The Batman Has Hit Theaters and It's the Caped Crusader Like You Have Never Seen Him

After a few delays and halted production due to the pandemic, The Batman has finally hit theaters, and initial reactions have been pretty good for a Batman movie. Critics are loving it, audiences even more so. Is this finally what fans of the Dark Knight have been longing for?

A couple minutes into the film, and it becomes quickly apparent that this is not a look at the Bat we have ever seen. The introduction to Gotham City and its inhabitants is dark, surreal, even scary at times. Gone are the gratuitous butt shots and rock-hard nipples of Clooney's movies, the color and camp of Tim Burton's films, the crazy over-the-top villains, the cheap special effects. Instead, what we have here is something out of the darker side of comics: no happy endings, no crossovers or universe building, just a story about a man who suffered a terrible tragedy pulled into the darkness of a city wrought with corruption and crime. A man turned vigilante on a mission to rid the city of evil by any means. A man on a path of vengeance.

Adapting primarily from the Batman: Year One comics, the film takes place in year two of Batman's career as a vigilante. The Bat solely focuses on striking fear into criminals. The Bat logo shines at night, and you know an ass-kicking is coming soon. Instead of crazy super villains, the film veers into government corruption and crime families, concentrating more on visceral, gritty action and deception.

Badass is his middle name… Actually it’s Thomas but you know what I mean

Every frame of the film feels like it could have been pulled directly from the pages of a comic book. The shot of Batman walking toward us next to the new Batmobile while a fire rages behind is an eerily beautiful sight. Every shot on cinematographer Greig Fraser's list feels so meticulously calculated. Michael Giacchino's musical touch feels angsty, broody—any adjectives that could be placed in front of "Batman." From the production design to the editing and special effects, everything in the film feels like it was done with a passion and with a love for these characters.

Paul Dano as the Riddler is haunting, maniacal, terrifying. It's an incredible performance from a truly underrated actor. Zoe Kravitz absolutely nails it as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, playing the role with an impeccable elegance and sexy sophistication. No stupid cat puns, no leather everything, just a badass woman being exactly that. Matt Reeves accomplishes something so pure with his direction—so real. His every decision feels like an artful brush stroke.

Robert Pattinson possibly shines brightest of all the elements in the films as a tortured Bruce Wayne. Pattinson’s vision for the character feels so much more layered than any other live action version of the character before. He looks tormented, broken, and disconnected from reality as Bruce Wayne and then viciously driven as Batman. He portrays a character so deeply hurt by the cards he was dealt and, in so many ways, shows that he is still that scared little boy who witnessed his parents murdered right in front of him. He feels a sort of responsibility to prevent that from happening to anyone else no matter the cost. Yet he has no idea how to be human anymore, no idea how to deal with his pain. He is a man so scorned that it becomes a part of him. Many might still pre-judge Pattison from his sparkly vampire days, but he brings an unmatched sincerity to this role that proves what a phenomenal acting talent he really is.

A battered and broken Bruce Wayne

So, is this finally the gritty comic book film that Batman deserves? The answer… unequivocally yes! Now while the film does run a bit long, this film is dark, genuine, and a truly faithful adaptation. This is finally the Batman we deserve, the Batman we can look up to, that feels real, and someone we can relate to, learn from, empathize with. And while it may be a dead heat with 2008's The Dark Knight for the title of best Batman film, it is certainly a film that will be talked about for a long time to come. For me, it's easily an early front runner for the best film of 2022. It's a film that leaves us all thinking one thing, "Holy-Cinematic-Masterpiece Batman!"

The Planet is the Main Character (aka Why You Need to Play Deep Rock Galactic)

When I first started playing Deep Rock Galactic from Ghost Ship Games, I have to admit that the game confused the hell out of me. There's a quick tutorial that teaches you three key things: how to mine, how to shoot the alien bugs intent on tearing you limb-from-limb, and how to run for your life when you run out of the ammunition meant for shooting the alien bugs intent on tearing you limb-from-limb.

And after the tutorial is wrapped up? You're dumped into the industrial space station that serves as the hub for queuing up missions. That's it – no more hand-holding for you, pal. It's time to go mano a mano with the hostile flora and fauna that inhabit this planet, Hoxxes IV.

The industrial space station that serves as your hub is hi-tech but dingy… It kinda carries an “Alien” vibe.

That being said, there's a sort of wonder and awe that's intrinsically built into the world of Deep Rock Galactic. I frequently find myself left with my thoughts in a mission loading screen, as I watch the dwarven drop pod that is soon to deposit me beneath the planet's crust zip through the cold, uncaring vacuum of space.

Knowing that I could switch on co-op mode and drop into a mission with up to three other players never truly made me feel any safer. Don't get me wrong, I always feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow dwarves, and I rest easier knowing that they'll revive me if I make a costly misstep. But we're still all venturing into the great unknown, relentlessly carving out paths towards the dangers that lie in wait closer to Hoxxes' core.

There are four “classes” of dwarves in Deep Rock Galactic. A full co-op lobby can play like a well-oiled machine.

The game really shines when you play it alone, though. When you're dropping in solo, you get a little robot buddy, Bosco, to make up for your lack of companions. But the atmosphere is still far more isolating when you know there are no other real players that you can count on. Certainly, the dangers of Deep Rock Galactic are magnified when you drop into a mission by yourself – but the true nature of the game surfaces during these missions as well.

Glyphid Swarmers are ankle-biting nasties found deep in Hoxxes… but this many of them can do a real number on you if you aren't careful!

Left with only the sounds of the local wildlife and a pickaxe breaking apart shiny minerals, a solo player has no choice but to take in just how damn beautiful the planet of Hoxxes IV really is. I don't play missions across the game's different biomes just for the region-specific resources. I play them because each and every one of them is a unique visual feast.

While the actual twists and turns of the game's missions are randomly generated, the assets inherent to each region are unique. They build a strangely wonderful atmosphere, laying the groundwork for a distinct identity that you'll never be able to find in another game. When it comes down to it, Hoxxes IV isn't just the setting of the game, it's a character in and of itself. It is a living, breathing organism, and getting the chance to explore every part of it is a real treat.

Let’s delve into some of the best locations Hoxxes has to offer together, miner. We’ll explore just what it is that makes them so special!

A Dreadnought egg signals that you're gonna need a bigger Drop Pod in one of the underground forests of Deep Rock Galactic.

The "Crystalline Caverns" are a gem-lover's dream, filled with sparkling green and blue hues that are sure to catch your eye. The "Fungus Bogs" are stinky, slimy, and sure to gross you out with their puke-green haze. The floor is sticky, the bugs shoot bile, and you’ll have a nasty experience stepping foot down there. "Hollow Bough" is a place where even the plants are out to get you, featuring killer vines that see you as nothing more than a pint-sized pincushion. The "Salt Pits" and "Sandblasted Corridors" might appeal to you if you like the beach—well, as long as you’re ok with the beach featuring land sharks and absolutely no water. And the "Azure Weald" just might be the place for you if you fancy yourself a fantasy lover. It features mystical, faerie-like creatures who shimmer and dart around the caverns. Don’t let your guard down, though, because the planet certainly doesn’t stop trying to kill you here, either.

And Hoxxes IV only gets more dangerous from there! The most beautiful locales the game has to offer are also the deadliest (because of course they are). The "Glacial Strata" is a realm of ice… clear ice, black ice, and blizzards as far as the eye can see. You're quite literally liable to be frozen solid when plumbing these depths. At the other extreme, there's the toasty “Magma Core,” which sees you navigating lava plumes and burning-hot terrain while still dealing with the many nasties that would love nothing more than to make a meal of a dwarf. Finally, there's the “Radioactive Exclusion Zone,” filled with spore-like dust in the air and beautiful green crystals that emit lethal levels of radiation. Even the bugs here carry an aura of sickness; every step around an enemy is crucial here.

Both the alien eggs and the stalagmites in the Radioactive Exclusion Zone pulse with dangerous life.

All of these parts make up the whole of Hoxxes. As I got used to it, I found the planet itself to be strangely charming. Sure, each and every room has the potential for danger - but you learn what those potential dangers might be and the patterns of these environments. Hoxxes IV is, quite simply, an amalgamation of pure imagination. It's all the bombastic set pieces that you think sound rad packaged up in one.

I love exploring these places, seeing unique locations and events, and encountering rare enemies that want nothing more than to poke me full of holes and slurp up my innards! The world of Deep Rock Galactic feels epic in scale, brimming with life, which is something you can't always say about a randomly-generated, sandbox-y game.

If I can't sell you on the experience based on the environment and “feeling” that Deep Rock has to offer you, don't let that stop you from giving the game a go. The developers over at Ghost Ship Games are doing awesome things with the game even now! Deep Rock Galactic just turned 4 years old, but the first ever "seasonal" update only launched in November of 2021.

That update brought loads of content to the game, and you don't have to pay a dime for any of it. There's a new weapon for each character - introducing homing missiles, plasma rifles, a “smart gun,” and a corrosive sludge slinger into the game. There's a whole new faction of enemies, robotic drones, with new randomly generated events and a new mission type that lets you square off against them. And there's a bitchin' cosmetic battle pass that you can complete just for playing the game like you'd usually do.

The developers have just started teasing some sneak peeks at what season 2 will bring. They're working on some really awesome (and really wacky) stuff, like a wallhack gun and a microwave radiation gauntlet—three words I can guarantee you didn't think you were going to see put together today!If anything I've just said sounds interesting to you, I once more implore you to give the game a try. You can really feel how passionate the devs are about this game. It has heart, and we as gamers need to reward people that set out to make unique experiences within this medium.

Elden Ring Post-Launch Impressions from a Dark Souls Veteran and a FromSoft Newbie

Patrick has put in a lot of hours into previous FromSoftware games, but Liza was new to their games and eager to dive into the world of Elden Ring. These Couch Soup contributors share their reactions to the recent release.

Patrick is wrapped up in the open world

I've procrastinated writing this article because I've been utterly consumed by the realm of Lands Between in FromSoft's highly praised action role-playing game, Elden Ring. With just shy of 30 hours of game time clocked in, I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of what this game has to offer. 

In the two months prior to the launch of Elden Ring, I decided to revisit every modern-day FromSoft game (besides Dark Souls 2, which I hate, but that's a topic for another day). I consider myself a “souls-like” veteran, having sent Old King Allant into a well-deserved retirement in Demon's Souls, rekindling many a flame in Dark Souls, fighting the Moon Presence in Bloodborne, and dueling Isshin, the Sword Saint in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. All that considered, clearly, I'm more than willing to bash my head against the metaphorical wall, given that these games are notoriously difficult.

In the ramp-up to the release of Elden Ring, I stayed away from all major news outlets' coverage of the new title and thought I knew what to expect. Just when you think you know the answers, Elden Ring changes the questions, resulting in a refreshing and challenging experience.   

While my character ascends the elevator and takes in the first glimpse of the open world that FromSoft has crafted, I am beside myself with glee. Are you telling me I can just go any direction I want? The curiosity absolutely killed the cat in this situation when I found myself pillaging some lakeside ruins. Upon opening a treasure chest and being transported to a crystal-filled cave on the opposite side of the map, I was surrounded by monstrosities that stole my pride and lunch money. 

