Late to the Party – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I didn’t think after playing the first Uncharted game that they could get better. I was wrong. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was a fantastic addition to the series.

In a lot of ways, Among Thieves was very similar to Drake’s Fortune. The controls were more or less the same, which I enjoyed. I did play the game on “very easy” because I’m a loser I like to play games for the fun and the story (and not be too tempted to throw my controller at my TV). I’ve gotten a little bit better at not falling off of every surface to my death.

Uncharted 2 Train 2

I still fell a few times, though. Source

 

This game was also really pretty, like the first one. It was interesting to see it go from ruins and forests in the first game to a broken modern-day city (and then more ruins) in this one. Although I got tired of jumping on street signs (mostly because I could not figure out that I was supposed to jump on them), most of the time, I really enjoyed exploring all of the settings of the game.

Speaking of jumping, I actually enjoyed the jumping puzzles in this game more than in the first one. There weren’t any that I had had to retry 4,000 times (okay, like 30, but it felt like 4,000). I did spend a good amount of time running around trying to figure out where I was supposed to go, and then felt really dumb when I finally accepted the hint. But once I started the puzzles, they were challenging, but not infuriating.

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There were a lot of ridiculous last minute saves like this for some reason. Source

Finally, I want to talk about the plot of the story. I’m always skeptical when it comes to sequels, although I’ve been pleasantly surprised before. I’ve always thought Assassin’s Creed 2 was better than the original. I would actually have to say that this holds true for this game as well.

Without getting into any spoilers, the basic story is that Nathan Drake, the protagonist from the first game, is invited to help his friends steal a lamp from a museum that will lead them to find the fabled city of Shangri-la and a massive sapphire called the Cintamani Stone. As it turns out, absolutely nothing is as it seems, and the story is filled with betrayal, danger, and ALL the jumping.

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Oh, the betrayal!!! Source

The villain for this one was fairly forgettable, I would say. But the not-so-villainous characters created enough tension that I didn’t really care about the villain being kind of boring. On the gameplay side of things, I actually found him easier to beat than the villain for the first one, even though how I beat him was a lot more interesting.

Like I said in my last Late to the Party, Nathan Drake is the heart and soul of the series. He remains as good a character in Among Thieves as he was in the first game. I was worried at the beginning of the game that he may have lost his moral core, but as the game progressed, it became clear that that wasn’t true. He was still a great guy and dedicated to keeping his friends safe.

Uncharted 2 Nathan

This is Drake’s excited face. Source

I was also happy to see that Elena (documentary girl from the last game) returns in this game. She also got a lot more character development, which is probably why I remembered her name this time. Again, I don’t want to give anything away, but she and Nathan are really adorable in this game. I’m hoping this is a trend that continues.

Overall, I was really invested in the story and the lives of the characters. Because of that, it was infuriating to have to wait to see how Nathan got himself into the situation we see him at the beginning of the game. Speaking of, the opening was hands down one of the coolest and most stressful game openers I have ever played through.

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So stressful! Source

I really loved this game. I can’t wait to play through Nathan Drake’s next adventure.

uncharted 3 cover

My body is ready.

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Late to the Party – My first time playing “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”

I’m starting a new series on here that I’ll update periodically. It’s called “Late to the Party,” in which I will review things that have been out for a long time, but are new to me. For instance, I have never owned a PS3 (or any other console), so I’ve never played any PS3 games.

But thanks to the wonderful Boyfriend, who was gracious enough to let me borrow his PS3 for a while, I now have the ability to play games I never have before. My first one is Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

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The ship that started it all. Source

First, off, I have to say that this game is absolutely gorgeous. I had a blast running through the lush jungle, exploring the long-forgotten ruins, and stumbling my way through creepy catacombs. Wherever I was in the game, the surroundings felt perfect.

The music was also phenomenal. Perfectly suited to each environment, the composers clearly put a lot of effort into it. The music heightened the tension during the firefights and was nice and calming during those infuriating jumping puzzles (which I’ll get to in a little bit).

One area where I remember the music being especially impressive was beneath the ruined colony. The action alone made me want to crawl out of my skin (see spoiler-y bit below), but the haunting music on top of it was almost unbearable. I must have played through one section four more times than was necessary just because the music had me so freaked out that I kept getting killed.

The gameplay was also pretty good. Sure, I spent plenty of time yelling at my screen for Drake to “just hide already!” But overall, it was very well designed. It felt very similar to other games I’ve played, like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed.

It had the hide-and-shoot combat style of Mass Effect coupled with the go-anywhere-climb-anything movement dynamics of Assassins Creed. Once I got used to the controls (remember, I’m still learning how to use the PS3 controller), I actually found the mechanics a lot of fun.

