Taking Aggro: Shields in Fantasy

If you’ve ever played any kind of RPG, you’ll probably be familiar with the concept of ‘tanking’. Basically, because nobody except a warrior is allowed to wear decent armour or carry a bit of metal to stop their arms from being lopped off, they have to keep their cloth-clad, squishy bodies out of the way of enemy steel.

If you do have the good fortune to be a warrior in your fantasy realm of choice, you’ll be further subdivided into two groups: those who deal damage (DPS) and those who take it (Tank). But if you want to ascend to the illustrious position of ‘tank’, you usually need to own a shield. And not just any shield – a nice big one that you can barely see around, adorned with fire-breathing lion heads and more spikes than an acupuncturist’s utility belt.

Shields in RPG’s have been reduced down to their very basic form. They are solely the tools of the tanking warrior, who uses them to block, bash and occasionally even throw. But if we overlook the ridiculousness of a warrior throwing his shield at the charging enemy and then expecting it to boomerang and return to his waiting hand, we are left with a very versatile piece of weaponry being used for precisely two purposes.

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It’s Spider-man Friday!

You heard the title, it’s Spider-man Friday! Yes, I am deadly serious… it is.

You will probably not know one thing about me: I’m a huge Spidey fan – he’s my favourite comic-book character, closely followed by Gambit, Magneto and Vulture. You’ll probably not know a whole lot of other stuff about me, but that’s beside the point. I thought I would hit you all with some Spider-man goodness this Friday and share some good stuff:

  • My really quick review of The Amazing Spider-man
  • My thoughts and progress in The Amazing Spider-man video game (Xbox 360)
  • A brand new Incredibly Awesome Superheroes episode featuring… Batman! Well, I’d be stupid not to cash in on the Dark Knight Rises mania, wouldn’t I?

WARNING: There may be some spoilers, but nothing major in this post. Just please be aware.

The Amazing Spider-man Really Quick Movie Review


Amazing Spider-man

These scores are out of 5. I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t I get snatched up to be a professional movie critic already? It’s something I ask myself every day…

Story – 4

Uncle Ben’s death was done perfectly, Peter’s cool-geek existence is believable and his father’s mysterious past is intriguing.

Characters – 5

You really sympathise for Doctor Connors and feel fear and tension whenever the Lizard is around. Spider-man himself is brilliant and blurts out the trash-talk just how he always should have been doing.

Web-slinging – 5

This movie really shines in the web-slinging department. You get a lot of 1st person camera shots which make you feel like you’re Spider-man. Plus a sequence near the end with some cranes really stands out.

Oscorp Sinister-ness Rating – 4

Everyone talks about Norman Osborne and his illness, but you never see him. Oh sure, there’s a shadowy silhouette of him on a big screen and the Oscorp building just screams “there’s evil stuff brewing here”. Really hope they keep the tension building and only reveal Norman in the third movie.

Overall – 4.5

One of my favourite movies of this year. The best Spider-man movie I’ve seen, hands down.

The Amazing Spider-man Video Game

You’d expect a video game based off of a movie to be terrible, right? Not this time, web-heads. This is one of the first movie-based games I’ve played that didn’t suck.


The graphics are great on Spider-man’s suit (and unlockable suits), on the Manhattan vista and perhaps only suffer when talking about ordinary human characters like Gwen, Doctor Connors etc. The city’s buildings close-up are nothing to write home about, but everything fits together so nicely and the city itself has a lot of life and bustle about it. The sounds as you swing around and touch ground are fantastic – there’s epic, movie-style music, you hear sirens and honking of horns if you’re running around the streets and the rushing of wind in your ears as you fling yourself about and whip through the air.

One of the things I particularly love is when you let Spidey fall from a great height and he starts skydiving towards the ground, gathering more and more speed as he falls. You can’t get hurt from fall damage (he always shoots a web to stop himself being crushed) but the thrill and danger is still always present. Shooting webs at enemies, yanking them towards you and weaving them into fights is effortless. Spidey shoots his webs like a cowboy toting a pair of pistols and always has something to say when he takes down an enemy. In addition, his web-shooters flash red whenever they shoot a web and Spidey will regularly reload them with fresh cartridges every so often.

Amazing Spider-man

The indoor sections are perhaps the best part of the game for me. Forget Arkham Asylum/City, this game is where true superhero stealth is at. Ok, you can’t set up traps or detonate devices when you please, but Spidey can crawl on any surface (and the camera is perfect) and stalk his enemies like a true predator. Silent takedowns can be executed from the ground or a ceiling/wall and the enemy will always be taken out of sight and webbed to the ceiling so his buddies aren’t alerted. I’ve cleared many areas with about 10 enemies in it with finesse and satisfaction and without being detected the whole time, simply because its so fluid to control Spider-man.

The web rush feature is really good too. Every Spider-man game from now on NEEDS this feature! It’s so simple, yet so effective. Basically, you can tap the shoulder button when you’re aiming at a distant surface/platform/wall/ceiling/anything and Spidey will zip there in the blink of an eye, showing off his moves as he does so. You can also rush at enemies using this mechanic and it’s used for distant silent takedowns. Other cool features include: ability to web-shot enemies to walls, a fantastic swinging mechanic that’s easy to use and rewarding to master, Spidey’s costume ripping when he takes damage, the presence of classic Spidey villains and hints at others, ability to collect and read entire Spider-man comics (both new and old) and a changing, organic city environment (that’s never as frustrating to navigate as Web of Shadows/Prototype when it’s infected).

Amazing Spider-man

In summary, this game seriously rocks and any Spider-man fan should buy it. Swinging and exploring never gets old and you can replay completed sequences to play around with the combat system, collect pickups and unlock new costumes.

Incredibly Awesome Superheroes #2: “Batman”


It took me a while to draw those villains – click on the image for a close-up on their costumes!

Video Games, Violence & Addiction

Today I’m going to blog about something non-writing related in a sense and something that’s very topical at the moment. I was reading about the ongoing trial of Anders Breivik and the revelation that he took a year off work and played World of Warcraft and Call of Duty 16 hours a day in isolation. Now, I consider myself a ‘gamer’ (whatever qualifies me for that title) and I have loved playing video games since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog. I even played WoW for almost 6 years and enjoyed my stints in Battlefield, the CoD series and other shooter titles. Never once did I feel a need to hurt anyone in real life.

The reason I felt like blogging on this subject is because certain people have now come out with the usual cries to ban violent video games. No doubt some parents will be wrenching away the Xbox 360 from their children in disgust or threatening to throw it out the window because they think their child might become a murderer. This, of course, is an extreme view. A lot of parents simply just don’t want their children to become addicted to games and have no life outside of them. I understand this standpoint – I was probably addicted to WoW for a good few years until a year or so ago. Those sorts of games are addictive and they can eventually take over reality. But can they really prepare you for the reality of killing someone in real life? I don’t think so. It takes a certain type of personality and the desire to kill in the first place to drive someone to such an act. It’s interesting – if an avid reader committed murder, would people start blaming his love of crime fiction for preparing him for these crimes? Millions of people watch detective dramas on TV every day, yet the vast majority of viewers don’t feel compelled to copy what they watch. In no way am I defending the acts of such people, I just thought I would offer a viewpoint from within the gaming world on the subject.

I guess I lied when I said this post wasn’t about writing. Well, it’s not really, but there is a valuable point here. Writers can learn from and become inspired by every type of person out there and by every piece of news that makes the headlines. People are complex and so are their motives. Think about that when you next look for inspiration for your work in progress.