In my experience, the open world has been a double-edged sword. I love that I'm given the option of heading in three different directions when I've reached a challenge that seems insurmountable. However, it's not always clear to me if this is a case of needing to buckle in and learn enemy patterns or if my newly acquired halberd is four levels underpowered. In previous FromSoft games, you may have had a branching path that led to a new area or two, but it always felt like I was meant to be wherever I found myself - unless it was Blighttown, no one belongs there. 

Foul Tarnished

At level 48, I've cleared one of the “legacy dungeons” and defeated the area's final boss, an Elden Lord known as Godrick the Grafted. The legacy dungeons capture the feeling of exploring previous games' linear progression. That's where I've found the most enjoyment (and challenge) up to this point. Right now, I can only speculate on the quality of the remaining dungeons. But if they're anywhere near the treachery of Stormveil Castle, I'll be in for a masochistic treat. 

Sweet, sweet victory

In an interview with the PlayStation Blog, Elden Ring Director Hidetaka Miyazaki has expressed that Elden Ring will be more accessible although not inherently less difficult with the inclusion of stealth and spirit summoning mechanics. While playing previous FromSoft games, I'd seldomly summon in real players unless the goal was to engage in PVP combat. With a bit of patience and extra tools at your disposal, such as Wikis and guides, I can see how this game would be a great entry point into this type of adventure. 

That being the case, I've teamed up with my co-collaborator Lizabeth Phoenix who is taking on Elden Ring as well, while having never played a previous FromSoft game. We thought it would be fun to share what the game's like for someone who's been in the "souls-like" genre for a while, and someone who's just jumping in. 

Liza has been trying not to get lost

As a first-time Souls-like gamer, playing Elden Ring has been enthralling. I've killed bosses, talked to a giant tortoise (I think?), and learned more and more about the world of the Lands Between. At the same time, I've also been getting kicked into the dirt on a regular basis, or chopped up into finely diced bits of Tarnished. I've lost a fair amount of runes, as well…. That's one facet of the game I could do without. Especially when I lose them in a place that has me nope-ing out of there on Torrent seconds after arriving.

Godrick the Grafted

The world itself is gorgeous! Full of wildlife, littered with stunning landmarks, and there are resources to harvest around every corner. But it's not a game to casually wander through. Danger lurks around every corner, too, and I've learned the hard way that enemies that look harmless can turn into spinning, blade-wielding death machines in milliseconds. I've both enjoyed exploring and found myself frustrated with the sudden elevation changes. How do I get across the map with a ravine in my way, a rocky cliffside towering above me, or a dragon napping on the bridge? While glorious to behold, Elden Ring's world is chock full of death and devastation. Don't let the lovely sunrises and starry nights fool you.

Combat started out as a challenge, but I changed my specialty and it's become much easier. I originally thought I could hack and cut my way through like I did during my brief stint with Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Nope. Absolutely not. I got sliced to ribbons. So, I've leveled up into more of a mage build, and am now happily flinging purple rocks at whatever decides to get in my way. Me and my trusty Meteorite Staff have so far bested Stormveil, and I've moved on to Castle Morne because I want the Grafted Blade Greatsword, the famed sword of Morne. It's a (not so) subtle nod to the Iron Throne, so you know I had to go after it. I probably won't use it as it’s far too heavy for my build, it'll just be fun to keep. 

Meteoric Staff

All in all, it's been an epic experience. I have a long way to go, and quite the road to travel, but every NPC has a unique personality and the quests feel fulfilling and engaging. (Even though I've done a grand total of one quest. Yes, one.) A gaming pro I know has been sending me all sorts of tutorials and videos to guide my path to become Elden Lord, and they summed it up pretty well, "Don't rush through. It's about the experience." I've taken their advice to heart, and plan on meandering through this fictional murder spree and taking in the sights along the way.

The tl;dr of post-launch impressions

Into the unknown!

Liza: Elden Ring is a fantastic start for newbies who want to get into FromSoft's signature gaming style. However, it's not without its challenges! Picking the right class for your skill level and style, learning how to use your weapons, and leveling up fast can help make the game even more enjoyable. I'm having a great time just sightseeing… when I'm not getting smushed or torched or poisoned, that is. Despite the murderous lightning bolts and maddening wastelands, I'm loving the game. 

Patrick: Although I've already sunk so much time on my current character, I can't help but start to plan out what route my next one will take. This game has consumed me since launch and it's all I intend to play for the next month. Sorry, Horizon Forbidden West, it was fun while it lasted! 

Do you have plans of becoming an Elden Lord? Let us know how you're liking the Lands Between, and don't forget to tell us what killed you first!

Book of Boba Fett - Getting to Know the Man Behind the Mask Chapter 5

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS 

Chapter 5: The Return of the Mandalorian 

The title of this chapter is a throwback to Return of the Jedi. Immediately we are met with a shift in the storyline. In a Klatooinian meat processing warehouse, the Mandalorian, silhouetted in a doorway, walks in like he belongs there, finding his way to his quarry. Amid the noise, you can hear his armor’s distinctive clanking, reminiscent of the sound of spurs. “You look lost,” an unnamed Klatooinian states. I thought this was Boba’s story. Perhaps a jest as to why we’re seeing Din Djarin instead of Fett?  

“I’m here for Kaba Biaz,'' Djarin says, speaking directly to the one that seems to be in charge sitting at a table. He takes out the tracking fab from his belt, shows it, and puts it back, “He owes someone important money.” “Well, if I see him, I’ll let him know,” the lead Klatooinian dismisses him. “I see him right now,” Djarin persists, placing a holopuck on the table showing the Klatooinian’s face. “That’s not me. That doesn’t even look like me,” it’s clearly the same Klatooinian with the same facial piercings and distinctive face tattoo. “I’m going to give the rest of you the opportunity to walk out that door. I have no quarrel with you,” he’s offering the rest of the crew an easy out. Kaba Biaz insinuates that Djarin is surrounded and outnumbered, “You look like the practical type. Let’s discuss our options.”

Djarin pauses before delivering his signature line, “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold.” As he starts reaching for his blaster, a Klatooinian on his right makes a move and bites his hand making him drop the blaster. He headbutts the biter and turns to a second attacker coming at him from his left side punching him out of commission. The one behind him starts shooting at him. He is used to taking hits with the Beskar armor and steels himself for his next attack. 

He activates the Darksaber, spins, and takes a swing at the blaster happy baddie. He lets out an oddly surprised grunt as if he’s not used to the weapon’s feedback. Another attacker takes a swing with a meat cleaver, and Mando kicks him away. He punches another out and turns back to the one he kicked away in a slow circular motion dragging the Darksaber in an arc to finish him off. 

The blade seems heavy, which is unusual for a weapon of this caliber. He spins again and stabs another of the attackers straight through with the heavy blade but misjudges the weapon weight and arc, burning the outside of his left thigh in the process. A very accurate depiction of what can happen to someone who is not well-versed in using a lightsaber and is only just beginning to learn the weapon. 

Two more Klatoonians attempt to grab him, but he holds each on either side of himself, the three locked in a brief struggle before he can break free and swing the Darksaber, slashing the two offenders. Kaba Biaz gets up from the table and starts unloading his blaster into Mando’s back. Again, in the defensive pose, weathering the attack because of the beskar, he waits until Biaz is within grappling range, spins, sticks a knife into Biaz’s chest, picks him up and lands him onto the table filled with credits. He does a complete over the head attack with the Darksaber cleaving Kaba Biaz and the table in two. Kaba Biaz is coming in cold. 

The workers in the other room had stopped and gathered outside the door hearing the fray from within, only seeing shadows and shades of the fight through the semi-translucent doorway. Din steps out, with a bag in his hand presumably containing the head of Kaba Biaz, and sees the crowd, “Your boss is dead. I’m here to collect on his bounty. I have no trouble with any of you. There is a pile of New Republic credits in there that I have no right to. If you do me the honor of letting me pass, you all can help yourselves to whatever you think you deserve from your former employer.” The workers all look at each other in silent agreement; they are not looking for a fight. One starts to edge around Mando, giving him a wide berth yet wanting a chance at that pile of credits. The rest of them rush past him into the back room. He slowly limps through the warehouse making his exit. 

Glavis 

Glavis is an immense ring space station floating in the cold of space, with day and night cycles alternating throughout the ring. We see Djarin slowly limp his way to his destination stepping from night to day. He enters an elevator with a Caskadag who looks down toward the bag, slowly eyeing upward, checking out the Beskar armor. Din turns to look at them, and the Caskadag sharply turns back, acting like they were not just eyeing him up. Way to make an elevator ride even more awkward. 

The elevator door opens, and Djarin steps out into a sophisticated bar with ambient laid-back yet upbeat electronic lounge music. The patrons are dressed in the familiar flare of what we’ve seen in Coruscant’s nightlife in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I love the aesthetics, and this place fits right in on the modern ring world. 

“That was fast. You’re a good hunter,” the mystery client admires in Huttese. “I would like my reward and the information you promised,” ever straight to business, he places the bagged head of Kaba Biaz on the table amidst the diverse party-goers enjoying dinner. “Why are you rushing business Mando?” presses the client. “My business is my own. Where is it?” he gently demands. “Sit and feast with us or I will tell you nothing,” urges the client. If he were to feast with them, he would have to remove his helmet, and that’s against his religion. Insulted, he says, “You can keep your reward. There is a bounty on the Klatoonian. If you won’t give me the information, someone else will.” He grabs the bag and turns to leave. “It’s down Kolzoc Alley by the heat vent towers.” He turns back, places the head on the table again, and claims the credits, “I’d put that on ice if I were you,” referring to the now cold bounty.

He makes his way back to the elevator. When he is alone, he checks the side of his left thigh where he incurred the wound from the Darksaber. Getting a closer look, it's bad, Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar bad. Charred skin around deeply burned muscle tissue. The elevator stops near the Klozoc Alley. As he approaches the location, he pushes some buttons on his forearm, which changes his visual perspective in his HUD (heads-up display). He starts seeing secret indicators of which direction to go, finally seeing a secret mythosaur skull painted above a nondescript door. Accessing the substrata of the station, he starts to climb down to the walkways but loses his grip on the ladder and has to catch himself. 

The Armorer kneels at the end of one of the walkways, with the belly of the city overhead and an undisturbed view of the starscape below. Djarin makes his way slowly to her, but his injured leg gives out at the bottom of the descent of the stairs leading to her. She turns, “Tend to him.” Paz Vizsla, voiced by Jon Favreau, the larger hulking Mandalorian in blue armor, approaches Din with a medkit and kneels to help him, “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again.” “Thank you for saving me on Nevarro. I am sorry for your sacrifice,” Din is referring to the last time he saw his tribe who abandoned their covertness to help Din escape Nevarro with Grogu. In retaliation, the Empire massacred their now exposed tribe. “There are three of us now,” says Paz. Djarin is clearly in a lot of pain as his wound is being tended to.  