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Sully and Drake about to discover something cool. Source

My simultaneously favorite and least favorite parts of this game were the jumping puzzles. There were a lot of them, and while I enjoy a challenge, I do not enjoy having to try to complete the same bloody puzzle thirty times. Even when they were easy to figure out, for some of them, you had to get the timing for a jump just right, or you’d be falling to your death.

Also, this game has no fall damage… until it does. You can jump twenty feet off of a giant boulder and be fine, but God help you if you jump twenty-one feet off of something when you weren’t supposed to. There’s either no fall damage at all, or you die immediately on impact.

Now that I’ve finished with the gameplay, I want to talk about the story, because this is a story game.

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Right to left, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, Nathan Drake, and… documentary girl? Um, Eileen? Alana? Oh, Elena! Her name is Elena. Source

Stories are something you never really know about going into a game. I’ve played some games with great stories and terrible mechanics, and I’ve played some with lackluster stories and great mechanics. Uncharted just so happens to be a game with both fun gameplay and a really engaging story.

Uncharted is the story of the great-whatever grandson of famous explorer Sir Francis Drake. Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that Nathan Drake sets out to find the lost treasure of the explorer and gets a lot more than he bargained for.

SPOILERS in the next paragraph only.

(And quite frankly, a lot more than I bargained for. I had no idea what this game was about, and then, when most of the time Nathan and the documentary girl were fighting perfectly normal thugs with perfectly normal weapons, I did not expect to be assaulted by the Night of the Living Smeagols towards the end of the game. It. Was. Terrifying. I swear I nearly fell out of my hammock when those things showed up. I immediately hit pause on my game and, in the middle of my empty apartment,  screamed at my TV, “What are those?!”)

Spoilers done.

Digression aside, the story was really interesting. It held the game together very well and gave the characters reasons to go exploring and picking fights all over the ruined city they end up at. To me, what made the story so good was Nathan Drake himself.

In an age where many of our “heroes” are really just horrible human beings that you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with, Nathan Drake seemed like a genuinely decent person. He had a childlike fascination and excitement with finding the treasure, but he wasn’t obsessive about. In fact, I was really surprised to find that, in one scene, he was perfectly willing to leave it all behind just to get himself and his friend out alive.

Over and over again, the reason that Drake continues to fight against the bad guys is that he’s worried about his friends getting hurt, or he feels that there’s a greater reason (a very, very good reason, btw) to stay where he is. He’s fun to play as at least partially because he seems like he’d be fun to hang out with.

Also, he’s apparently got the world’s strongest fingers. Seriously, watching him catch himself on some of those jumps made me wince internally at the carpal tunnel he must be developing.

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I mean, the guy just has inhuman finger strength. Source.

All in all, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a really fun game with great gameplay and a fantastic story. If you, like me, are Late to the Party, consider picking up the game. You won’t regret it.

By the way, The Boyfriend left me the next two games in the series, which I am looking forward to playing. I’ll probably do “Late to the Party” reviews of those too, once I get around to it.

My Red Pill

Most people who know me or have read this blog know that I am pretty conservative. You would be forgiven for thinking that I had always been that way. I have not. I mean, almost, but not completely.

Have you ever heard this old joke? “If you’re not a liberal by 20, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative by 50, you have no brain.”

Well, I was liberal far before 20. I was until I was, I don’t know, 12? I was generally of the opinion that people were basically good. That the government really did want to help the people. I thought that everything I read in my history books was true. I mostly bought into all of the liberal propaganda.

And then I read one book.

One book was all it took to completely change my mind about just about everything I believed in. My grandpa gave me a book when I was probably 12 or 13. It was called The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo.

lincolnI might have mentioned this book before, but I’m not sure I’ve explained the impact that it had on me. First, I have to explain that I didn’t want to read this book. I liked Abraham Lincoln. I thought that I understood how the Civil War worked. And I knew that this book was going to say things that I didn’t want to hear.

I avoided it for about a year. For a year, that book sat on my shelf just bothering me. I didn’t know why I was avoiding it, but it turned out that I couldn’t do it forever.

Oddly enough, it was my regular history book that brought me back to it. A single line in my history book stuck out at me. It said that Abe Lincoln was the person that forced the war to begin. It wasn’t the South, and that really surprised me.

All my life, I had been taught that Abe Lincoln was a saint and the people of the South were all horrible racist slavers (and my parents are southerners, so you can imagine what they thought of that). But here I am suddenly finding out that Lincoln purposefully started the war (and I found out later it was for economic reasons, not moral ones). So finally, I sat down to read the book.

