that would come along much later. The Eto Rangers would often deal with bizarre fantastical scenarios, or wacky shenanigans. These include Momotaro: The Peach Boy becoming a sci-fi epic, or The Little Mermaid becoming a story of a mermaid-turned-human trying to become a famous singer.

With over a dozen protagonists, the show often struggles with giving each and every one character development. It doesn’t help that the series only ran for 39 episodes, while several episodes were spent on nonsense filler shenanigans. I get that 39 sounds like a lot, but character development is often spaced out much farther apart in Japanese animation.

Most of the early episodes were spent just giving our heroes random adventures, while the plot itself doesn’t kick off until 13 episodes in. The series is already one-third through its run at this point, while only having developed the most marketable characters. The rest of the series focuses on their struggles with a bunch of cat-based villains led by “Nyanma”.

Naturally, the arch-enemy of these cats is our mousy main character, “Bakumaru”. Bakumaru starts off as a generic anime protagonist, but gets a bit of depth later on. A tournament episode helps establish him as more than just a generic hero, while a few episodes are spent on getting him over his fear of cats.

While this development is appreciated, it also means that the rest of the cast gets shafted. This is especially apparent when you factor in that only 5 characters are picked for each mission, while the other 7 are usually left out of the main plot of the episode. I’ve harped enough on the character development, let’s talk about the show’s animation and music. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from an early 90s anime. The animation is pretty solid, but nothing spectacular. The music has a lot of good tracks, but none of them I’d call “jams”.

What the show has going for it is its comedy, characters, and writing. For those of you who don’t know, Eto Rangers shared its director and writer with another anime called “Kyatto Ninden Teyandee”. Americans will know this anime better as “Samurai Pizza Cats” in the States, a show which is often considered one of the “best dubbed anime” of all time.

Eto Rangers is often looked at as a spiritual sequel to Kyatto, due to its shared staff and similar writing style. Eto Rangers often goes for silly gags, bizarre scenarios, and fun character interactions. It’s hard to dislike any character on the show, even the ones who get little development.

The voice-acting and characterization behind each character is really good, to the point where I feel it negates the lack of focus they get in the episodes. This is a good thing, since Eto Ranger bills itself as an “action-comedy”. It needs good characters to help the audience get invested, while also delivering good jokes and puns here or there.

Eto Ranger is nothing unique or spectacular, but it has a fun premise and some likable characters. It’s one of the many 90s anime that nobody talks about anymore, which is a shame. Thankfully, all 39 episodes can be watched on YouTube FOR FREE with English Subtitles. If you are even slightly interested in obscure 90s anime, I recommend giving this show a shot. I feel like this is a show most people can get a kick out of, even if they aren’t a huge fan of anime in general!

Skyrim: The Ultimate Mixed Bag of Open-World RPGs

A game with an open-world is usually a pretty enticing prospect. Having a large and vast world for the player to explore is fun, especially when you fill that world with fun stuff to do. Unfortunately, this style of game has become way too widespread in recent years. It seems like every franchise is trying to the open-world route, and a lot of them end up failing at it.

One game that popularized the open-world genre was the RPG series known as “Elder Scrolls”. The first game was released in 1994, and has gone to spawn a multi-billion dollar gaming franchise! The games themselves were and still are being developed by “Bethesda Softworks”, a company that has become controversial for sleazy business practices in recent years. By far, the most popular entry in the series was 2011’s “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”.

The concept for the game alone was pretty enticing: You play as a chosen one warrior, named “Dragonborn”. You can use the language of the dragons as a weapon simply by shouting! Using your “Dragon-Shouts”, equipment, and various skills you set off on an intense viking fantasy and combat ancient evils.

It’s typical RPG fanfare, but Bethesda did a really good job of hyping it up to no end. I was truly interested in what Skyrim was going to do with its world and setting, especially since the last Elder Scrolls ended on a rather somber note. Uriel Septim and all his heirs were now dead, and Tamriel’s throne was now vacant.

The Septim bloodline that had been a part of the franchise since the first game was now gone, which left hardcore fans of the series feeling a bit hollow. With the talk of the “Dragonborn” in Skyrim, I had assumed the Septim bloodline would find some way to return in the sequel. After all, the Septims were also known as “Dragonborn”!