The History of the Mandalorians & The Night of A Thousand Tears

“What weapon caused such a wound?” inquires the Armorer. Din holds out the Darksaber. The Armorer orders Paz Vizsla to bring it to her. Paz carefully takes the weapon and reverently carries it to the Armorer. “All this talk of the Empire, and they lasted less than 30 years. Mandalorians have existed 10,000,” she activates it, “What do you know of this blade?” “I am told it is the Darksaber. Whoever wields it can lead all of Mandalore,” Din offers. “If it is won by Creed in battle. It is said one warrior will defeat 20, and the multitudes will fall before it. If, however, it is not won in combat and falls into the hands of the undeserving, it will be a curse unto the nation,” she sheaths the blade, “Mandalore will be laid to waste and its people scattered to the four winds.” “The hilt is of a quality of beskar I have never seen before,” Djarin notes. “It was forged over 1,000 years ago by the Mandalore Tarre Vizsla. He was both Mandalorian and Jedi,” she explains. “I have met Jedi.” Ascertaining that he has completed his quest, she says, “Then you may rejoin our covert as we rebuild.” “This is the way,” they each repeat. The Armorer returns the Darksaber to its rightful owner. Vizsla has taken an obvious interest in the blade.

Din and Paz get to work on setting up the Armorer’s forge. Vizsla inquires how Djarin came across the Darksaber. “I defeated Moff Gideon,” explains Din. “Did you kill him?” Paz asks a loaded question. “No. But he was sent off to the New Republic for interrogation, and he will face justice for his crimes,” Din prefers the course of diplomatic justice than brutal vengeance. “Death would have been justice for his atrocities,” Vizsla disagrees. “This is true. The blood of millions of our kind is on his hands,” the Armorer agrees with Paz, referring to the Moff’s participation in the Empire’s Great Purge of Mandalore. “Then he will be executed for his crimes by the New Republic Tribunal,” says Djarin, convinced his course was the better for justice. 

“We shall see,” the Armorer turns as the forge is fired up. She goes to unpack the rest of her tools, “The songs of eons past foretold of the Mythosaur rising up to herald a new age of Mandalore. Sadly, it only exists in legends.” I, for one, am hoping to see this Legend brought to life. The Armorer notes Djarin has acquired a beskar spear. He explains how it came to be in his possession and how he used it to defeat Moff Gideon. Djarin seems to fancy the spear and how it’s so far served him. “It can pierce beskar armor. Its mere existence puts Mandalorians at risk. Mandalorian steel is meant for armor, not weapons,” the Armorer makes a valid point. “Then forge it into armor,” he readily offers the spear. “The Darksaber is a more noble weapon for you to wield,” the Armorer immediately gets to work on the spear. Din takes his place next to the forge as she works, watching the process. 

“Have you ever heard of Bo-Katan Kryze?” asks Djarin. “Bo-Katan is a cautionary tale,” explains the Armorer as she further works on the spear. “She once laid claim to rule Mandalore based purely on blood and the sword you now possess. But it was gifted to her and not won by Creed. Bo-Katan Kryze was born of a mighty house, but they lost sight of the way. Her rule ended in tragedy. They lost their way, and we lost our world. Had our sect not been cloistered on the moon of Concordia, we would have not survived the Great Purge.” Bo-Katan was gifted the Darksaber by Sabine Wren in Star Wars Rebels and used it to rally the remaining Mandalorian clans in a resistance against the Empire. 

We see a flashback of TIE bombers over Mandalore coalescing in a major attack on its capital domed city Sundari which can be seen in The Clone Wars animated series. “Those born of Mandalore strayed away from the path. Eventually, the Imperial interlopers destroyed all that we knew and loved in the Night of a Thousand Tears.” The imperials decimated everything on the surface, leaving the planet scorched. Imperial Security and probe droids searched for survivors to finish them in the complete annihilation of the Mandalorian people. 

“Only those that walked the way escaped the curse prophesied in the Creed. Though our numbers were scattered to the winds, our adherence to the way has preserved our legacy for the generations until we may someday return to our homeworld,” the Armorer finishes recounting their turbulent history.

Not Ready to Say Goodbye 

“What shall I forge?” the Armorer asks. “Something for a foundling,” he clarifies, “For a specific foundling. Grogu.” “He’s no longer in your care. He is with his own kind now,” she reminds him. “I want to see him. Make sure he’s safe,” Din is not ready to leave Grogu completely just yet. “In order to master the ways of the Force, the Jedi must forgo all attachment,” she says. “That is the opposite of our Creed. Loyalty and solidarity are the way,” he reasons. Even if Grogu has accepted the path of the Jedi, Din’s way of life means he will forever be loyal to Grogu because of their attachment. “What shall I forge for the foundling Grogu?” the Armorer concedes. 

Metalworking montage; it’s a process to forge the toughest metal in the galaxy. We see small chain links in a pile which probably takes even longer to forge due to its delicate intricacies. Will Grogu receive his own chainmail? The Armorer wraps the finished piece in a small orange and white kerchief. How she artfully wraps it resembles the recipient. She gently places the wrapped gift into Din’s hands. 

The Blade Never Lies

In Mando’a: Solus. T’ad. Ehn. One. Two. Three. The Armorer and Djarin spar with the Darksaber. She dodges one of his attacks, and he follows through on his momentum from the swing and falls off of the walkway. “You are fighting against the blade,” she observes. He uses his jetpack to return to the walkway. “It gets heavier with each move,” he admits. “That is because you are fighting against the blade. You should be fighting against your opponent. Stand up,” she chides. He stands, but it’s clear the blade is indeed heavy as he drags it along the ground until he’s ready to strike again. They resume sparing, but he’s slow. She knocks him on the top of his helmet with her hammer with a loud ring that reverberates. Ouch. She grabs the lower end of the T-shaped visor with her tongs. 

Reset. Before he is able to get the Darksaber up in a defensive position, she strikes fast and presses the attack. They lock. “There. Feel it. You are too weak to fight the Darksaber.” As they are locked, she presses him into taking a knee. You can see the saber is heating the beskar tools, which she has been fighting with. “It will win if you fight against it,” she pulls away, “You cannot control it with your strength.” “I want to try again,” he says determinedly. “Persistence without insight will lead to the same outcome. Your body is strong, but your mind is distracted,” the Armorer senses. “I am focused,” Din lies. “The blade says otherwise,” she reminds him.  

“Maybe the Darksaber belongs in someone else’s hands. It was forged by my ancestor, founder of House Vizsla,” explains Paz. “And now it belongs to me,” Djarin evenly states. “Because you won it in combat. And now I will win it from you,” Vizsla states his intent. The standoff feels like a disagreement between two brothers. 

Duel of the Fates

“Do you agree to this duel, Din Djarin?” inquires the Armorer. “I do,” Djarin is not backing down from his claim to the Darksaber. The two Mandalorians face off. Both remove their jetpacks and place them to the side. Din removes the Darksaber from his belt and ignites it. Paz’s weapon of choice is a vibroblade and gauntlet shield. 

They approach each other with intent and purpose. Din strikes low at the shield, the blade still heavy in his hands. Paz strikes his blade between Din’s chest plate and pauldron, driving him back a few steps. Attempting to lift the blade in defense, Din fails and gets hit in the helmet by Paz’s gauntlet shield. Din is able to manage a telegraphed overhead swing, but it is met by Paz’s shield, and again the blade sinks to the ground. Attempting another wide arc from the left, Din meets Paz’s right gauntlet but bounces off. Paz tries to take advantage of the opening on Din’s right and goes to strike with his vibroblade, but Din sees it coming and lifts his left arm in defense, blocking the blow. Paz uppercuts him with his fist with a loud clang and slashes overhead with the blade again, which is met by the Darksaber cutting the blade's hilt rendering it useless. Paz stares down at the blade for a moment, and Din takes the opportunity to elbow him in the face. He tries to take another swing at Paz with the Darksaber, but Paz grabs the hilt. They are locked in a struggle over the blade. Din headbutts Paz and turns to elbow him again in the face. Din is able to swing the blade around for an upswing attack at the unguarded Paz. He pushes the attack. Paz takes a knee as Din swings down and meets Paz’s gauntlet. Paz alters his grip to occupy Din’s grip on the blade and returns the headbutt. Paz grabs Din, being much larger in size, throws him to a lower segment of the walkways. Din lets out a surprised noise as he falls. He took off his jetpack, so any type of freefall in this environment would not be welcomed as they are still in the underbelly of the city with nothing but open space below them. 

Paz jumps down with a loud thud and grabs Din as he is trying to recover from the fall, brutally throwing him against a pillar. Paz reaches down and claims the fallen Darksaber, igniting it. “Fate has brought this blade back to my clan, and now fate will end yours,” he exclaims as he takes a downward swing at a downed Djarin. Din is quicker and moves out of the way, stabbing Paz in the leg as he passes on his missed swing. Paz is struggling with the blade as well. Paz takes two more swings at Din but gets the blade stuck on the pillar. Din gets up, but Paz grabs him by the helmet and throws him once again against the pillar, downing him. Din gets back up and moves backward as Paz advances with the blade. Paz swings and gets stuck on the pillar again. Din jumps up and stabs Paz in the side and knee, where he knows there is a defenseless spot in the armor. Paz takes a labored overhead swing, but Din is quick and avoids it taking another slash at Paz and spins around behind Paz, grabbing him and placing the vibroblade to his throat. 

A Victorious Loss 

“It is done,” states the Armorer. “Paz Vizsla, have you ever removed your helmet?” she asks. “No,” he says.” “Has it ever been removed by others?” she inquires. “Never,” he says, defeated. “This is the way,” she continues. Paz repeats after her. As this exchange is happening, you can read Din’s body language shift, there is a cold realization of what is coming, and there is no way to avoid it. The reliance of subtleties in the building of a fully masked character is done spectacularly. 

The Armorer shifts her focus, “Din Djarin, have you ever removed your helmet?” He doesn’t respond. She presses, “Have you ever removed your helmet?” He remains silent. “By Creed, you must vow,” she reminds him. He lets go of Vizsla. “I have,” he admits. There have been two occasions where other living beings have seen his face: the first time with Mayfeld in the Imperial refinery obtaining information for the quest to find Grogu and the second on the bridge of Moff Gideon’s ship saying goodbye to Grogu as Din turns him over to Luke Skywalker. 

“Then, you are a Mandalorian no more,” a heavy statement from the Armorer. “I beg you for your forgiveness. How can I atone?” he pleads. “Leave, apostate,” Vizsla says. “According to Creed, one may only be redeemed in the living waters beneath the mines of Mandalore,” she offers. “But the mines have all been destroyed,” Din says. “This is the way,” there is a finality in the Armorer’s statement. They stand in prolonged silence. Djarin reclaims the fallen Darksaber along with his jetpack and leaves the new enclave without another word. He’s been banished from his Tribe. 

Commercial Flights & Security Checks

He makes his way to the spaceport and is forced to take a commercial flight because his Razor Crest was destroyed. As he tries to board, an alarm sounds, and he is greeted by an RX-Series droid, “Excuse me, sir. You're going to have to remove your weapons.” “I’m a Mandalorian. Weapons are part of my religion,” Djarin says. The calm perky droid is persistent and states he will have to remove his weapons to board the commercial flight. “Fine,” Din takes the ticket for the cargo container. Unarming montage, the Darksaber being the last weapon he parts with. “I know everything that’s in there,” he reminds the droid. Personally, I’m not sure I could part with the Darksaber. He boards the starcruiser. 

