Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 5 Comics of 2012

I probably buy too many comics, but I can’t help myself. I’ve been a fan of the medium since I was a kid buying Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books. Every time I’m in a comic book store I get so enticed by everything I see. Sometimes it’s the art, other times it’s the writing, often it’s both. I’ll take a chance on almost any book and more often than not I get roped in for the long haul. I did try to cut down a little bit in 2012, but then Brian Wood decided to come out with several new titles, and there was a Marvel crossover that I couldn’t miss due to it’s major involvement of the X-Men and it’s promise to potentially reverse one of the biggest X-universe plot twists of the last decade. All this along with the random new titles I pick up and the fact that I’ve gotten into several Star Wars books now, has me spending a lot of time and money on my comic book habit. I enjoy it though and there are honestly a lot of quality books in the market today. As long as I’m being entertained I guess I can’t complain and these 5 are some of the comics that have entertained me most this past year.

1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I never got into Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan’s much lauded 2002-2008 running monthly book. Even still, I always recognized his talent and when I heard about Saga and saw Fiona Staple’s brilliant artwork I knew it was a book I’d want to be picking up. Saga is a science fiction epic that’s part Romeo and Juliet, part Star Wars, and entirely captivating. Saga tells the story of Hazel, a child born to parents whose worlds are at war with each other. The tale to this point is told by Hazel in 3rd person from some point in the future, as her parents attempt to flee the forces who see their union and offspring as an abomination. Vaughan’s writing is natural and succinct and his characters feel remarkably three dimensional without ever overstating themselves. Fiona Staples art is a wonder to behold, capturing gestures and emotion with spare, balanced line work and brilliant washes of bold color. Out of 2012’s new books this is the one that overall has impressed me the most on all fronts.

2. Conan the Barbarian by Brian Wood and various artists
I’ve been a fan of Brian Wood’s since Channel Zero way back when I was in college and since the end of his relationship with DC/Vertigo last year he’s been busy putting a lot of new work into the field. I should start off by saying that I’ve never been a fan of Conan, but neither have I ever held any ill will toward the property. Pre-war sci-fi and fantasy has always been an area that I’ve never really warmed to and (despite mainly being known due to to movies from the 80’s) Conan as a property falls into this category. Brian Wood is one of very few writers that I will follow to any book however and based on his excellent medieval Norse-themed book Northlanders I figured I had a good read on what I could expect from a Conan book. In Conan the Barbarian Wood uses his Northlanders experience to color his writing, but approaches the character and the world of Hyboria from a direction tailored specifically to them. The end result combines Wood’s expertise with tone and depth of character with Robert Howard’s pulp mythology in a way that satisfies and strengthens both.

3. Wolverine and the X-Men by Jason Aaron and various artists
At it’s heart, X-Men comics are about two things: 1)A persecuted minority that seeks to protect a world that hates and fears them and 2)Teenagers with newly developed super powers going to a school where they can be educated in peace and learn how to control their abilities. Wolverine and the X-Men focuses mainly on the later and concentrates of the lighter, but also more outrageous aspects of the setup in featuring both heroes and villains with bizarre powers. The whole thing takes on an almost Joss Whedon-esque feeling as it recalls both the absurdity and seriousness of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Teen mutants find themselves navigating the rigors of high school while simultaneously saving the world, all before study hall. The end result is incredibly fun and easily one of the best things to happen to the X-Men (and Wolverine) in a long time.

4. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Nobody ever says they’re a Hawkeye fan. In his own words he's "an orphan raised by carnies, fighting with a stick and string from the paleolithic era." A comic about Hawkeye’s life when he’s not with the Avengers should be about as successful as Baywatch: Nights but (perhaps knowing this) Fraction manages to make Hawkeye off duty, more interesting than he has any right to be. Armed not just with arrows, but with wit and guile, Fraction and Aja illustrate Hawkeye’s extra-Avenger actions in brilliant fashion as he deals with both the absurd and mundane. All of a sudden a character that most people previously couldn’t have cared less about becomes part Spiderman, part James Bond, and part Robinhood, all wrapped in a slick package by Fraction’s excellent dialog and Aja’s uncluttered, expressive visuals.

