Friday, 26 April 2013

My Iron Man 3 (Spoiler-free) Review

So the summer movie blockbuster season has officially kicked off with the release of Iron Man 3 today, April 26 (in India), & I can definitely say it was the most awaited movie of the year for me. However, I was sadly left feeling quite disappointed by it.
 In this film, Tony Stark aka Iron Man played by the ever-awesome Robert Downey Jr comes face-to-face with his comic book nemesis, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), aided by AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) that is led by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). RDJ, as always, does a splendid job playing the snarky Stark & Kingsley does a great job with Mandarin as well. In fact I have no complains with the acting at all. It was pretty good all around.

The direction by Shane Black this time around was also pretty good. I like that the dynamics between the characters was explored more. The scenes between Stark & Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are an absolute joy to watch & there's a lot of meaningful interaction between them. The relationship between Tony & his army buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) was also dealt very well with them actually teaming up for more time in this movie! Rhodey now dons the Iron Patriot suit (that was worn by Norman Osborne in the comics) & does away with the "War" Machine title.
Even the scenes between Tony & the kid Harley (who helps him when he's in his rough spot) are heart-warming & funny. Which also brings me to the humor in the film. Obviously with Tony Stark AND RDJ involved there's bound to be a lot of witty retort & there sure is! Loads of laughs from beginning to end!

Another thing I did love about this film is the parallels they've tried to make with Tony dealing with his alcoholism in the comics. No, he isn't an alcoholic in this film (& I think Feige has also stated he never will be in the movies as it's also meant for kids), but he has to deal with his anxiety attacks from the aftermath of the New York attacks seen in The Avengers.

The action I think was very well executed. Despite being a 3D film, not once did I feel that the action was going too fast that it was hard for me to keep track of. None of it is edge-of-your-seat, but it is all pretty good nonetheless. The aerial stunt (that you see in the trailers) is the best of them all. It was also nice to see Pepper get some piece of the action as well! Also the Visual Effects was great all around & aided the action very well.

About the costumes, there's only two main ones to talk about- the Iron Man suit & Iron Patriot. The IP suit hands-down I loved it the first time I set eyes on it from the press release photos! The Iron Man suit took time to grow on me but I love it now as well too. Also there's a whole host of other suits as well in the mix & comics fans will definitely quite a few of them in the mix.

So then, you must be wondering where I was disappointed. Well it was primarily because of three reasons:

*The handling of The Mandarin. If you aren't a comic books fan & are just going for the movie because you like action movies or enjoyed the Iron Man & Avengers movies before then sure, you won't see a problem with it. But fans of the comics I think will definitely be disappointed with the Mandarin. Not with Kingsley's acting, mind you- just the handling of the character itself. I'm not going to say exactly what but you'll see it for yourselves when you watch the film. If Marvel thought of this as an "interesting twist"? I'm sorry, it just wasn't.

*You need some suspension of disbelief. Stark can't just keep jumping into suits & managing to land perfectly in them all the time. Sure he misses once, but I mean really? Also the end after the whole battle is won, what he does to restore Pepper's belief in him is just plain old preposterous I think, even for Stark!

*The end-credits scene. Trust me guys- no need for you to stay through to the end to watch it as it offers absolutely nothing new to tease about the future Phase 2 Marvel films.

All-in-all, good action, great acting & VFX, good laughs but for comics fans there definitely will be some let-downs. Also if you are planning on skipping the 3D & catching it in 2D, go for it as the 3D didn't really seem to add anything to the experience as such. For me, the movie was a 6/10.

Have you seen the film & disagree with my opinion? Let me know in the comments. And watch out for my other comic book movie reviews right here as & when they release this year. My next review will be for the Superman film, Man of Steel, releasing in June.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Marvel Avengers Alliance: Then & Now.

I know many of you Marvel Avengers Alliance addicts frequent this blog for all the MAA posts so I thought of doing something a bit different. In February, I completed a year of playing (& being addicted to) the game & am currently at level 250 with just 50 more levels to reach the much-coveted level 300! ^_^ But boy, has MAA changed from when it first started!

With over 1 million users currently playing MAA on Facebook, loads of new players have joined in. I felt it would be interesting to inform them about what drastic changes MAA has undergone to become the game we all know & love (as well as love to hate) today. Personally I fondly remember those good old days, when I'd forget which class is stronger than which, so I had to write the hierarchy list in a notepad file on my computer lol!


*Spec Ops- have now become highly awaited events in the game. A chance to get heroes for free (simply by completing a set of 25 tasks), powerful weapons, an additional 3 gold & 15 CPs (if you 5 star the 3 SO missions)? Who'd pass all that up? But the SO wasn't this fun when it first started. Spec Ops 1, wherein Mockingbird was up for grabs, was one big hot mess. I don't want to relive those horrors so you can read all the SO1 details here. Thankfully from SO2 onwards they changed the format to the 25 tasks routine that you see today. Also I love that uISO drops happen in ally visits since SO6 (but Playdom please switch off the ISO drops when an Ops has ended & start em up promptly when the next one begins)! SO6 has also added an interesting new twist called...