Window seat, gazing into the void of space, contemplating what’s transpired, Din turns to look at a child Rodian who’s intently peering at him from over the back of his seat. The child waves and its mother pats the child, reminding them not to be rude and to turn around and face forward. This child reminds him of his child. He reaches for his present resembling Grogu and looks at it, contemplating his little green friend. The ship lands in Mos Eisley. Din is greeted by another RX-Series droid and finds all his weapons intact in the case. Nothing is missing. 

Return to a Spunky Mechanic 

In Peli Motto’s hangar bay, a BD unit cutely wanders into view, shortly after getting grabbed by a womp rat. BD units were designed as small companion droids programmed to be the assistant to explorers alone in the field. BD-1 appears in the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. This kind of droid is rare to see in the galaxy because its manufacturer went out of business many years prior. 

Peli is taking potshots at the rodent disturbance, “Treadwell, get in there and move that engine block so I can blast it.” Treadwell does not go to move the engine block. “No? You can’t say no. You’re a droid. What is this, a democracy all of a sudden? R5?” Remember the R5 unit that had a bad motivator in A New Hope? “Fine, I’ll take care of it,” Motto says, her odd collection of droids cowering in fear behind the spunky mechanic wielding a blaster. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she chides as she slowly moves toward where the rat was last seen. She screams, and something takes her down behind the engine block. She hangs on to the edge, trying desperately not to get dragged away. “Oh, it’s got me! It’s chewing!” 

Enter Djarin. He blasts the womp rat, and it lets go of Peli. “What an entrance!” she exclaims as she gets up. She checks on BD. The little droid seems okay, but its right leg seems injured. “Hey, look, everyone. It’s Mando.” The droids don’t seem as enthused as she is to see him, but he doesn’t really care for droids, so I’m sure the feeling is mutual. “What do we owe the pleasure? You here to slay another dragon? Chasing down some elusive bounty?” she recounts his recent adventures. 

“I got your message,” he says. “Message. What message?” She is genuinely confused. “You said you found me a replacement for the Razor Crest,” he reminds her. “Yeah, that's right. That’s what I said. That’s what I do. I’ve been working my butt off, yeah. Did you bring the cash?” she inquires. She instructs the droids to count the money he hands over and fire up the grill before the womp rat gets gamey.

“Where’s the Razor Crest?”

“Where’s your unlikely companion?” she inquiries of Grogu.“I returned him to his own kind,” Din explains. “Why the hell would you do that? I could’ve made good money off that thing. Open a petting zoo,” ever the entrepreneur. I mean, she has a point. I would pay good money to go hang out with Grogu at Peli’s Petting Zoo. “Ready to have your mind blown?” She unveils the ‘ship’ from under a heavily dust ladened cover. “Where’s the Razor Crest?” Djarin exasperatedly asks. “I never said I had a Razor Crest. I said I had a replacement for a Razor Crest,” Peli reasons. “I don’t have time for this,” he turns to leave. “Hang on a second,” here comes Peli’s hard sell, “Do you have any idea what this is? This is an N-1 starfighter handmade for the royal guard and commissioned personally by the Queen of Naboo.” “This is a pile of junk,” he’s not sold. “Droids, bring this lovely man his money. Sorry to waste your time.” 

Caption: The N-1 Starfighter as seen in Episode I: The Phantom Menace in its original condition 

She heavily sighs, and there is a shared awkward silence between them. “While we’re waiting, can I tell you a little something about this honey? I know she doesn’t look like much, but you got here a lot earlier than I expected, and I didn’t get a chance to finish. I mean, clearly, you can see I’ve got all the parts right here. It all has a home.” This ‘ship’ clearly has seen better days and is in pieces; long abandoned, it will need a lot of work. “You know how hard it is to find all original parts from way back in the Galactic Republic?” As Peli is making her way around the ship, Din starts taking a closer look at it. “I mean, these are all handmade. No droids.” That’s quite a selling point for him. “And not only that, what I’m gonna do, just because I like you, is I’m going to add on some custom modifications that’ll make her faster than a fathier, and because this baby’s pre-Empire, she’s off the grid. And did I mention she can jump into hyperspace with no docking ring? I mean, come on! You gotta see the potential.” She pulls off the last sheet so he can get a good look at the entire piece. “I’m telling you, Mando, you gotta believe me. This is a classic. Look, at least let me put her together before you decide. Can you give me that? Get this baby up and goin’. You know it’d be a lot faster if you helped,” she offers him a wrench. Peli Motto knows how to make a sale. 

Parts are everywhere. Djarin is a car mechanic lying under the grounded starfighter working on its underbelly. The little BD droid is working on getting the lighting just right for him. “Great news. I found you a turbonic venturi power assimilator. You’re going to be the fastest ship on the Outer Rim,” Peli celebrates. “Where did you get this?” Din inquires. “It’s brand-new. Well, Jawa new,” she goes on to explain that she gives the Jawas a list of parts she wants. They go and find whatever she needs under a strict “don't ask, don’t tell” policy, “Tatooine is a garden of many bounties.” Djarin wants to meet the Jawas. Peli asks R5 to summon them, admitting, “Dated a Jawa for a while. They’re quite furry. Very furry,” she makes a weird licky face, “Lot of issues.” Din shrugs unphased, nonjudgmental. The Jawas enter the hanger. Peli speaks Jawaese, “They said make a wishlist, and they’ll see what’s available.” The Jawa says something to Peli in Jawaese. “Oh, that’s okay. I’m working on me right now. Just go find the parts.” She turns back to Din and shakes her head, “Furry.” 

Fixing the ship montage: Djarin sanding the yellow paint off one of the engines, Peli fixing the cockpit display’s wiring and finding a scurrier inside, both cutting the underside of one of the wings, the pit droids trying to find the right parts. “I don’t know why you’re always in such a hurry. Build me a ship. Fix my blaster holes. You know, I never went anywhere, and look how good I got it. You know, I’ve never even been off-world. That’s all right. I’m a local gal,” Peli admits while they’re working. Din finds some of Peli’s modifications, and she explains why her way will be more efficient overall. With all of this ship-building montaging happening, I feel like I know more about Djarin’s new ship than I do my own car. 

“Where does this panel go?” asks Din. BD scans the part and holoprojects where it should be placed on one of the engines. “Thanks, little guy,” Din seems to be warming up to the little droid, and the droid is excited to be helping. They get the canopy in place over the cockpit and part of the 2 Nubian 221 sublight engines in place with the pit droids.

The Jawas approach with one of the requested parts. “That was fast. Where did they get a cryogenic density combustion booster?” Din asks. Peli speaks Jawaese again, “They said they crawled under a Pyke spice runner and crimped it off while they were refueling.” “Gutsy little fellas,” Din is impressed. “Let me tell you something. Pykes do not mess around. Ever since they’ve been moving spice through the system, everything’s gone to hell. Everyone’s afraid of ‘em, and law enforcement won’t even go near ‘em,” Peli explains Tatooinie’s current situation, bringing us back to the series' ongoing conflict. “Well, thanks,” Din throws the Jawas a few credits.

Quite the Pair 

Dawn of a new day on Tatooine. The now silver N-1 fighter stripped of all but a few yellow stripes of paint gleams in the sun as the pit droids glide it out of the hangar. Din walks around the ship hesitantly, admiring her. Din noticed the droid port had been changed, “I figured with your disposition you’d wanna forgo the astromech,” Peli knows him well. He continues revering the ship, Peli looking on, noticing his change of opinion toward the once pile of junk. A stringed version of the Mandalorian theme plays. He looks good with his new ship; they make quite the pair. “Think she’s ready?” he tentatively asks. “Ready as she’ll ever be. Start her up,” Peli urges.  

After giving the ship a little more juice, she turns over, and the engine starts up powerfully. “That’s a lot of engine for a little ship. Shouldn’t we run a diagnostic first?” he worries. “Nah! I can hear her! She’s purring! Send her up!” Peli wants to see what the ship can do. The N-1 Fighter gradually rises above Mos Eisley. “She handles a little bumpy,” he admits at first. “You’re used to a gunship, but she’s a starfighter, so fly her like one,” reminds Peli. “Okay, I’ll open her up,” engines fully engaged, he takes her out of the city, “Dank Ferrick, she’s fast.” “Point your navigational disposition between the two suns. You’ll come up to Beggar’s Canyon,”  Peli instructs, then asks, “How's the handling?” “ Tight. She tracks like a railspeeder,” he says. “Let’s see what she’s got.” Djarin pulls out of Beggars Canyon and straight into the atmosphere. 

Check Out the Beggar’s Canyon Run From Episode I versus Din Djarin’s Test Flight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HstwEUUGfYY 

We see the Rodian child and its mother again on a commercial flight. Din pulls up alongside the star cruiser in the N-1 Fighter. The child stands up and takes note of the shiny little ship. Din gives the kid a nod and buzzes the cruiser. He’s out for a joy ride as he’s testing the controls, looping the ship. An alarm starts to beep. Dank Ferrick. It’s two New Republic X-Wings. What a buzzkill. 

“Was I doing something wrong, officer?” Djarin inquires as he is getting pulled over by the authorities. The first X-Wing pilot goes on to state the law about not flying so close to a commercial ship, operating without a beacon, engine model not matching the power drive, title tabs, sending a ping, the whole nine yards of bureaucratic rundown for the legalization of a starship. Djarin remains calm and respectfully explains the situation of the newly built ship and taking her for a test run. The X-Wing pilot wants Djarin to relinquish the controls so these officers can help him get things sorted. The second X-Wing pilot, Carson Teva, finally speaks up, “I think we can let him off with a warning this time. One thing before you go. Your voice is mighty familiar. Did you used to fly a Razor Crest?” Teva was in one of the X-Wings that tracked Djarin with the Frog Lady passenger when the Razor Crest crashed on the ice spider world, Maldo Kreis, “That ship showed up on a transponder log back in Nevarro in an incident involving Imperial remnants. I’m just connecting some dots here. You mind answering a few questions?” Djarin looks over and activates his sublight thrusters. He’s gone. “There’s no trace of him on our sensors. We reporting this?” Lieutenant Reed asks, played by Max Lloyd-Jones, who was also a double for Luke Skywalker in the Mandalorian. “You want to go back to base, fill out reports all day?” Teva retorts.   

“Well, how was it?” Peli asks on Din’s return. “Wizard,” he says. What a great throwback line of Kitster, Anakin Skywalker’s friend in Episode I. Speaking of old friends… “By the way, an old friend of yours dropped by; she said she was looking for you. Don’t worry. I told her I didn’t know where you were. Then I locked her out and engaged the hangar security system,” Peli has Din’s back. “She tell you her name?” he asks, genuinely curious.  

"Wizard"

“Fennec Shand,” Fennec calls from one of the rafters of the hangar bay. Fennec descends fancifully. “By any chance, are you looking for work?” she approaches with a pep in her step, “The pay is good,” she offers as she tosses him a bag of credits. “What’s the bounty?” Djarin asks. “No bounty. We need muscle,” Fennec explains. “Boba Fett,” Djarin understands. “He sure would appreciate it,” she states. “Tell him it’s on the house,” he tosses the credits back to her, “But first, I have to pay a visit to a little friend.” 