5. The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Not a new comic for 2012, but one that is still going despite what seems to be the culling of DC’s Vertigo label. Unwritten has been one of my favorite books ever since I picked it up on a whim several years ago. If there is any one book that can claim to have picked up the mantle of Sandman and be worthy of it, this is it. Following the misadventures of Tom Wilson as he unravels the secret truth about the nature of story and his own mysterious origins, Unwritten glories in the world of narratives much in the same way Sandman often did. In 2012 Carey and Gross stepped up their game in a big way both in publishing what I believe will serve as the climatic arc to the overall story, but also 6 additional support stories (featuring different artists) that filled in a lot of the blanks we had been left with to that point. As 2013 dawns, Unwritten marches boldly into it’s next chapter and with the stakes higher than ever I find myself eagerly awaiting each issue and whatever revelations may be held within their pages.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 5 Games of 2012

2012 was a decent year for games if not a slow year for games. We seem to have settled into a bi-yearly cycle for the release of numerous major blockbusters and this past year was the off year for those releases. A look ahead at 2013 has a number of high profile titles slated to launch before the end of FY12 and are very likely to be the last such titles we see during this console cycle with the all-but-confirmed announcement and launch of at least one next gen console likely to happen before the end of the year.

While the crop of titles was smaller this year the quality was high and innovation still strong. 2012 was the year of crowd funding, with several recognizable developers utilizing Kickstarter to great effect in getting their next projects funded. This however, along with the continued strengthening of the indie games scene, has done nothing to heal the divide between various gamer factions. Forums and comment sections on gaming sites all over the internet have been constantly embroiled in idealogical shouting matches of mainstream vs indie vs old school.

It seems that gaming has finally developed a very vocal elitist class that claims to abhor modern mainstream marketing techniques such as DLC and F2P/MTX while championing niche throwback titles and bold anti-publisher actions by developers. While its an interesting conversation to be sure, several things remain to be seen:

  1. Will these elitist gamers put their money where their mouths are and withdraw support from mainstream triple-A developers and publishers?
  2. Are the numbers of these gamers as large as they seem or are they just loud?
  3. Are these gamers willing to support smaller, less cutting edge games, that look poorer, but meet their exacting aesthetic requirements or will they expect the same type of experience that big developers require millions of dollars and thus a broad audience to support?

I tend of believe that most of these people are all talk and while I want a Baldur’s Gate style throwback RPG and a massive open-ended space sim too, I don’t realistically expect these things to look and feel the same as a game that has a much broader appeal. It’s going to be interesting to see as some of these crowd funded projects begin bearing fruit how the elitist gamer community and the non-funding audience responds and what that may mean for all strata of development going forward.

Enough industry talk though. These are my Top 5 favorite games of 2012:

1. Mass Effect 3 by BioWare
Controversy surrounding the original version of the ending aside, Mass Effect 3 concluded the epic trilogy in a truly triumphant fashion. Taking some of the best aspects of ME1 and 2 and adding a few new tricks of it’s own, ME3 was a solid, enjoyable experience from start to finish. The game and the story didn’t let off the throttle for one moment and the stakes were always high. Not since the Baldur’s Gate series had I felt such affection for a group of characters in a video game both due to their excellently written dialog and personalities, but also due to the decisions I had made for and with them throughout each game. ME3 ended Commander Shepard’s story in grand style and has thusly earned a place of honor in my collection.

2. The Walking Dead by Telltale Games
After a couple lackluster titles with Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and yes … Law and Order, Telltale came back in a big way in 2012 with the first 5-part series of adventure games based on The Walking Dead comics. I always tell people that The Walking Dead comic is not about zombies, it’s about people and there just happen to be zombies in it. The Walking Dead game apes its source material perfectly in this respect with the zombies mainly being a device to put people into desperate situations and to force the player to make hard decisions. And boy will you make some hard decisions in The Walking Dead. It’s not always a choice between good and bad either, often it there is no good choice and more often than not the consequences will catch up to you in the end. It’s hard to talk in specifics about The Walking Dead without spoiling a game that’s full of honestly surprising twists. Suffice it to say that every element of this game from the art style, the game design, the cinematics, the writing, acting, and sound all come together to create an emotional tour-de-force that everyone should play at least once.

