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Flames and Fire

In a hand he wielded a sword, a sword of gold and sapphire .

In another he grasped a shield, a shield drenched in flames and fire.

Hacking and slashing his way through an army of zombies and ghouls.

He came unto an enchanted forest infested with living dead wolves.

As he rested taking a breath, a breath this brave bladen.

Glazing upon a cobble well saw an angel, a fair maiden.

The angel inquired, feeling the knight’s despair ,of his quest.

Burned alive by he beast were his unborn child and wife dearest.

Plunging herself in well bid him farewell the angel of avenge.

But not before she warned the knight of his shallow revenge.

Thunders screeched across heavens, devouring combustion filled the air.

All creatures fled the scene, our warrior hero nay budged a hair.

With eyes as that of a demon and his amor weak and frail.

He slid his vengeful sword through the mighty beast’s grail.

Upon returning victorious the crib sits silent just as before.

He roams the streets at night piecing his heart back together,

whore after whore.

INDIA

India is the salt that adds flavour to the world

Makes it sweet for it is sugar as well

India is diverse

Is every religion

Is every ethnicity

Is every language

Is every culture

India is equality

India is vegetarian

Respectful and humane when not

India is the cow whose milk is golden

This golden milk is paint and painting the galaxy

India is a priest.

This priest is humble and his purpose is pure, as pure as Ganga

India is a missionary whose mission is peace and love

He stays still and patient and waits for the truth to be revealed

And it will be revealed

India is a mother

Her cradle is warm

We are no longer infants

But her love is eternal and greatest of all

India is a woman

This woman is educated

This woman is beautiful

This woman is strong

This woman is powerful

This woman is independent

This woman is all women

India is a sword forged of titanium

This titanium is blood and sweat of oppressed millions

So this sword is blunt for greed

But this sword is sharpest against injustice

India is a diamond.

This diamond is raw and imperfect.

But this diamond is one of a kind

For this diamond is

Priceless.

Shadow

Once the Immortals judged the ways of a thousand mortals, a thousand mortals who did the same. Upon that very moment a shadow cast itself, a shadow with no name. It pierced the heart of two, one touched the sky, the other its twin. Floating across the crescent moon, fed upon the mortal’s sin.

It swiftly cast itself upon the primeval being marking the dreaded, unholy beginning. The primeval being, being the ultimate reality tried to reason, reason in futility.

All the Immortals and rulers of worlds, those primordial gods all trembled in fear. As the truth sank in golden eggs they realised the end was near.

Infesting petty minds it slithered its way to the core, the core of a weak and conflicted soul. Feeling a promise in great despair where no one did before. He embraced the shadow, the shadow forever, forever more.

Prayer

Poe stir up my core and

wake me up gloating and

just over the rainbow

just above Golgotha

Ginsberg keep me floating

Milton sole who understands me

let me dream, dreams of paradise

Gunn shield me, hugging me

hold the avalanche off

and become my touch

My master Whitman

make sure that i

am humble forevermore

Tagore make me endless

for you give me purpose

 

Arrival Review

Arrival

Arrival is a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and adapted by Eric Heisserer from the 1998 short story and novella “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. It stars Amy AdamsJeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker.

The Story

Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist (played by Amy Adams) is brought in by the U.S Army Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker) on the day twelve extraterrestrial spacecrafts land on seemingly random locations across the world. She is to join physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) at a military camp in Montana and help their team to decipher the alien language.

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Inside the spacecraft Louise and Ian make contact with two seven limbed aliens or “Heptapods” nicknamed Abbot and Costello who reveal that they have a written language made up of complicated circular symbols.

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Human in Heptapod

Louise’s mission is to understand the alien language and ask the extraterrestrials a simple question “Why are you here ?” the answer to which result in distrust among the nations of the world and political tensions rise. Communications between the UFO sites across the world are broken down and China prepares for an offensive move against the alien beings.