I was completely blown away. I’m not going to explain it in detail, but gosh, Lincoln was a monster and everything I was every taught about the Civil War was either wrong or terribly skewed.

Learning who Abraham Lincoln really was tore down my entire intellectual world. Suddenly, I was questioning everything that I had ever known. I was confused, and I needed to know what was real. I need some sort of bedrock.

For a little while, I all but stopped reading fiction. I devoured book after book about politics, history, religion, etc. I never noticed it, but my thoughts and ideas started changing.

I started believing a lot of new different things. But more importantly, I stopped believing in a lot of things. I stopped believing that people are essentially good. I stopped believing that the government had my best interests at heart. I stopped believing that everything in my history books was true.

In short, I became very skeptical. Of everything. To this day, I believe almost nothing of what I read online or anywhere else if I don’t have four or five sources to back it up.

I’m not sure why it pushed me toward the conservative side of things. Perhaps it was the fact that I had just found out that the modern liberal political and educational establishment had been lying to me for my entire life.

It’s amazing to me what one little book can do. And by the way, I still highly recommend the book. Who knows, maybe you’ll have the same reaction I did.

Thoughts on not dating until I was 21

I’m one of those weirdos who never dated until they were an adult. At this point, I’m starting to think that was better for me.

A little background first. I was homeschooled, and although I went to a small co-op all through high school, my dating pool was somewhat… shall we say, limited. There were a few cute guys around, but either they weren’t interested in me, or I was far too focused on school to notice any interest. So I ended up not dating in high school.

Honestly, looking back at the person that I was then, I’m really glad. I was busy figuring out who I was and learning to make friends again after getting bullied heavily in middle school. I didn’t know what kind of guy I needed or what kind of relationship I wanted. I firmly believe that if I’d dated back then, one of us would have ended up with our heart broken.

Speaking of broken hearts, getting one seems to be a general expectation for life as a young person. I’m not sure why, but our society seems to expect young people to go through break-ups and get their hearts broken. My guess is that it probably has something to do with the fact that a lot of teens and even younger kids do date.

Kids and teens are dumb. That’s just a fact of life. I was dumb then too. If you stick two young and dumb people together that early in life, it seems inevitable that someone’s going to get hurt. Thankfully, I avoided that.

Now, I’m not saying it was all sunshine and roses. I was lonely a lot of the time and after I was single for, oh you know, all my life, I started really wanting someone to love. But after all that, finally finding that person is all the more sweeter for the waiting.

It’s wonderful getting to be with someone as mature as I am. Sure, we can be goofy and playful at times, but at the same time, we can avoid the petty, immature, angsty teen stuff that we’d have been going through if we had been dating in high school. High school is an scary time, and adding dating someone just as young and inexperienced as you on top of everything else you are going through can put a lot of pressure on a person.

I want to say that there’s nothing inherently wrong with dating when you’re younger. For some people, it can work out. But for many more the pressure of life as a teen ends up being more than enough to force a break-up.

So if there are any younger people out there reading this blog and you’re feeling bad because you’ve never dated anyone, stop. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until you are older. One day, you will understand more about yourself, your beliefs, and what you need in a significant other.

And trust me, when you do find that special person, it will be all the more amazing for having waited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tale of two songs: “How to Save a Life” and “Oh My Dear”

*Obligatory “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. My bad; I have a life now. Yes, I think it’s weird, too.” statement*

I’m not sure how many people are going to know these two bands or songs, so I’ll post the videos for them just in case. I’ll be analyzing Tenth Avenue North’s “Oh My Dear”…

 

 

…and The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.”

 

I happen to have both songs on my Spotify list, and the other day, they came up one after the other. I realized how similar they were to each other. Or rather, that they were about the same situation, but taken in opposite directions with different results.

Both songs start out with the protagonist of the song having a friend who has some secret sin and needs to repent. But the protagonist of each song deals with confronting this person in completely different ways.

First, I’ll look at The Fray’s song. The song begins by the protagonist inviting the friend to talk about his issues. It’s obvious from the beginning of the song that neither party wants to be there. The protagonist feels an obligation to confront his friend. He’s not doing it out of love.

As the song continues, the protagonist starts to wonder why he came. The friend isn’t listening and even worse, the protagonist isn’t listening.

The protagonist tries to “slip past” his friend’s defenses, but he isn’t interesting in listening to any reasons that he may have for doing what he did. All the protagonist seems interested in is telling his friend again what’s he’s been doing wrong. Which he apparently already knows.

The song ends with the protagonist telling his friend that he can either “drive until you lose the road” or ditch all of his other friends (personally, neither of those sound like good alternatives to me). As the chorus plays one more time, the protagonist wonders where he went wrong and realizes that maybe he might have kept his friend if he had taken the time to listen.