3. Far Cry 3 by Ubisoft Montreal
Like films that only play in New York and LA in the last week of the year in order to squeak by for Oscar consideration, Far Cry 3 launched at the beginning of December and immediately made an impact on numerous game critics. The thing here is that even if it had launched earlier I’m betting it would have made just as big an impact on many people’s year end considerations. The format is simple enough: Assassin’s Creed 2 meets Far Cry 2 and it’s a combination that works very well. What pushes this title above and beyond however is the main characters (like the brilliantly acted antagonist Vaas) and the story subtext. On the surface this is a very clear cut story of an outsiders getting into trouble abroad and going native to get out again. Far Cry 3 plays subtly with metaphor and allegory however making it’s beauty much more than skin deep. Add into this mix a protagonist that actually grows as a characters (not a common occurrence in this genre) and you've got something unique and refreshing on display here.

4. XCom: Enemy Unknown by Firaxis
The original XCom and it’s few immediate expansions/spin-offs are classics held in the highest regard by PC gamers over a certain age. Sadly in the decade+ since the last traditional XCom game, no one has been able to continue the tradition in a satisfying manner. When Firaxis announced that there were taking a stab at the franchise the PC gaming world breathed a sigh of relief. This new XCom is both homage and a much-needed modern update to the franchise and brings all the core elements one who has played the original would expect, but with modern trappings and manicuring. The end result is a product that new and old XCom fans can both get excited about.

5. FTL by Subset Games
Somehow 2012 ended up being the year of the spaceship crew simulation with games like Artemis, Spaceteam, and FTL each offering their own interpretation of managing the perils and teamwork required to pilot a sci-fi craft through space. FTL is simple to play, but difficult to master as it simulates operating a space craft on the run from an enemy fleet. The simulation is straightforward enough: players choose a craft and on each turn they plot their course through the galaxy. At each stop there is a chance of running into enemies, friends, plunder, or nothing at all making each jump a potential risk. In order to improve one’s chances however qualified captains need to upgrade their ship’s systems and purchase new equipment and that requires scrap gained from successfully navigating these chance encounters. While this is all straightforward enough, players will ultimately have to face the mothership of the enemy fleet, a multi encounter battle that’s seriously hard even on easy difficulty settings. It’s this difficulty that drives the deeper elements of the game and even as the player crashes and burns they’re already thinking of how best to outfit their ship for another go.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top 5 Films of 2012

I say it every year, but this time I mean it “what a shite year for movies”. I honestly don’t know what the problem is anymore because it’s not just Hollywood, even the independent films were lacking this year. Are there no good scripts out there? Is the creative talent pool running dry? Have we run out of things to say?

Overall I didn’t see as many movies as I should have in 2012 and so far 2013’s movie-going outlook appears to be slim as well. Of the movies I did see I don’t recall being blown away by anything. A good litmus test of how much impact a movie has made with me is whether I decide that I need to own it on home video or not and there were precious few movies in 2012 that I felt met that criteria. Even among my Top 5 there are few I feel I need to own although I’d certainly be interested in seeing them all again.

1. Argo
Brilliant casting, brilliant script, brilliant directing; Argo hit all the right marks. This is a film that could have been plodding and arduous or extremely overwrought, but Affleck and crew found the perfect pitch with which to make this story feel both historically accurate and dramatically compelling. The final half hour of this film was the most tense I’ve felt in a movie theater in quite some time and I loved every minute of it. I’m glad that Affleck recently confirmed that he is not planning on running for senate anytime soon, because as a director I think he’s really coming into his own if Argo is any indication.

2. The Cabin in the Woods
I’m not one of those Joss Whedon apologists. I love Firefly, but Buffy never did it for me and Dollhouse (while I enjoyed it) fell flat in many respects. I say this so you understand that I can view Whedon’s work objectively unlike say ... Bruce Willis, who can do no wrong in my eyes. When it comes to horror I’m more a fan of the meta aspects than I am the genre tropes. I like Romero’s work because of his social commentary. I like Evil Dead 2 and From Dusk Till Dawn because of their gratuitous, almost satirical gore and genre exploitation. The Cabin in the Woods is the ultimate meta horror film, but if it were just the script that served to sell it then it wouldn’t have worked. Instead, every aspect of this movie comes together like clockwork in order to sell the story and serve the meta-narrative with a payoff that is totally worth the price of admission.