Turns out, the Dragonborn in this game isn’t of the royal bloodline. Instead, the Dragonborn is the player this time around. I remember back when Skyrim was first announced, since it lead to a hype train unlike any other game. People were getting excited about this awesome new game, and so was I!

I had played Oblivion and fell in love with that game, so I knew its sequel would be just as good! I received the game on Christmas and ended up loving it, but I noticed something was off. The game lacked the same kind of “spark” Oblivion had, and felt less interesting as a result of this.

I still loved and played Skyrim to death, but I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t have glaring flaws. One of the things that really hurts this game is that it starts off on the wrong foot. The game opens with an infamous tutorial sequence, one which involves you being stuck on a cart with a bunch of random people.

The cart is slowly being pulled along by a horse, while a neurotic guy screams exposition at you. You are then brought to an execution block, which is interrupted by a random dragon attack. You then spend the next 20 minutes running away from a dragon and attempting to get out of the destroy town, just so you can get to the fun part of the game.

I’ll be honest, this tutorial is terrible. It’s slow, unskippable, and just flat-out annoying. Once you finish the tutorial, you are then greeted with a beautiful and vibrant open-world. Your first thought is to go out and explore, which is often the best way to play this game.

I’ll be brutally honest, following the story was always my least favorite part of the story. The plot of the game was a bland “chosen one” story, where you travel across the lands and fight dragons. I disliked most of the main quest NPCs, and I was always annoyed with how detached the plot was from the “Civil War” story-line going on the background.

It doesn’t help that doing the main quest will make you insanely overpowered, as well as result in the dragons appearing all over the land and attacking you frequently. Honestly, I sometimes prefer to just wait to do main quest for as long as possible. It’s more fun to just explore and do random quests, then to deal with repetitive dragon attacks.

Of course, not doing he main quest also means you can’t use “Dragon Shouts”. You see, these shouts were one of the game’s main selling points. They were special magical shouts that would recharge over time, while also being way more useful than typical magic spells. The shouts could do anything from knocking over foes, freezing them solid, or summoning dragons. Heck, you could even use a shout to RIDE A DRAGON! Sadly, it’s not as cool as it sounds.

While Skyrim is an impressive game, it was also a massive step backwards. The game ended up being over-simplified, while having most of its RPG elements removed. Several skill trees from previous games were removed, as was the ability to choose a class. This game went classless, choosing to let the player craft their own class through their play-style instead. While this does invite creativity, it also means that every player is essentially a “Wild Card”.

Everyone can be the character they want to be, but there’s no way to define yourself as a specific class in game. This removes a lot of the nuance from character creation, since all you can do now is choose your race and look. All of the other choices in character design are made outside of the tutorial.

I’d be able to forgive the lacking character creation, but so much of the game follows these poor design decisions. The combat is simple and often times boring, and the game is just filled with too many innocuous pointless quests. That being said, Skyrim had a world like no other.

You’d travel across snowy mountains, beautiful hotsprings, and gorgeous forests to get to your destination. The game’s open-world was truly breathtaking and it still stands as one of the best in any game I’ve ever played. On top of this, some of the caves and dungeons can be fairly entertaining to delve into.

The crafting/blacksmithing system is fun and rewarding, albeit very overpowered. There’s just generally a lot of things to do and take part in, even if not all of them are good. To me, Skyrim is a game that I forever will be mixed on. I’ve dumped so many hours into this game, especially when compared to any other game I’ve ever played.

I’ve put so much time into the game that I’ve made myself sick of it, to the point where I can’t even touch it anymore. Even when I do play it, I just find myself getting bored more often than not. People tend to tell me to revisit Skyrim with mods, but I feel I just can’t anymore. If I want to have fun in Skyrim at this point, I’d have to put so many mods into it that it’d become a different game entirely. At that point, I may as well just get a different game to play.

Still, Skyrim was a fun experience for its time. While my feelings will always be mixed on it, I’d be lying if I said I regretted the many hours I spent on it. Will I ever revisit the game? Probably not, unless some serious changes and additions are made to it in the future. I just hope the next game in the series isn’t a mixed bag, or a terrible game like Fallout 76 was. Here’s hoping Bethesda Softworks can learn from their mistakes!