*Collections- In SO6 you had to collect lockboxes by completing the Magneto missions, doing certain SO deploys (especially those associated with specific heroes) & through roulettes & daily bonus. These boxes fetch you some possibly cool weapons & nifty ISOs along with the guaranteed comic cover (from 10x boxes) to help you recruit Magneto.
What I love the most about this is now the origin of the game is actively being brought into focus- comic books. Players who aren't into comics may just decide to buy these particular issues in order to get an insight into Erik Lensherr. Each box character will have unique collectible boxes associated with them. So the Magneto magnetic lockboxes will not work in trying to get the next box character. For more details on Collections in the SO6 check this. And for those of you still trying to get Mags, you can keep at it cos the opportunity to collect lockboxes doesn't end with the end of an SO. But new box characters are basically released at the start of new SOs. Watch out for the next box character in SO8!

*Daily Bonus- Started ever since SO3, it's a brilliant addition to the game! A chance to get 10 gold, 20-50 CPs, cool weapons, & ISOs for FREE? Who wouldn't agree that's awesome? The daily bonus (< current 1 left) used to only appear during SOs but it has since become a permanent feature in the game! So now you can try your hand at snagging some goodies everyday! Yeah, it most definitely is fixed, but it's still useful nonetheless.

*PVP- You gotta give props to Playdom for transforming PVP from something that everyone found pointless, to a now-challenging, rewarding event which has become the second most awaited in-game event after the SOs!
"PVP was pointless once?," you ask? What else would you have called it if all you ever got was 5 measly XP points for every win & 1 XP for every loss? That was all there ever was to PVP. Seriously! Gradually they started improving it. First they shocked us (in a VERY good way) with 3 big changes. (right>)
Then a few smaller ones- a different background on the main screen, varied backgrounds for every fight (thank God!). Then some more big & VERY useful changes- hero bonus, tweaks to that bonus. And then came the ultimate shocker: PVP tournaments! Seasoned players couldn't believe what PVP had become. The PVP tourney is currently in its 6th Season!
And if you been losing PVP & felt like you aren't gonna bother with it anymore, PD changed that too cos ever since PVP Season 5, a new PVP spin (S06 spin right>) has been thrown into the mix. Complete 5 wins to unlock the spin & get a chance to win various rewards! See the other changes S05 introduced in PVP here.

*Improving lame characters- Several characters &/or their suits have been buffed by Playdom to boost purchases of characters that nobody is in a hurry to buy. Wolverine would be the best example. He was surprisingly a pretty lame character despite being such a powerful character in the Marvel Universe! But then they gave him new passives like Berserker Rage & Come At Me, Bub, which have made him badass. He's even become something of a fan-fave in PVP now (which was unheard of before), with his Brown-&-Tan suit that adds The Best There Is passive. Even Nightcrawler is now buffed & has a new Swashbuckler costume!

*Training times- You may think the current training times are long, but you'd be shocked at what the times were at the start of the game(!!): Level 2 - 15 minutes, Level 3 - 1 hours, Level 4 - 2 hours, Level 5 - 4 hours, Level 6 - 8 hours, Level 7 - 12 hours, Level 8 - 18 hours, Level 9 - 24 hours, Level 10 - 36 hours, Level 11 - 48 hours & finally, Level 12 - 72 hours!! O.O Training costs haven't been changed though, & I don't think they ever will.

*Dialogues- in the game have always been awesome! So it's not a change but just HAD to add it in this post lol! Witty, snappy & fun! Iron Man's dialogues are always quintessential snarky Stark & Nick Fury definitely has his moments where he lets his dry sense of humor shine.
^Some gems from Spec Ops 7!

And who can forget Deadpool! He definitely has been stealing the show! He couldn't even shut up before you sent him on his deploy in the SO6 epic mission!
^Some Wade-isms- The 1st is his recruitment dialogue & the rest is his SO6 deploy banter!

*Displaying your highest level allies- When it started, MAA used gawd knows what algorithm to decide which allies feature in your scrolling list at the bottom of your game screen. Some of your lowest level allies would be included (even today friends who may have unfriended you or even blocked the MAA app surprisingly continue to feature). This could be a pain if you have fewer allies as then you have no choice but to take distress calls from the ones you have, & the lower the level of the ally the less likely it would be a helpful distress call at all. But then all that changed when PD finally placed only your highest level allies in the list.

*New ISOs- A new tier of ISO-8 called Reactive ISO-8 was recently released for players at level 125 & above. These ISOs are customized, so as your agent levels up you can always reequip your team with more powerful ISOs. Remember: customization of these ISOs is not based on the level you were at when you researched or bought them but when you actually fit them into your agent or heroes' suits.