3. Wreck-It Ralph
Based on several of the critic’s reviews of this film I have to assume that if you don’t have a history with or affinity arcade gaming then much of this film’s charm misses the mark. As someone with an extensive gaming background, this movie hit the sweet spot for me both in terms of subject, art direction, script, and acting. Yes, the cameo’s and inside jokes were clever and entertaining, but I felt the film did a great job of being more than just gamer kitsch and in telling a classic tale in a modern trapping of overcoming adversity while being true to oneself.

4. Chronicle
The trailers for this film almost ruined it for me. It really wasn’t the film’s fault either, rather it was the fact of there having been several “moody teenagers with super powers” movies over the last few years that were nothing more than excuses to hook young, beautiful actors up to wires and try to catch a crossover dude-brah and comic geek audience. It wasn’t until I looked past the “yo bro, I can fly!” surface layer of Chronicle that I realized there was something of substance there. While this isn’t a complex movie and the found footage/faux documentary style (while appropriate) was stretched to the limits of believability, the message and the execution remains un-muddled and works in the film’s favor. The end result is a distilled, but successful version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira a modern classic using super powers as a metaphor for adolescence and the difficulties of responsibility associated with becoming an adult.

5. The Master
Out of all the films that I saw in 2012 this is the one that I’ve probably thought about the most after leaving the theater. This is a heavy, layered piece of art that is worthy of both discussion and repeated viewing. The Master is what an art house film should be. This is the kind of movie that asks a lot of the audience both while they are in the theater and after they leave. Most audiences don’t like to have to work that hard for a film and for those people there is still a compelling narrative, expertly acted and directed, although somewhat cryptic in its resolution. For the braver moviegoer, The Master rewards deeper inspection and dissection and provides a wealth of detail and subtext to be explored.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Mainstream, indie, and even the indie-mainstream have been bereft of good, major releases this year. When the best that outlets like Paste and Pitchfork can muster are albums by Best Coast, Beach House, Tame Impala, Alt-J, and the Lumineers, it’s obvious that we’ve been dealt a poor hand in terms of new music on the national level.

Overall it feels like the indie-mainstream in particular is waiting for a new movement. The Arcade Fire sound-alikes (which used to be Modest Mouse sound-alikes) have finally worn out their welcome. New Grass (or Banjo-core as I prefer to call it) never had the ability to sustain more than a few bands at a time and with Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, and the Lumineers on the scene, that quota has been filled. Like the generic “techno” outbreak in the mid-late 90’s, dubstep isn’t ever going to catch fire in a big enough way nationally and anyway, most of what people are calling dubstep isn’t really dubstep to begin with. And finally, the wispy synth-ish indie-pop movement (see: Alt-J, Tame Impala, and especially M83) isn’t worth taking a second look at and won’t last very long unless something changes.

The airwaves are bored and I couldn’t have picked a better year to dive head first into the Austin local music scene. In 2012 four out of five of my top picks come from artists local to the Austin, TX area. For several of these groups this will be the 3rd or 4th time I’m writing critically about their albums, having covered them for OVRLD earlier in the year. Given that fact, I ask you to forgive me if my blurbs about those albums seems lifted from my previous articles.

1. Balcones by Zlam Dunk
While never intended to be the band’s swan song, “Balcones” nonetheless performs admirably in this regard. Having recently called it quits, Zlam Dunk’s 2012 EP saw the group maturing, both instrumentally and lyrically. While still offering a unique blend of technique and danceable punk grooves, the absence of their debut’s synths along with the return of Charlie Day’s impassioned, raspy vocals create a more personal, introspective space on Balcones. There is a definite theme of coming into adulthood and striking out on one’s own here and while it leaves the EP feeling darker than Zlam Dunk’s previous work, it’s all the more powerful for it.

For fans of: At the Drive-In, Q and Not U, Cinemechanica

2. Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene by The Capitalist Kids
Austin’s prolific political punks came back this year with their 3rd full length and it may just be their best yet. Here’s the kicker though: it’s full of love songs! “Lessons on Love…” skates gracefully between political snark, finger-pointing anthems, and blisteringly fast ballads in a way that few bands could accomplish. The Capitalist Kids manage to find the goldilocks zone with every song in providing politics without being preachy and love songs without the sap. If you can’t get your toes tapping to this album then you may be a robot or possibly a Republican.