Louise at the Montana site however continues to learn the alien language. As she becomes more proficient she starts seeing vivid dreams and images leading her to make decisions that will affect not only her life but the future of humanity as well.

Not just another science-fiction film

In recent years there has been a surge in science-fiction movies that ditch the expected galactic adventure path and opt for a more subdued personal story path. Movies like “Interstellar” and “Gravity” do this particularly well. Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” is another great movie to join their ranks.

It is an intelligent and dramatic take on humanity’s first contact with alien life and not just an overblown spectacle like “Independence Day – Resurgence”. It is a film about grief and communication rather than lasers and spaceships. Where movies like “Gravity” and “Interstellar” explore the human survival instinct and space-time relation, language and communication are the major themes of “Arrival”. The idea of “Linguistic Relativity” of how understanding another language might alter our world view or cognition is masterfully realised through Louise, Amy Adam’s character. The nations of the world prepare their weapons as Louise strives to understand the alien language despite of fear among the people around her making a solid case for communication over conflict.

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Amy Adams at her best

The opening scenes of the movie shows Amy Adams’s character and her daughter “Hannah” and detail their life in a montage of images. Hannah’s birth, her brief life and eventually her death at an adolescent age from cancer. Throughout the movie you carry this information with you as you read Amy Adams’s expressions. The movie is not CGI heavy resulting in a space for her to work that is more grounded and relatable. This is quite possibly the most subtle yet complicated science-fiction movie performance I have seen and much of the films success is a testament of that.

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Music

Jóhann Jóhannsson began writing the score as shooting started, drawing on the screenplay and concept art for his inspiration. He developed one of the main themes in the first week using vocals and experimental piano loops. Max Richter‘s “On the Nature of Daylight” that opens and closes the film is much like the film, subtle but effective, and will surely stay with you.

Thank god for this film

Recently I have come across much hate for this movie on the internet and I must address that here. It seems that it is edgy now to hate on a movie that does not patronise but challenge the viewer in any way. “Arrival” is not a crowd pleaser movie. It is a movie that asks questions and challenges its viewers to ponder upon those questions. Like with every film there are plot holes here as well. But the movie was not intended to perfectly portray reality but to present the limits of communication, how individuals handle grief and understanding our place in the universe. I agree that the movie does focus too much on cramming everything into the film and might no longer seem as subtle as it should have been. And it does particularly suffer from a slow and uninteresting middle part sandwiched between an intriguing start and an excellent end. But honestly, after a parade of stupid films that exist only to please the masses “Arrival” is a breath of fresh air.

Crusader Kings II Review

Crusader Kings II

“Long live the king…..or perhaps not”

What is Crusader Kings II ?

Crusader Kings II is a Grand Strategy game set in the Middle Ages, developed by Paradox Development Studio and published by Paradox Interactive in 2012 as a sequel to Crusader Kings.

What is a Grand Strategy Game ?

An average PC gamer arguably spends more time playing MOBA, MMORPG or FPS games. But there are some who seek to rule over mighty and glorious empires through the ages, eXploring unknown lands, eXpanding their empires, eXpoliting the riches of the new world and eXterminating all possible threats. These people find what they are looking for in 4X games like the Civilization series, Age of Empires and so on. But within this broader genre of strategy games there is a type of game that strays away from set rules and takes things to a truly grand scale, and these are called Grand Strategy Games. Some of the most famous and well-known Grand Strategy games you might have heard of are the Total War series and the Europa Universalis series.

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If you have never played a grand strategy game and you just saw a few videos of people playing games like Europa Universalis IV or Hearts of Iron IV (Both by Paradox) on YouTube, i am pretty sure most of you are thinking these are definitely not my kind of games. The sheer amount of game mechanics  to master and the daunting User Interface (UI) coupled with almost sadistic difficulty is sure to put off almost anyone.