Conclusion

Intrigued by Mando’s current situation and slipping deep into the escapism the Star Wars universe easily offers, I felt like this next phase of the story needed to be told at this particular moment. We are seeing how there are unique intricate facets of the universe, each playing a key role in larger events yet bringing our main characters together to achieve aligned goals in massive galaxy-altering story arcs. 

I didn’t mind stepping back into Djarin’s life for a moment to see how his story would cross once again into Fett’s. We were all ecstatic to see Boba make his appearance in The Mandalorian Season Two. As much as I love Fett, it felt fair to welcome Din back into Boba’s story, as the larger story starts to foreshadow the two of them becoming brothers in arms. The obvious respect for each other, along with Djarin’s eagerness to help Fett out with his current situation on Tatooine shows a growing camaraderie between the two. Perhaps Djarin is redefining what he has always thought was family? 

Din and Boba’s lives share a similar tragic arc. Both were orphaned in the Clone Wars, finding their way to hunting as a career path. Boba figuratively died in the sarlacc pit and put to rest his old life, to be reborn into a new life with grander aspirations. Din started to experience internal change as he discovered the true meaning of family with Grogu. His priorities shifted, and now he has been shunned by his tribe because of two occasions he prioritized Grogu over his own vows to his strict order. Both men have come to realize that they are stronger with loyal ones at their back rather than alone. Boba and Din, both the last of their ‘tribes,’ have forged an inevitable friendship and bonds of loyalty true to the Mandalorian way. 

I find it interesting they decided to do a full rundown of Mandalorian history within the Book of Boba Fett and not in the Mandalorian. Could they be foreshadowing a story arc that will intertwine both men’s fate? Fett has his eyes set on grander goals and may be able to help Djarin realize his full potential now that he’s acquired the Darksaber. The Book of Boba Fett seems to be setting the stage for a much larger tale. 

Bryce Dallas Howard knows how to weave a seamlessly flowing story where we crave to see more. Once we realize we are at the end of her Chapter, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next as we get new glimpses into the events of the Star Wars universe as the story continues to unfold. 

A brief summary of Chapter 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evMEJT0STp4 

What did you think of the transitioning story of Chapter 5? Let me know in the comments! 

Everything You Need to Know About Outlander (That Badass Show You've Been Missing) Before Season 6

If you're casually scrolling through your recommended shows, you may stumble across Outlander and think it's just another historical romance novel adaptation. In reality, it's a time-traveling glimpse into Scotland's history and an expertly crafted lesson in character development. Focusing on themes of love, loss, family, and conflict, the show adapts Diana Gabaldon's insanely popular book series for television. I found it after watching Game of Thrones, and the lush world and complex storytelling keeps me interested while I await House of the Dragon. If you're an Outlander skeptic, allow me to convert you over the course of this article. Trust me, this show is way more badass than you might be expecting for a show known for its steam.

Season 3 Reaction GIF by Outlander - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now that you've been introduced, let's get down to business…

Let me start off by saying this article will not be discussing Jamie Fraser's kneecaps. Yep, that's a whole thing the internet concocted and we're not going there. If you're looking to read about the more…ahem, romantic…aspects of the show, you're gonna have to go elsewhere.

Secondly, I haven't read the books, and I shan't pretend like I have. This article is going to stick to the TV show content. I shall stay in my lane.

After this point, spoilers abound!

The real-world history in the show

Historical fantasy fans, fasten your seatbelts: Outlander was inspired by real events. The show begins around the time of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. That's when supporters of James the VII of Scotland formed a rebellion in the hopes of restoring James (or his heirs) to the British throne. James had been usurped by his Protestant son-in-law, and his grandson, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, tried to regain rule. The Bonnie Prince Charlie garnered a good deal of support from the Highlanders as well as other factions, and they eventually advanced into England. However, the devastating Battle of Culloden brought his advancement to an end in 1746. We meet the Prince and experience that historic battle and its aftermath in Outlander. Expect political intrigue, betrayals, and poisonings right from the start.

The super-short summary of what happened in Seasons 1-5

Season 1

Claire Randall (played by Catriona Balfe, who's now a BAFTA Nominee for Belfast), a combat nurse in World War II, and her husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) find each other again after the end of the war. They've been through a lot of things while apart, but they're committed to rekindling their relationship. While taking a trip to the Scottish Highlands to spend some quality time, they secretly visit the standing stones called Craigh na Dun to watch a ritual. Later on, Claire returns alone to the stones in search of a certain plant she had noticed (she has an interest in botany) and finds herself pulled through time by the stones to a point two hundred years into the past. 

There, she meets Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) whose family takes her in. Also, throughout the season, they contend with Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall, Frank's ancestor. To the audience's horror, he looks exactly like Frank (and is also played by Menzies). Henceforth referred to as Captain Randall in this article, he can be described as Jamie's archenemy. This man is cruel with a capital "C" and we hate him.

Fraser and Co. go to great lengths to keep Claire safe from harm and out of Randall's hands. She and Jamie marry to change Claire's legal status from English to Scottish so Captain Randall won't have jurisdiction over her as an English subject. The season ends with them trying to escape to a new home only to find themselves embroiled once again in Captain Randall's sadistic schemes. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the timeline, Frank struggles to come to terms with his wife's disappearance and finally leaves her suitcase behind in the Highlands in an attempt to move on with his life.

The concept of being flung through time two hundred years into the past, with everyone you’ve known and love now nonexistent, is fucking terrifying. Add being caught up in the underpinnings of war to the mix, and you have a real nail-biter. As if that wasn’t enough, Captain Randall sends it all straight to hell. The end of this season sees Jamie and Claire set sail, hoping to change the course of history. 

My take on Season 1: This season boldly tackles the moral dilemmas Claire faces in her new situation. One thing that really stood out to me as a viewer was the way Outlander handles the repercussions of each character’s decisions. Claire, someone who knows history and which side won, now finds herself on the side that lost. Not only that, she finds herself newly widowed (I guess?), ignorant to the way of life around her, and embroiled in politics she can now influence to some degree. How strong can newfound loyalties really be in the face of an unshakeable threat? Season 1 isn’t afraid to find out.

Season 2

Claire and Jamie go to France to infiltrate the Jacobite rebellion and hopefully prevent the Battle of Culloden. Their attempts to alter the future become increasingly desperate, and viewers feel a great sense of foreboding because it could very well be Jamie, Murtagh (Jamie's godfather, played by Duncan Lacroix), and others falling on that battlefield. While in France, they navigate French society, a world of intrigue, and lavish parties. However, Prince Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) is difficult to persuade. Changing history proves challenging, and Jamie and Claire do everything they can to stop the uprising that leads to the end of the Scottish lifestyle they hold dear. 

They are thwarted at every turn and end up back in Scotland with The Battle of Culloden rapidly approaching. Dougal MacKenzie, War Chieftain of Clan MacKenzie (played by none other than Couch Soup guest Graham McTavishUncharted fans rejoice!), overhears Jamie and Claire’s last-ditch plan to stop the Jacobite efforts before it’s too late, and he violently confronts them. Loyal to his cause until the end, in a heart-wrenching scene, he becomes one of the first casualties of the finale.

My take on Season 2: Watching this season felt like racing toward a rock wall, the end looming and seemingly inevitable. The characters don’t run from it; rather they attempt to confront the plot’s conflict head-on. They show agency, courage, and tenacity. But it's human will versus the sands of time. Is history truly unchangeable, even against our protagonists' best efforts?

Season 3

To keep Claire and their unborn child safe, Jamie had sent her back through the stones right before Culloden. Her return to her own time was heart-wrenching, to say the least. Once back in her own time, she and Frank reunite, and though their relationship is troubled and clearly never the same, Frank agrees to raise Jamie and Claire's daughter. 

Jamie survives Culloden and kills Captain Randall. Afterward, he struggles with the trauma of surviving the battle, losing Claire, and not knowing the fate of their child. They were concerned that while Claire could time travel, the baby may not be able to. This season also sees their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton), alive and well, and developing a relationship with a young man named Roger (Richard Rankin). By the end of the season, Claire and Jamie have reunited again after Claire journeys once more through the stones to find him. They travel across an ocean and endure disease and unrest on the voyage. Our protagonists end the season in Jamaica facing off against an old adversary (we hate her, too).

Nerd Note: Roger is related to Dougal MacKenzie from seasons 1 & 2 among others in the story.​​ Time travel and family trees…

My take on Season 3: I want to take a moment to acknowledge the villains in this show. To say they are shocking is an understatement. Randall’s death in particular has stuck with me, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forget it. There are few characters I have hated–no, loathed–more. I'd rank Captain Randall right under Joffrey and Ramsay from Game of Thrones, only because Joffrey was unpredictable as hell and Ramsay literally skinned people.

Season 4

Claire and Jamie move to colonial America and start up a new life for themselves. Claire is aware of the American Revolution that's not far down history's road. With this knowledge, they face difficulty balancing their loyalty to the British ruling class of the time. They meet a pirate named Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) (we hate him, too, too), and he goes on to do many terrible things throughout the show. Brianna and Roger, still in the 20th century, search for clues recorded throughout 18th-century history that prove Claire successfully reunited with Jamie. They do find the clues, but they also uncover something terrifying. The new information has them hurrying to follow Claire through the stones to find Brianna's parents while there's still time. 

My take on Season 4: Outlander has never been an easy show to watch. This season is no exception, and trouble follows our characters from the start. The show highlights how dangerous, complicated, and complex it would be to not only navigate the past but experience it firsthand. This season juxtaposes some of the worst attitudes of the time with Claire’s more evolved attitudes toward equality and her commitment to saving lives. Our main characters grapple with what’s right, what’s wrong, and how to act when your hands are tied by history itself.

Season 5

Claire has reunited with Brianna and Roger, Jamie has met his daughter for the first time, and disaster was staved off. The Frasers previously established a home on an acreage known as Fraser's Ridge, and, in this season, they focus on protecting their growing foundation. 

Nerd Note: You can actually get pretty close to where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be by going to Grandfather Mountain State Park (and other locations) in North Carolina. In fact, Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2022, a fan event celebrating the history of Outlander’s North Carolina backcountry wilderness, is hosting an exciting gathering that Graham McTavish is attending as a special guest. You can learn more about that here.

Jamie has tenuous loyalty with the British. However, Murtagh, Jamie's godfather, has no such loyalties. Murtagh has been Jamie's friend, father figure, and confidante since Season 1. Jamie is tasked with hunting down and killing Murtagh, who is part of the Regulator Rebellion. The Battle of Alamance occurs during the War of the Regulation, and I won't spoil what happens. Suffice it to say it's been about a year since I saw this episode, and I'm still not okay with it. 

Brianna and Roger are building their relationship, Roger struggles to earn Jamie's respect, and the season finale sees Jamie going on a rescue mission to save Claire from brutal captors.