For fans of: Bad Religion, Screeching Weasel, Green Day

3. Arab Spring by Literature
I think it’s safe to call this album Austin’s sleeper hit of 2012. “Arab Spring came out of nowhere early in the year and this first full-length LP by Austin’s Literature has subsequently ended up on the “best of” lists of many major local outlets. Literature play a lo-fi, punkish brand of jangle-pop that’s both catchy and playful. Never overproduced, but laden with poppy hooks, Arab Spring skirts the line between old-school punk and pop like a tightrope walker. The end result is an incredibly catchy collection of songs with a very genuine, DIY feel.

For fans of: Polaris (the band that did the songs for Pete and Pete), Vampire Weekend, Talking Heads

4. All Our False Starts by Pswingset
For me to compare an album to the mid-Atlantic post-punk music scenes of the late 90’s/early 00’s is high praise indeed and in my mind Pswingset’s debut LP “All Our False Starts” is worthy of no less. This album is full of the kind of jangly, technical, minor-key, post-punk music that scored much of my 20’s and continues to be a favorite. There’s a moodiness to All Our False Starts that while subtly reminiscent of mid-late 90’s emo, is at once more mature and less affected. The end result as presented on this LP is both gripping and chill.

For fans of: Shudder to Think, Bats and Mice, Sunny Day Real Estate

5. Fang Island by Fang Island
Despite being my #2 most listened to album of 2012, Fang Island’s self-titled sophomore release has to come in at #5 on this list simply for the fact that it’s actually a 2010 release. Fang Island is not your typical instrumental rock band. For one thing, they often have lyrics (though if their 2012 release “Major proves anything it’s that they’re more interesting without them.) For another thing, this is the most positive, feel-good instrumental music you’ll ever hear. Where most instrumental bands tend to lean towards meandering, building epics, Fang Island aim to play fast, loud, and fun. This self-titled album is the perfect demonstration of what these guys do best and though it’s a quick listen that just means there’s plenty of time to hit “repeat”.

For Fans of: People who fall within the middle of a venn diagram of pop punk and post rock

Sunday, December 30, 2012

One, Two, Three, Four Who's Punk/Geek, What's The Score?

This article on The Mary Sue discusses one of 2012's biggest pot stirring topics in the world of geekdom: the fake geek girl. I'll let the article speak for itself as the first 2/3 does a great job of introducing and analyzing the issue at hand. The part that really interests me comes after the line "Why does the impostor  who represents a small fraction of our community, seem to have grabbed so much focus and power?"

As a lifelong geek and a more recently self-identifying punk, I'm very familiar with the witch hunt mentality that develops around seeking out fakes and impostors in outcast social groups. The punk world particularly has dealt with the issue since the music first moved out of the basements and garages and onto the airwaves where anyone could hear it. Arguments over who or what punk really is still rage to this day. There are even punk songs about the topic such as Jawbreaker's "Boxcar", wherein Blake Schwarzenbach advocates dropping the labels completely because who cares?

The article covers pretty much all the bases in exploring why this behavior occurs. What really interests me though (and what I'd love to see someone with the appropriate background delve into) is the anthropological underpinnings of it all. What is it about outcast groups that seems to drive them to so vehemently weed out impostors and how far back in the human psyche does this reach?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My 2012 Music Stats

When I tell people how much I like music, I don’t think they really get an idea of how much music I actually acquire and consume in a given year. Here’s some stats from this past year on what my music purchases and listening actually encompassed:

1289 new tracks across 154 new albums by 95 artists 47 of whom I had never heard before. And I make it a point to listen to every new album I acquire at least twice.

Not counting untracked sources like and other web-based streams, I listened to almost 4000 unique tracks in 2012. At a median of about 5 times per track that's about 70000 minutes (1167 hours) or nearly 49 straight days of music listening.