*The CP Crisis- I feel sad for the newer players that come into MAA. Once upon a time, CPs were freely available to players via drops. Oh yes! We'd get CP drops during PVE & PVP battles, & on VERY rare occasions, even flight decks! CP farming was possible as well- Most loved mission 4-4, because from all the epic missions, it needs the least energy. However the epic boss Magneto was a major pain for me to defeat at the time so my all-time favorite then was mission 2-3 with Elektra as the epic boss. Basically you tap her right (see what I did there? :P ) & she'd drop a CP! Mostly it was a high crit melee attack that did the trick. If it was a multiple hit melee attack, all the better. Trust me, it was literally a 100% guaranteed CP drop for every run of that mission!
Of course, ever since July 2012, CP drops became a thing of the past. Today though, I "farm" 4-4 for CPs- with epics you get 2 chances at securing CPs via the roulettes & they do cough em up many times!

*Exorbitant hero prices- These days it looks like heroes can only cost 90 CPs (if completely new hero), 135 CPs (if PVP hero) & 200 CPs (if SO hero). Some of them aren't really worth that much. Wasp & Black Knight for 90? Puhleez!

*PVP- Sure, it's got a major makeover, but I think even the new players may have noticed how increasingly tough it gets with each season. It just seems like if you at Level 200 or above no matter what you do nothing much seems to work. A new strategy may work in helping you win some defense fights but then soon after you're back at losing all of em. PVP has definitely become a "Buy to Win" sorta thing. Have a look at your victorious opponents & you'll see that their armory bonuses are filled with PVP bonus items that they just had to buy with a whole lotta gold. Sometimes I even feel that PVP AI is programmed depending on how much money you spend. So the logic is that if you're losing you'll buy stuff to do better, that's when the AI will change for you to reflect better performance so you feel what you bought worked & then you buy more to do even better.
Also before, you had access to your inventory supplies during PVP battles! But this could be considered a bad or good thing- it would've just made PVP tougher than it already is. Another change that I have to mention was that at the start, you could choose your opponent you wanted to fight in PVP, somewhat like what the practice window is today...I'm not saying that is how it should be today cos now PVP has become a competition whereas in those days it was simply like a useless appendage.

*Reforge- I cannot understand the benefit of this feature for the love of me. Sure, you can increase the damage of the Customized weapons you got but the damage increase should be adequate enough to warrant 48 gold! Or alternatively, the price should be according to the amount of damage increase. This is simply a shameless way of extracting money from players. Okay, if you're doing it, at least make it worth the money! And those animated arrows can be annoying as hell, but I think that's their way of further making you want to pay up.


*Nerfing- Many players are tempted to buy the Limited Edition weapons, some pay hard cash to buy gold & purchase the weapons. Some days or weeks later? Nerfed! Ditto for ALL new character releases. New heroes always kickass when just released, then Playdom suddenly decides that they've given their players enough of a good thing & they go ahead & nerf the hero. Why be so cunning & purposely release an OP hero so that there's a big rush of players buying it. And then just say that "Oh we have nerfed these characters to make it fair to all players in PVP."?? Just release the heroes "nerfed"! We won't know any better, & players are still gonna be in a rush to buy em!

*Training multiple heroes- I find training just one hero at a time defies all logic! Since when does ANY training happen with just one person in the real world! It makes total sense to allow us to train more than one hero at a time. I don't mind a cap of say maybe 2 or 3 heroes but please- more than one hero! Even the X-Men trained as a team in their Danger Room!

*Setting agent gear in PVP- One thing that has always peeved me (& I'm sure many of you as well) is that the gear you set for the agent in PVP is not independent of PVE. You always have a certain set of weapons that work way better in PVP than PVE & vice versa. So after you set your PVP gear you go back to PVE: You may forget to change back to your PVE weapons & after starting a battle you'll be cursing yourself OR you do change to your PVE gear but when you go back to PVP you have to make the damn changes again. Imo, the two should be independent of each other.

*Varied pricing- It's not rare to find that newly released characters & costumes cost different amounts of CP for different players.

*Flight Deck Missions- It would be nice if the FD window simply had a dropdown option where you can select the number of minutes/hours you want the FD mission for, with the highest option at 24 hours. Also you should be able to have a set group of heroes you like to send everytime so you can just refresh flights with the click of 1 button. Basically, the dynamic of sending FDs needs to be changed.

*Energy consumption- I think instead of 10 energies for each fight, easy fights should consume 3 energies, medium- 5 & hard- 10. It would also make sense to have the max limit of the energy bar increased to 100 from 60. But I also know that this is a dream & it's never gonna happen.

Well, there you have it- my Then & Now post! Did you enjoy reading what your fave game right now used to be like in the early days...? What level are you guys on? How do you like the game now? Also if anyone wants to add me on Facebook feel free to do so. Just click on the FB button I got out here on the right & add me with a message that you're from my blog. All the best fellow MAAers!

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