My take on Season 5: The standout episode for me was "The Ballad of Roger Mac." Murtagh's death and the way it comes about was devastating. It highlighted, for me, the central theme of consequences. Jamie gave his orders, and they were followed, but damn. At what cost? This complex and visceral question has been a theme since Season 1, and, for better or for worse, it shows no signs of letting up now. I was left asking myself, "What else can they stand to lose if it all goes wrong?" I’m afraid to know the answer.

This is the most straightforward series summary I could come up with, and I'm actually surprised I was able to streamline it this much. Some of it crosses seasons, but I kept it chronological. There are many pivotal characters I've left out and many, many experiences and events I haven't mentioned for the sake of keeping this recap short (otherwise this article would be a novella). Please also be advised that this show includes many instances of violence, physical and sexual abuse, and other possibly triggering content. If you are wanting to watch but are concerned with the content, you can reference this list of trigger warnings to inform your viewing discretion.

What to expect in Season 6

Here's what we know so far: Claire and Jaime have founded their home, Fraser's Ridge, on land in North Carolina granted to them by the Crown. Their world is undergoing extreme political upheaval, and the American Revolution is rapidly approaching. Against this backdrop, the two have to navigate increasing conflict on both Fraser's Ridge and between themselves and the Crown. Lines will be drawn.

Outlander may be your new favorite show if…

Do you enjoy a lush world, complex storytelling, and romance set against a historical backdrop? How about villains you’d like to strangle, sword fights, and politics that will have you willingly picking up a history book? If you slept through it in high school, don't worry because it comes alive in this kickass show! Outlander depicts strong friendships and explores themes of loyalty, love, and loss. Some badass characters are involved, as well as some morally gray ones. (I'm looking at you, Dougal!) There are some terrible, terrible, terrible characters that pollute the screen, as well. Jamie, Claire, and their family have fought hard to be who they are "today," and it's moving to watch their stories grow. 

I learned a good deal about Scottish history while watching (though I know they take creative liberties), and I've enjoyed the show's dialogue overall. And about that violence, even if you've seen Game of Thrones or a similar show, be advised that Outlander has some scenes that were hard to watch for me even after watching GOT episodes like "The Mountain and the Viper." Viewers grow very attached to these characters, and the show is not afraid to hurt them. On that note…

A few personal thoughts

I, for one, am terrified of what's about to happen. I have no idea who lives. I have no idea who dies. I have no idea who is about to have their ass handed to them. 

These characters have overcome so much in the past five seasons. I've been rewatching from Season 1 as a refresher, and I've noticed that Claire, for one, has grown exponentially from who she was when she started out. As a viewer who hasn't read the books, I have no idea what to expect. And that’s scary as hell. 

I'm genuinely worried about the Frasers. They'll be navigating the thin ice between loyalty to the British and loyalty to their newfound home. Everyone looks to be in a great deal of danger, and many characters have recently survived exceedingly difficult situations. I'm also nervous to see how the show handles the many historical events they may possibly cover in this season. I hope they include respectful and accurate representation for all parties involved. 

To be frank (no "Frank" pun intended), this season's gonna be a nail-biter for me. I've done my best, even while researching, not to get too far into spoiler territory for Season 6 so that I can be surprised when I watch it. I may regret that… it feels like (more) tears are on the horizon. 

You can join me and watch Outlander on STARZ, with Season 6 premiering on March 6, 2022. Some past seasons are available on Netflix if you want to catch up.

Are you tuning in to watch Jamie and Claire face the Revolutionary War? If so, let me know your favorite stress management tactics. I'm gonna need them!

Sexy, Gory and H.R. Giger Inspired Lust From Beyond: M Edition May Tickle Your Fancy

“What the fuck have I gotten myself into?” words spoken by the protagonist Victor of the Lust from Beyond video game. Though, you’ll likely say this a few times yourself while playing through this psychological horror-erotica game.  

Look, Lust from Beyond is weird, ok? There, I said it. I mean, if you’re a fan of H. P. Lovecraft or H. R. Giger, then this game is definitely going to tickle your fancy… and maybe even tickle other parts of your body… huh?... wink.. wink … 

Lust from Beyond follows the story of Victor Holloway, an antiquarian who is an unknowing ‘Seeing One’ with a spiritual connection to the dark realm of Lusst'ghaa. Victor is tormented by visions from this erotic realm, in which there is no difference between pain and pleasure. The Cult of Ecstasy seems to be the only answer to unveil the true meaning of Victor’s dark dreams, but can he make it out alive? Lust from Beyond is an unabashed homage to Giger and Lovecraft, twisting fantasy and horror with perverse design and sexual desire. 

I will point out, though, that I’m playing the M Edition, which essentially tones down most of the gore and pretty much ALL of the sexual/nude elements of this game. So essentially, the less fun version. (Although I do actually very much appreciate that Movie Games Lunarium would want to release a sexually censored version of the game, to appeal to a wider audience, that perhaps avoided the game previously due to its heavily sexualized content) 

But censored boobies aside, this game still manages to bring the erotic tension you may have been looking for. The environments are incredibly tense and often make me feel very uncomfortable, incorporating a lot of environmental sounds that completely set me on edge (specifically in the Lusst'ghaa realm where walking sounds very, VERY squishy). 

I’m a panic gamer, so in Lust from Beyond, whenever an enemy would appear, and there is a very sharp change in the music, it only serves to heighten my fear, panic, and anxiety (for which there is a warning at the beginning of the game). Although after a few hours, I found myself becoming completely desensitized to the enemy-alerting sound as the game really doesn’t provide much of a challenge in combat or escape. Most enemies can be either snuck past or run from very easily, which is brilliant as I’m less stressed about fighting and more focused on the story. What can I say? I’m a lover, not a fighter! However, I can completely understand that a seasoned horror gamer who enjoys challenging combat and gameplay may find this version boring, unchallenging, and pretty simple.

There are also a few puzzles in the game; however, they seem forced and don’t really add to the story. They’re just in place to potentially provide a bit of a breather between feeling uneasy and/or afraid, well, for me anyway. Again these puzzles are pretty simple and don’t take very long to solve, so if you’re a big-brain puzzle gamer, this won’t be a challenge for you.                 

The script and voice acting are also incredibly awkward at times; with characters emoting out of nowhere or lines of dialogue that feel unnatural, not in a way that is purposely unsettling, but more like poor script work and voice direction. For example, when we’re introduced to the psychiatrist for the first time in the theater section, it feels almost like someone is about to throw on some jazz shoes for a cabaret musical number… I’m not quite sure that was the vibe they were going for. 

The story can be hard to follow and a little convoluted at times, but it’s still compelling enough to make you want more. There are members of the occult, a Seeing One, redemption, purification, gory sacrifices, erotica, sadomasochism, the occasional sarcasm, it’s all in there, and it’s a LOT. It’s all that and more, but it’s compelling and disturbing enough that I need to know how it ends! 

The environments in this game, I think, are where the studio has done its best work. I mean, they’re creepy and weird and wholly unsettling, which I suppose is the endgame, so they really executed that quite well. The Giger-inspired designs of the Lusst'ghaa are truly fascinating, in the what-the-fuck-is-this-and-why-is-it-so-phallic kind of way. 

M’nag (aka Dangerous Penis Thingy)

Lusst'ghaa is a dark and cold realm filled with erotic structures and scary-ass creatures, in which you can traverse due to being a ‘Seeing One’. Within the realm, you discover more of the lore and unlock more abilities from the ever-so-generous Lust God as you further uncover the story. Some of the abilities include health bar increases, or making some quick-time events less challenging and honestly, thank Lust God for that.

However, it’s not just within this erotically structured, damp and squishy realm in which this story takes place. The real-world environments are definitely not as exciting. There are a lot of locked doors or areas that are closed off, plenty of items you can’t interact with, and a lot of empty drawers and cupboards; which makes exploring feel very limited and unyielding. In fact, the majority of items you’re supposed to interact with start flashing as you approach them or when they’re within your line of sight. So, often you end up picking up puzzle pieces or items you’ll need for the story before you even know why you’re picking them up. 

For all its faults, though, there is something intriguing and incredibly erotic about this game. It’s pretty impressive for a small studio. The game made me feel so tense and unsettled at times, that I ended up having to take multiple breaks, diving into some much-needed comfort food, even hoping to goodness that I didn’t end up dreaming of some Giger-inspired-squishy-nightmare sex realm… mostly because I’d have to clean the wet sheets. Yet, even though pressing that ‘Continue’ button filled me with dread, I was fascinated to relaunch myself into the world again to find out what happened to Victor. How does it end? 

The game evokes feelings of fear, anxiety, and potentially even a tingle in the nether-regions if you’re that way inclined, which compels you to continue playing, even when faced with truly grotesque and obscene creatures, environments, and sounds. If you want a compelling erotic and psychologically thrilling horror game, then this may be the one for you! And if you’re not into the hyper-sexualised original version (where you actually engage in in-game sexual activity), then I would recommend this M Edition. It bypasses all of that and gives you a more tailored story adventure so that you can enjoy the disturbing nature of this world with a more subtle experience (you know, without pitching a tent, or busting a nut, or growing a stiffy, or creaming your panties, or needing any wet-floor signs… you get the idea). 

Deep in the realm of Lusst'ghaa

Kick, Punch, Die, Repeat - Sifu Game Review

Sifu is an in-your-face kung fu action game pulled straight out of a Hong Kong martial arts slugfest.

Right from the get-go, I was interested in Sifu’s premise. A young Karate student seeks revenge for the murder of his (or her) family at the hands of the leader of a rival clan. Hmm, this seems awfully familiar (Googles “plots of Bruce Lee films”). The majority of previews for the game made it look like you would battle endless goons down a never-ending corridor of hallways in run-down apartments and historical temples. After just the prologue, I was thrilled to see that there is much more kung-fuiness to it than that.

After witnessing your father's murder followed by being murdered yourself (spoiler), you come back to life from the power of an ancient medallion. You then dedicate the next eight years plotting your revenge, complete with a giant board of pictures and red strings attaching to things relevant to each other like that conspiracy theory guy at work we all avoid. You, filled with the burning desire for revenge, have diligently mastered a form of kung fu known as Pak Mei. Which is presented in what has to be the coolest playable training montage during the intro credits I have ever seen. In a beautiful way, it establishes some base game mechanics for you to learn, all set to the style of a classic martial arts movie-inspired opening.

Fire Plaza

In very Kill Bill fashion, you are hunting a group of assassins involved in the murder of your family. You start your quest for revenge with the man that ended yours, known as the Botanist or Fajar. I found myself in a dodgy part of the town called “the squats” and began my martial arts journey of redemption. Making all of the appropriate noises one would make while decimating my foes with my slick skills. I quickly dispatched the lowly thugs in the starting area, bloating my belief in myself immensely; I carried on until I reached my target. Weirdly this DC villain reject has the ability to make trees grow and left me blind to attack; he even killed me and made me age. How dare he! Oh, so when you die in Sifu, the medallion brings you back to life, but you age. I literally lost 11 years of my life to this fight.