According to my Top 10 most listened to artists of 2012 are:

  1. Quiet Company
  2. Fang Island
  3. Zlam Dunk
  4. The Sour Notes
  5. The Capitalist Kids
  6. Coheed & Cambria
  7. Markov
  8. Wilco
  9. Literature
  10. Mother Falcon

My Top 10 most listened to albums of 2012 are:

  1. Quiet Company - We Are All Where We Belong
  2. Fang Island - s/t
  3. Zlam Dunk - Noble Ancestry
  4. Literature - Arab Spring
  5. Zlam Dunk - Balcones
  6. Pswingset - All Our False Starts
  7. Markov - This Quiet
  8. Mother Falcon - Alhambra
  9. Dear Landlord - Dream Homes
  10. The Capitalist Kids - Lessons on Love, Sharing, and Hygiene

And my Top 10 most listened to tracks of 2012 (if I only count the top track for each band) are:

  1. Coheed & Cambria - Domino the Destitute
  2. Quiet Company - Everything Louder Than Everything Else
  3. Fang Island - Sideswiper
  4. Zlam Dunk - Midnight Runners
  5. Literature - Grifted
  6. Pswingset - Husk
  7. The Sour Notes - Hot Pink Flares
  8. The Calm Blue Sea - We Happy Few
  9. Markov - Lucky Me
  10. Marmalakes - White Height

Statistically speaking 2012 has been my biggest year for new music since 2009 when I first started keeping these kinds of stats. With 8 albums already on my 2013 list, I’d say I’m off to a good start for next year as well. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Greetings from the Rook Islands

I've managed to spend about 27 hours in the world of Ubisoft's Far Cry 3 up to this point and just when I thought the game had shown me all it had to offer, it pulled something new out of it's bag of tricks. Far Cry 3 drops you off on the Rook Islands as Jason Brody, some rich, young douche bag who has unwittingly gotten himself captured (along with his rich, young douche bag friends) by south Asian pirates/slavers/drug runners. Jason escapes his captors and with the help of an oppressed native population, begins a journey to rescue his friends and retake the islands. All the while Jason actually grows as a character, which while a foreign concept to most FPS games, is par for the course in a game like Assassin's Creed, which Far Cry 3 draws heavily from in more ways than one.

The game play format for Far Cry 3 will be familiar to anyone who has played through Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed games. The player is dropped onto a map that is largely covered by a "fog of war" and that can only be removed by climbing towers in order to get a bird's-eye view of the area. Each uncovered map section has various side missions and activities that are available once uncovered and after a few hours of play it's easy for even the casual player to have tried each of these activities. For the average player I assume the pacing is rather even as the main story takes them from one island section to the next and frequently offers breaks wherein side missions can be obtained and animals can be hunted to craft new equipment. For the hardcore explorer type like myself, I spent much of my first 20 hours uncovering every section of the northern Rook island, liberating every pirate-held camp, and crafting every item available. To say that I've been playing this game "methodically" would be an understatement. The only thing that forced me to move the main story along was the fact that large sections of the RPG-style skill trees are locked by mission completion. You would think even the main mission would be boring to me by this point (having bought, fired, and customized every non-unlockable gun in the game) but I love the AC-style of open world game and as an explorer I'm a huge meta-gamer too. I would often partake in the game's existing challenges such as liberating a camp (killing all the bad guys) without being seen, heard, or having an alarm raised, but I also created my own challenges such as doing to the above using only the bow and arrow. Still (truth be told) by hour 24 I was starting to hit a bit of a wall.

With the southern island locked to me and naught but a few relics left to uncover on the northern island I finally set about progressing the rest of the main storyline. I was on the set of missions that take you to "Badtown" on the eastern half of the northern island, which had some interesting objectives beyond just killing pirates such as using a flame thrower to burn pot fields. Novelty aside, I was still just doing "shoot the bad guy" missions and each mission was more or less a self-contained experience. It was the next set of 3 or 4 missions that acted a shot in arm for me however. Having found that one of Jason's friends had been sold to a ne'er-do-well in the aforementioned Badtown, I embarked on a set of missions to bargain for his freedom. The bad guy wanted me to obtain some ancient knife that had been lost on the island centuries before by a Chinese conqueror. What followed was a chain of missions that (while still having the Assassin's Creed meets FPS feel) threw a heaping portion of Uncharted into the mix as well. I was still killing the occasional pirate, but I was doing so in cave systems and ruins that opened up to entirely new set pieces ranging from the rusted skeleton of a WWII-era boat, to an overgrown subterranean temple-like structure. The experience of this very interconnected mission chain reinvigorated my game play experience, both reminding me that I had only scratched the surface of the game's main story, but also showing me that Far Cry 3 still had new challenges and experiences in store for me. For a game that I'm already quite fond of, I find myself looking forward to the next 20+ hours with renewed vigor.