But in CK II you do not need to know what every single feature of the game is or what every single button of the UI does before jumping into the game. I have almost 150 hours in CK II and I am still finding out new things to do and new ways to approach the game. That is the beauty of CK II it is not a game that teaches you everything in a 10 min tutorial and then just keeps on repeating the same gameplay for the next 20 hrs. You are constantly surprised and amazed at the amount of gameplay you have to experiment with, in this most grandiose of sandboxes.

Crusader Kings II is essentially a Grand Strategy game…yes…But what sets this game apart from the rest is the fact that it is actually………*Drum Roll*………..

Game of Thrones.

(Ah….I see i have got your attention now)

But what is it, exactly ?

Wikipedia describes CK II as a “Dynasty Simulator” (where would we be, without Wiki). That is the most appropriate description I can think of for how CK II’s gameplay works.

You rule your kingdom or duchy or county as a dynasty i.e a single family line through hundreds of years of history.

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Surely, it must be easy being king

You start out as a single ruler of your choice between 1066 and 1453 AD (The old gods DLC pushes the playable starting date back to 867 AD), an independent tribal count in Ireland, a duke in India who is also on his king’s council or perhaps the emperor of the Byzantine Empire himself. And you literally have hundreds of characters to choose from within kingdoms stretching from Europe to parts of Asia and Africa. Once you have made your choice you are immediately given several tasks like get married (if not already married), make sure you have a legitimate heir (if not than this is your first priority), investigate the laws, council, diplomatic relations with neighboring rulers…..OK, ill stop….i can feel your eyes glaze over.

The point is, there is a lot to do here and none of it feels repetitive or micro-managerial. Most of these decisions are on a grander scale (Remember my Grand  Strategy lecture from before). It is a real-time game not turn based so most of your work is just making key, over-arching decisions at certain events and just sit back and watch as those events unfold. A few hours in and you will find yourself diplomatically arranging marriages of your relatives, keeping and eye on powerful families, plotting assassinations, acquiring new lands through political shenanigans or military might, going on a pilgrimage, tackling peasant revolts, sucking up to the pope and so on.

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Civilization VI Review

Civilization VI

“Just, One More Turn”

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a turn-based 4X video game and the sixth main title in the Civilization series. Civilization VI was developed by Firaxis Games, published by 2K Games, and distributed by Take-Two Interactive.

Every game in the civilization series has always been regarded as the best digital board game and it is certainly true for Civilization VI as well.

Art Style

Now one of the more controversial decisions of Civilization VI would have to be its use of a much more stylized look as opposed to a hyper realistic art style. And you will often hear people talking about how they were put off by it and was the one thing holding them back. To me Civilization has always been a cartoony/stylized game. Now i have not played any Civ games before Civ IV but i am pretty sure it never had a realistic art style.

I usually don’t talk about graphics regarding strategy games as it doesn’t really matters as much to me. When a strategy game is done right and you can read everything that is happening visually with ease on the map you hardly ever consider if the latest rendering techniques and the highest of poly count models are implemented. ” Graphics alone do not make a game ” there is certainly truth in that.

Excerpt from Civ VI’s Wiki about its art style.

The game definitely uses a more cartoonish look than that of Civ V, as according to Firaxis, with much deeper gameplay, they wanted to keep the visuals simple to avoid interfering with the complexity of gameplay. The graphics of individual units and buildings are being developed to be both readily-detailed when viewed in a tight zoom, while still being recognizable from other similar units when viewed from a distance. This necessitated the simpler art style to allow players to quickly recognize units and buildings while looking over a city without having to resort to user interface tooltips or similar distractions, according to Civ VI Senior Producer Dennis Shirk. Individual units were designed to include flair associated with the given civilization, such as applying different helmet styles to the same class of footsoldier units