So let's talk gameplay. Sifu is very much an action-adventure game, but the combat is performed in a much more complex fighting game style. You can do light and heavy attacks that can be combined together, block, dodge, parry. Typical kind of moves. However, as you take on more challenging enemies or face larger groups at a time, things become a bit more complicated. Picture the combat from the Batman Arkham games, but way more precise and nuanced. You can improvise weapons on the levels as well, including bottles, pipes, bricks, brooms, whatever you can pick up and throw and bash with. Now there are some faults to mention. There is no lock-on or targeting system, which can lead to randomly unleashing a flurry of punches on a wall instead of your opponent’s face. The camera doesn’t move unless you tell it to, so it is a bit needy, leaving you with not-so-great views of the fight. Maybe some of these things will be patched by the time you read this.

Epic Achievements!
This is also the first game I have played on the Epic Games service that has achievements, which I love! I can not say if it's specific to each game, but when I earned an achievement in Sifu, there was a very cool animation and curated achievement pop-up, contrary to Xbox and PlayStation static trophies/achievements.
Epic Chief?!

Let’s get one thing straight. Sifu is not an easy game. The challenge picks up pretty quickly. You have to study your enemy's movement or find yourself dying of old age faster than Walter Donavan at the end of Last Crusade! When you start, you are a spry young lad of 20 years, and you age one year upon the first death. Then the years start stacking, and before you know it, you jump from 30 to 38. If you reach the ripe old age of 75ish and fail again, the medallion can no longer bring you back, and it is game over. This is when you realize that Sifu is a rogue-like game that revolves around a cycle of repeating and hopefully learning. Which you do, learn things, I mean, as you play through levels and explore, discovering closed doors that can be opened if a key is found, thus creating a shortcut for the next attempt. Facing bosses to learn their patterns and fighting staples as well as how to combat those styles is a must. I was getting extremely frustrated with a particular boss until roughly my third attempt when I discovered the key to success.

Fellow Couch Soup contributor and martial arts enthusiast Luis Reza checked out some footage with me to see the game in action, and here is what he had to say.

Spectator Perspective! 
If I could focus on one aspect of the game, I would love to make mention of the opening. Dan knows how much I hate spoilers (I DID write a WHOLE DAMN article about it that you can read by clicking on THIS SHAMELESS PLUG), so he didn’t show me the opening scene in its’ entirety, stating that it hits pretty good when you first see it. That being said, the opening credits scene is absolutely brilliant! Reminds me of a 70’s movie with its’ red background, an OG martial arts flick with its music and introductions, and a modern action movie with its camera work and fight mechanics. It does an incredible job at getting you through a tutorial without having it feel like either a tutorial or a credits scene since you’re actively engaging with it from the start. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it is one of my favorite game openings of the past several years! It made me want to pull out my collection of 70’s martial arts films on the spot (Ultimately, I made Dan watch the hallway scene from Oldboy ‘2003’ after he showed me another scene, but this interruption [cameo?] has gone on long enough so I’ll end my segment here)!

Death has its rewards. When you are defeated, and you will be bested, a lot, you are given an opportunity to spend XP learning new skills or techniques in battle. Developing your fighting skills in new techniques open up new combos, blocking certain attacks, or focus for special moves. These special moves allow you to consume a focus gauge to unleash powerful specials, like poking someone in the eye! As I made my way through the levels, I also came across little jade dragon statues that give you an extra bonus. These can only be granted once per statue, so choose wisely, young grasshopper.

Finally, it clicked. I realized that when you unlock a skill, you still need to unlock it permanently by feeding into the skill 5x the total XP required to unlock. This is how you progress on top of just getting good. When I started getting the hang of blocking and parrying, I had a moment of Zen and found my inner peace, like Kung Fu Panda. This isn't to say I completely stopped getting my butt handed to me like a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, but I started getting farther and doing better. I began to truly feel like a badass martial arts master as I started to nail perfect parries that led to devastating finishing moves. Taking out a group of five to 10 baddies smoothly and seamlessly felt empowering as I, as a player, got better at the combat, not my character. That is what it's about. Learning and adapting, trial and error. I started to feel the same sense of exhilaration and accomplishment that I get playing a Souls game, and it made me very, very happy.

If you are not up for dedicating yourself to challenging combat that takes determination and skill to succeed, you may want to look elsewhere. Otherwise, if you enjoy kung fu movies and want to play a game that masterfully crafts a playable experience around them, then you should absolutely play Sifu. 

Are you playing Sifu? If not, are you interested in Sifu after reading this article? 

Let us know in the comments below as well as any amazing moments you have had.

I Am Fish: The Little Fins That Could

Have you ever played a game on an off chance, and it ended up being goofy fun that just put you in a good mood? I did, and I am going to tell you about it! Bossa Studios, the team who showed how not to operate in Surgeon Simulator and brought you the quirky adventures of the magical toast that could in  I Am Bread, is back with another crazy adventure… I Am Fish.

Possible Spoiler for the opening parts of the game. Enjoy!

At first look, I didn’t know what to expect except for some Finding Nemo vibes. The game looks very cute and kinda wacky, so I was expecting more of a silly fish game for kids. I was quite wrong; this game is definitely not made for young kids as it does feature some violent imagery towards our fish friends. I Am Fish is a tricky little adventure about four fish trying to make their way back to the sea in the wildest way possible.

The game starts with a cutscene in a small town that looks like San Francisco. We have the hills and the iconic bridge in the distance, but everyone has a British accent and a fondness for weird baked goods. I’m not against it! The story literally starts with a man trying to buy a sausage roll that the baker doesn’t have. There are some Great British Bake-off levels of drama here. The two chat back and forth and, instead of the sausage roll, the clerk offers two whole loaves of bread that are literally alive and wiggling around on the shelf! “Special Bread!” I now know it is a reference to the Bossa Studio game “I Am Bread,” but at the time, I was pretty confused. After some very British deliberation, the man has no choice but to settle for two loaves of possessed bread and is totally fine with it. How bloody civil! Next, a lady comes into the bakery to buy “special bread” but is disappointed when she finds it is sold out! Who wants alive, wiggling bread?? What is up with this town??

Cut to a pet shop where our mysterious live magic bread is being crumbled into a fish tank to feed the fish. The fish are going crazy for the magic bread and eat every last piece! This is where we first meet our fish folk. A goldfish, a pufferfish, a flying fish, and a piranha whose names we are not told. How did these guys get together? Also, freshwater and saltwater fish… living together? Mass hysteria! Somehow, they haven’t eaten each other yet, and this is where we first get our taste of gameplay.

After the small tutorial, we discover that part of our extra goals is finding lost pieces of bread around town…as a fish. Yep! It’s about to get interesting. Are you still with me? The story continues…

After a night of fish partying with freaky bread, the fish folk are presumably adopted to their new homes. We find Mr. Goldfish lonely, downgraded to a smaller, perfectly spherical fishbowl. He dreams of returning to the sea to be with his friends….

If only he could. If only there was a way…

It’s from here that the game fully starts, and little goldfish is on an adventure to see his friends and collect freaky bread, Super Monkey Ball style, in his rolling fishbowl…

The game is heavy physics-based with fun puzzle-solving and some exploration. The path is pretty linear, so it isn’t hard to find where to go. But the challenge is getting there! The game itself wants the player to be a self-starter without much help. From the start, it just lets you try and fail until you learn. The controls themselves for controlling the ball are not too hard; just push where you want to go and roll with it. Literally. As expected, you start on the highest, most precarious ledges in the world with not much room for mistakes. Get used to this as this is an ongoing theme. You must carefully navigate across high beams and thin walkways. One wrong flip of a fishy tail and little goldfish and bowl smash to the ground leaving you to watch a gasping cute little fish slowly die before your eyes. It’s actually quite disturbing! Again, not for kids! To make things worse, you don’t have the best stopping power when your bowl gets rolling; in fact, start rolling too fast, and your ball will begin to bounce almost out of control. You really have to balance your speed and take your corners carefully.  Luckily, checkpoints are generous and frequent, so you don’t have to navigate too far after dying on trying parts. I was thankful! I died a lot.

Sometimes the little fish that could, just could not.

Now it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if you were only roaming in the house…oh no! Before you know it, little goldfish and bowl are out on the town. You are up on roofs balancing on phone cables, dodging cars while crossing roads, avoiding hazardous pitfalls and traps. That sounds a little crazy, right?! Imagine that your bowl breaks and you are catapulted into the air and by chance, you land in a mop bucket of fish-friendly water that you then have to drive with your own fish-power across town all while being chased by a man through a park. Yeah, it happens. At one point, you end up in a sewer underground where you are swimming through gross trash like hypodermic needles that actually stab you in the eye if you swim too close.

I Am Fish has been thoroughly entertaining to me. Sure, it’s not perfect as the controls can be a little finicky, causing tasks to be a little more tedious than they should be. But, coming from the creators of I Am Bread, the tricky mechanics are to be expected. The game is a test of patience and persistence. Admittedly, I am not the most patient with games like these, but It really hasn’t been that rage-inducing…yet! I have definitely had my “of for f*ck sake” moments, yet I will continue playing. It is pretty clear when unlocking other levels that we do, in fact, get to play with the other three fish, so I am excited to see what skills they have to help them get back to the sea.

Want to see more? Check out I Am Fish in this 13 minutes of gameplay video!

I Am Fish really has been a pleasant surprise to find, and it kept me laughing with how bonkers it is! I kinda love it!! If you are looking for something a little silly and are up to a bit of a challenge... I Am Fish is available on Xbox Gamepass and PC right now. Go play it even just to say you did!


Our resident Potterhead breaks down Hogwarts: Tournament of Houses and why fans love it

Well, your resident Potterhead is back! The new game show on TBS called Hogwarts: Tournament of Houses has wrapped up a 4-episode first season, and you know I have to dive into it! 

The series is here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of the first movie of the franchise, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. (I’m sorry, did you say 20 years?) When I first saw the trailer for this, I was naturally SO PUMPED. Then I started thinking about it: "How has no one done this before?! This game show literally writes itself!" 

SPOILERS AHEAD: If you would like to watch the show without knowing who wins, go to it now, then come back to finish reading!  

Catch the first episode for free at TBS.com.

To really get into what I love about this series, let’s walk through the structure of the episodes. The magic for HP fans is in how they put everything together.

The premise of the show is that 3-person teams representing Hogwarts houses face off in each episode with Dame Helen Mirren being the magical host. The fact that Helen Mirren is the host is one of the best things about it precisely because she was not in the films. Here's what I mean: The show opens with her walking towards the camera with a briefcase, setting it down, and declaring, "Well, finally, I have arrived. Tonight, I take my rightful place in the world of Harry Potter." her tone has just the slightest hint of sarcasm. Just twist the knife in deeper, Dame Helen! This pettiness is on a level I strive for! She keeps it going through the episodes, making continuous jabs at the fact that she was not in the movies, and it makes it so fun.

Dame Helen Mirren preparing for the evening of jabs and snark!

Here's how the tournament was set up:

The studio is decked out in all things Harry Potter, including the podium Dame Helen is hosting from. There is a small studio audience that she proclaims are the "world's biggest Harry Potter fans," but I need to interrupt right there and say, of course, that since I am not in the audience, that is not possible. Moving on... 