The song is beautiful and sad and paints a completely different picture from the one in “Oh My Dear.” Even with just the names of the songs, you can start to understand what makes these two songs so different, despite similar subjects.

The first song refers to the friend as “a life.” The term is cold and clinical, which is basically the approach that the protagonist takes to dealing with his friend’s secret sin. But in the second song, the friend is called “my dear.” This person is someone special to the protagonist, and he talks about loving his friend no matter what. This, I think, is what makes the difference in the scenario that follows.

From the beginning, the protagonist is more patient and caring with his friend. Instead of calling up the friend to confront her, he calls up just to talk. In this case, it’s the approachability of the protagonist that makes the friend want to reveal her secrets.

The protagonist of “Oh My Dear” goes to extraordinary lengths, walking for miles in the snow to personally talk to his distraught friend. And when he gets there, he doesn’t try to run down the list of things the friend is doing wrong. He listens, patiently.

He holds his friend as she shakes and reassures her that nothing she has done will stop him from still loving her. He tells her that he isn’t going anywhere until she gets everything off her chest.

And she does. She tells him the secrets that have been eating her up inside, and instead of offering judgment, he offers compassion. He stays up with her all night, because he knows that that’s how you save a friend’s life.

It’s a lesson that the protagonist of the first song learned too late (and if you read between the lines of the music video, tragically too late).

I love these two songs because I think we can learn a lot from both of them. The truth is that life can be messy. Sometimes, patiently waiting won’t be how you save a life. Sometimes, people need tough love.

But more often than not, I think, learning to listen is the better option. In our loud, judgmental culture, offering to quietly listen might just be what a friend needs to be able to confront what they already know they’re doing wrong.

Your Guide to Hiking the Devil’s Marbleyard (plus some misadventures)

Hey guys, here’s the first post for the new blog. Enjoy!


Welcome to the very first adventure post of this blog. Or, as the case may be, misadventure post.

This week, I got to explore Devil’s Marbleyard about 50 minutes outside of Lynchburg. It’s a gorgeous location, and one heck of a hike. I don’t want you to get the idea from the title that this hike was a total washout, now. It was actually mostly a ton of fun, but with a few, um, hurdles, along the way…


To read the rest head over to the Exploring the Seven Hill blog now.

There shall be your introduction to the man I’m calling “The Boyfriend.” He’ll show up here a lot, I’m sure.

And while you’re there, check out the cool new interactive map under the Hiking tab. It’s going to be a lot cooler once I have a few more pins on it.

My hands hurt

Hello lovely readers. I am happy to report that I am finally done with my classes and projects for this semester. I’m officially a senior in college, but sheesh it was a long haul.

Looking back, it doesn’t look like there actually wasn’t that much to do in my last two weeks of classes. I didn’t have any major video or audio projects to finish. I only had 3 final exams, two of which I could take on my own and open book, and two that I could flunk almost completely and still get an A. So what was it that inspired today’s title?*

The writing.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I had 140 pages of screenwriting to do in the last two weeks. That’s about 10 pages a day. I had two 25-page sitcom episodes (one of which ended up being 30 pages) and two 45-page dramatic TV show episodes to write. Considering how long the one sitcom episode ended up being, I suppose it’s more accurate to say I had 145 pages of screenwriting.

Either way, far too much writing to do in such a short amount of time.

Now understand, screenwriting isn’t like regular writing. The words are more spread out on the page, so it doesn’t take as long to do a full page. Still, 145 pages is a ton. The average feature film is 120 pages.

Honestly, as much as I like screenwriting, I’m a little sick of it right now. In screenwriting, you can’t get into the head of the character. You can only describe what the audience will see and hear, not what the characters are thinking or feeling. And I’m tired of describing things.

I’m going to take a little break from screenwriting for a while, I think. I want to do some storytelling that lets me get deep into the thoughts and emotions of my characters. That’s good news for any of you following my fantasy story, Erya, on Wattpad. You’ll probably be getting some new chapters in the next few weeks.

If you’re interested in seeing some of my writing in action, check out this show pilot that my friends and I made over spring break. It’s called Flicker, and I wrote the screenplay.

I’ll probably do a separate post on Flicker by itself, and I’m planning to have our director appear on my podcast.**

*The other cause of the sore hands is a combination of playing with my new fidget spinner (so addictive) too much, and hiking up some boulders and scuffing my palms up.

**Yes, I know I forgot to upload this past Sunday’s episode. You’ll get a double episode next week in penance. One on Sunday, and one on Wednesday. Stop throwing tomatoes already.