Having worked as a video game artist I must say Civ VI will definitely “Stand the test of time” (sorry about that). Stylized graphics age particularly well compared to realistic graphics. The different “Districts” are easily distinguishable  and every building you build is physically represented on the map.The map is more readable, vibrant and varied as you move from mountains and rivers to floodplains, deserts and tundras. You don’t need to wait for pop-up tool tips to tell you more about what you are looking at, you get as much information as possible just by looking at the map. Coupled with excellent world generation these are definitely the most accessible and best looking maps i have seen in a 4X turn-based, strategy game. (Compare this to “Endless Legend”, a beautiful game but the map is just so confusing)

The unit icons do create a cluster f**k and you can barely see the map beyond those icons in the mid game where you have many units and the tech for creating Corps and Army isn’t unlocked yet. (But its more of a UI problem) I get why people don’t like the new cartoony look and I also understand that when you are paying for a AAA title you expect something jaw-dropping and cutting edge but I am definitely in favor of this new art style. And less intensive graphics means more players, (everyone does not own a really powerful desktop PC) that just makes sense.

Music

Composer Christopher Tin, who wrote “Baba Yetu”, the Grammy-winning theme song for Civilization IV, returned to write Civilization VIs main theme, “Sogno di Volare” (translated as “The Dream of Flight”).

Tin premiered the song at a London concert in July 2016. The game’s original score was written and orchestrated primarily by Geoff Knorr, who was assisted by Roland Rizzo, Griffin Cohen, and Phill Boucher. Each civilization features a musical theme or “core melody” with four variations that follow the era that the civilization is currently in. Each of these civilization specific themes also sound as genuine as they can be. The music grows in complexity and new instruments are introduced with every new era whilst maintaining the core melody providing a beautiful effect of progress and consistency throughout your playthrough.

Sean Bean, who narrated the early trailers of the game, also provided his voicework for quotes read to the player as they progress along the technology and civics tree and the leader introductions as well. It doesn’t get better than that. ( Spoiler : Sean Bean’s character dies in the trailer !! )

There really isn’t anything to complain about here. The main theme, “Sogno di Volare” is especially inspiring and memorable enough to make you come back to the game again and again. Although, nothing really compares with “Baba Yetu” and i assume some people will change their main theme with mods like they did with Civ V before.

Check out these live performances of “Baba Yetu” and “Sogno di Volare” by Christopher Tin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, London.

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Dark Souls Review

Dark Souls

“The True King”

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Dark Souls is an action-role playing video-game developed by FromSoftware and published by Namco Bandai Games. Despite of being the first game in the series, Dark Souls is actually the spiritual successor to the previously released, highly acclaimed Demon’s Souls making it the second installment in the “Souls” series of games.

If there ever was a game that was “Pure Game” its Dark Souls. It might not be the game that started it all or the one that changed it all but it definitely is the purest of them all.

Love it or Hate it

Among a group of gamers you will often find an unbalanced and at times biased opinion regarding Dark Souls. It is quite possible that more people hate the game than the ones that love the game. You either hate it or you hate it so much you love it because the one thing nobody can deny is the fact that the game is brutally difficult (Although it is relative) and that very fact is what drives many people away from the game or makes them keep coming back for more.

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The Story

The opening cut-scene establishes the premise of the game. The world once shrouded by grey fog and ruled by dragons is ended when “Gwyn” finds the first flame and a lord soul and then defeats the dragons with help of his allies beginning the Age of Fire. Over time the flames fade away and the undead curse rises, causing certain humans to continually resurrect upon death.

You play a cursed undead. Most of the story is told through text on items and world design and the rest is told in the form of cryptic and often creepy but masterfully written dialogue from characters within the game.

 

The Lore

The Dark Souls lore is so extensive that it couldn’t possibly be summed up in one post. It is one of the most interesting pieces of video-game literature out there and can stand on its own in front of any literary critic.

Check out this YouTube channel to learn more about the lore of Dark Souls.

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Everybody can appreciate the effort the developers put in to painstakingly craft such a rich, diverse and engaging story.

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