The studio audience is only fans rooting for the houses who are playing that night. So, for Episode 1, the audience was Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. This in-person audience is significant because the show chooses the contestants from the audience. And how else would they do this but by sending an onslaught of envelopes cascading from a fireplace that Dame Helen must catch, of course! It’s a fun intro, but the best part is the child-like glee on Dame Helen’s face and giggles the entire time she is trying to catch 6 envelopes. Then, after reading out the names, beautiful show editing has the contestants step out of the fireplace as if they have traveled by Floo Powder. Naturally, the HP geek in me is LOVING THIS. I'm sold, wine poured and ready, let's get this game started!

After Dame Helen asks questions to get to know a couple of the contestants, we dive right into Round 1: The World of Harry Potter. Each team is shown a scene from one of the films. The first question based on that scene is worth 10 points, the second is 20 points, and the third is 30 points. The first question is based on observations of the scene, and the ones that follow challenge the players' knowledge about that film. 

Seriously? What is there to debate?
Of course it was a light fixture!

Here's where I found one thing that irked me about the show: in this part, when the teams get their question, they then deliberate and explain why they are coming to the conclusion they are. That's frustrating and slightly annoying from a watcher’s perspective that is also a fan, because, to me, you either know it or you don't. No deliberation is needed! However, I'm sure they were asked to make it seem a little more difficult for television's sake, and deliberations give it that impression.

After Round 1, we of course need the official scorekeeper to let us know the scores, and who better to do that than Luke Youngblood! Luke played Lee Jordan in the films, the Gryffindor student who was the announcer at Quidditch events. Luke appears out of a sliding panel in the wall and provides an update. When he first does this in Episode 1, Dame Helen proclaims she's seen him before but can’t figure out where, and is certain it's not because they have worked together. Keep it going, ma’am!

The scorekeeper is none other than Luke Youngblood (a.k.a. Quidditch scorekeeper Lee Jordan).

With the Round 1 scores read, it is time for Round 2, aptly named The Dueling Club. The questions go up to 10, 30, and 50 points. The teams also have to choose members on the opposing team to answer the questions, with the 50-point question being the hardest. 

My fellow Gryffindors went wild seeing Matthew Lewis appear on the game board.

This is where strategy comes into play, which seems a little goofy at this stage.  Each team must choose a person on the opposite team to answer each specific question based on their knowledge of the HP series. For example, the Hufflepuff team should choose the most knowledgeable Gryffindor team member to get the easiest question (worth 10 points), saving the hardest question (worth 50) to the least knowledgeable person, who's most likely to get it wrong. Because the players have seemingly known each other for all of 10 minutes, this becomes tricky. The houses (audience) also play along and help add to the total score at the end. For the 50 point difficult question, they bring in former actors or huge fans of the series, such as Matthew Lewis, (Neville Longbottom), Simon Fisher-Becker (the Fat Friar), and Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live cast member and a huge fan of the series). 

Round 3 is the Department of Magical Games in which there are several magical charms shown on the portrait wall, each representing a different style of question. The houses take turns choosing the style they want to play, with each question being worth 50 points. However, if the first house that attempts a question answers it incorrectly, the other house can steal it with a correct answer for 30 points. Each Round 3 question is inspired by a theme, and for Episode 1 that theme is Places.

Each team picks a charm and answers their question accordingly. For example, in Episode 1, Hufflepuff chooses Revelio, where they must uncover what happens next in a scene shown on the portrait wall. Gryffindor chooses Accio, where the show has summoned an actual prop from the films: they have to choose between 3 couches and determine which one was the actual couch in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 that Hermione's parents are sitting on when Hermione wipes their memory for their safety. *crying softly in the corner*

What I enjoy about Round 3 is the vast jump in the difficulty of questions compared to the other 2 rounds. Initially, with Round 1, the questions seem childishly easy. Then we get to questions where you can’t see anything, you only hear a noise from a scene in a film, and you have to identify what it is. Now this is the difficulty level where I am challenged!

The show ends with Round 4, called The Golden Snitch. In this round, teams answer 6 increasingly difficult questions at the same time, and the house members in the audience participate as well. Each question is worth 50 points, but if the houses answer all 6 questions correctly, they double the 300 points to 600! 

Gryffindor House audience members cheer on the contestants and answer questions to help their team in the final round.

After the Round 4 questions and answers, we get the final tally from Lee, er, Luke. In Episode 1, Hufflepuff beats Gryffindor (boo!), and in episode 2, Ravenclaw beats Slytherin (what!).  

Dame Helen promised that both Gryffindor and Slytherin will have a chance at redemption before the tournament is over, and they did! Episode 3 was a showdown for the ages, and Slytherin beat Gryffindor to secure a spot in the final.

This is the basic format for all of the episodes until we get to Episode 4. Starting that final episode, there are 3 teams, the winners of the first three episodes.  To whittle it down to 2, each of the 3 players from the same team must answer their own, individual questions while also being the fastest to press the button to answer against the others. This was a sly way of eliminating players. Ravenclaw jumped to an early lead with 2 players already answering correctly, leaving 1 player on their team who ended up getting answers wrong. That cost Ravenclaw, allowing Hufflepuff to secure their spot in the final! In the most unexpected twist of them all (that’s the Gryffindor in me), Hufflepuff went on to win it all, beating Slytherin!

Hufflepuff champions with Dame Helen Mirren.

Speaking of the final, the prizes! The winning team received a Harry Potter trip of a lifetime! It includes visits to the new New York City store, Harry Potter: The Exhibition, tickets to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, tickets to The Cursed Child, and an advanced screening of The Secrets of Dumbledore. They also get to hoist a trophy reminiscent of the Goblet of Fire!

While the series does seem a little campy and child-like at first, its beauty is that it appeals to both adults and children and is aimed at being family-friendly. The fact that Harry Potter is still this relevant to this day makes my inner child scream with joy! (But not audibly, I would get stared at a lot.) I am so excited to see more of this series if they decide to make more seasons!

Have you watched any of the episodes? What are your thoughts? Are you challenged by the questions? Let me know below!

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Game and Why It's So Flarking Fun

When I first saw the trailer for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game, I'll admit I was a bit underwhelmed. I had played the Avengers game, and while fun initially, I quickly lost interest (I honestly feel kind of bad about that as it’s a gorgeous game). I truly felt that Guardians would be no different. Both are published by Square Enix, and while Avengers was geared towards multiplayer, Guardians is a single-player game. 

Initially, I was worried about the single-player aspect as I have grown very fond of playing multiplayer games with my friends. I quickly realized that you are never truly alone even though you play by yourself. You can have your companions help out in specific scenarios, but you play as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). Most people refer to this as a companion RPG, which is not what I would typically play. I have to say I was almost not willing to spend the money to play it, but seeing player reviews, I just had to give it a shot, and flarking hell, I am happy I did. The dialogue is a masterpiece. Rocket likes to use the word “flark” when he swears, which is quite a lot, and the others have picked up that habit throughout the game. It is pure Guardians gold. The banter and the bickering between the characters are what you would expect from the Guardians tales. Quill and his typical optimism even in the worst of times, “If we are going to smell like butt, we will smell like butt together!” to Drax and his usual dry but hilarious responses, “I will smell like butt with you, Peter Quill!” 

The soundtrack is absolutely amazing, which we should expect from Guardians. There is an 80’s rock band called Star-Lord that was made up for the game. Peter Quill obviously takes his name from that band in this storyline. With other entertaining 80’s songs like Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” you can’t help but have a blast while blasting bad guys in the face!

 As usual, in my first playthrough, I am playing the game on easy difficulty (nicknamed “You got this” in the menu) to get the complete feel of the gameplay. I’m happy I did because learning the combat techniques took a little getting used to for me. There are a lot of adjustments you can make in the controls menu to tailor your experience to meet your own needs. Quill has certain moves to get around most opponents, and you find upgrade material throughout the levels to upgrade abilities. He has his super fancy blasters that gain elemental power throughout the game. Rocket always asks to “borrow” his magic blasters (luckily, Quill never obliges). Quill also has jet-powered boots that allow you to literally kick the crap out of enemies. Ability points are gained for Quill and his companions as you level up. Different outfits can be found throughout the game to change the look of each character. 

As you engage in combat, your “huddle up” meter fills. This is like a super meter concept in most fighting games where as you take or give damage, the super meter increases. Once that meter is filled, you can “huddle up” with the other Guardians. Depending on what your companions are saying (and it’s different every time), you choose how to inspire them. If you choose incorrectly, it does affect how well they do in combat. You can direct your companions to do specific moves or special abilities to overcome more challenging fights and obstacles. Quill then blasts some fantastic 80’s tunes from his walkman while battling opponents, and it makes it so much fun even if it is challenging at times!

The story is terrific, and each character's backstory seems a little different from the movie. I never read any of the graphic novels, but I wonder which is more faithful to the story of these characters. Does anyone know? Shout at me in the comments! 

I love the interaction between the characters. When you get a little stuck on what move to make next, your companions will usually say something helpful that points you in the right direction (if you pay attention). You can make choices throughout the game that lead to different outcomes. I am tempted to do another playthrough to see if anything drastically changes if I make another choice. One option I chose turned into a complete “flark” up, and all hell broke loose (but honestly, isn’t that typical Guardian fashion?). I wonder if things would have been a little smoother had I made a different choice? 

At one point, you are arrested by Nova Corps. I giggled for a solid 15 minutes because apparently, Quill had allowed Rocket to fill out paperwork during a previous dust-up. Rocket, of course, let Groot help, so to Nova Corp, they are on the record officially as “Gardeners of the Galaxy” which embarrasses Quill greatly. The bickering between them all while standing there in handcuffs in front of the Nova Corp arresting officers was pure comedy. 

Rocket is his usual grumpy and pessimistic self, and Gamora and Drax constantly insult each other. Quill has to quickly get MUCH better at the whole leadership thing to hold the group together, and your choices throughout the game help with this. There are times when Drax asks if he can “toss” Rocket to get through an obstacle, and you can decide to let him or find another way around. There is ALWAYS another way around, so I have yet to throw Rocket. I have seen other gamers who have, and trust me, I don’t think Rocket will soon forget that. 

At one moment in the game, I was afraid I messed up a decision because they all bailed on me. But again, in typical Guardians' fashion, they all show up at possibly the worst or best time. You decide. Oh, and they save a weird space llama. I mean, why not?

"What the flark is that!?"

There are occasional glitches, and while it’s not the smoothest, it is so much fun to play. I have not quite finished, but I am looking forward to picking it back up soon because the story is fascinating. 

The Mind stone

The mind stone (the yellow infinity stone) plays a role in this version of the tale. I accidentally “finished” the game at one point because I made a wrong decision, but thankfully it lets you change your mind. It takes an average of 15 to 20 hours of gameplay which isn’t too bad for those with limited time. It will probably take me a little longer because I’m stopping to look at EVERYTHING, and it takes me a little longer to get through the fight scenes. I bought this game soon after its release in October 2021. I have been slowly working through it and enjoying every minute of it. I can honestly say that I am glad I tried something a little out of my comfort zone. I am happy the game was nominated for Game Awards in several categories. The fact that it won the award for best narrative should tell you that it’s worth checking out for the story alone. 

Has anyone else been curious about this game and wondered if they should try it out?