Geek Syndicate http://geeksyndicate.co.uk Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:37:12 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 56958805 GSN PODCAST: Bags of Action – Episode 46 Highlander http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/podcasts/gsn-podcast-bags-action-episode-46-highlander/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/podcasts/gsn-podcast-bags-action-episode-46-highlander/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:37:12 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk?p=101615&preview=true&preview_id=101615 In this episode Steve and Pete are joined by a special guest, Andy Schmidt, to discuss a classic film of his choosing, Highlander from 1986.

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This is Bags of Action. The podcast devoted to  action movies, both old and new, but all of them are awesome! In this episode Steve and Pete are joined by a special guest, Andy Schmidt, to discuss a classic film of his choosing, Highlander from 1986. It’s been a long time since they’ve all seen the film, so does it hold up today? Is there anything they’d change about it, and what’s the difference between the US and the European versions?

Direct Download: GSN PODCAST: Bags of Action – Episode 46 Highlander

To talk about this episode and any other episode you can visit the Bags of Action Facebook group here – Facebook Group . If you would like to get in touch with the show you can follow us on Twitter @BagsofAction or you can email us at bagsofaction [at] gmail [dot] com or you could leave us a review on iTunes. If you enjoy this podcast or any of the others on the Geek Syndicate network then you can support the show by contributing to Geek Syndicate on Patreon

 

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Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.7: “You’ve Been Sanctified, And I’ve Been Tried” http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations-4-1-7-youve-sanctified-ive-tried/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations-4-1-7-youve-sanctified-ive-tried/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 11:00:10 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101483 An episode in which we explore the respective legal systems of Bajor, Trill, and Klaestron IV in order, fittingly enough, to finally do Dax justice.

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Dax

Star Trek DS9 Dax

“We’ve never met but I still have had enough of your crap, gentlemen.”

Well, this certainly didn’t arrive too soon. It’s finally time for Deep Space Nine to start picking at the gloriously complicated structure of impenetrable knots that makes up Jadzia Dax.

Daxposition

This is clearly something that needed to happen with some urgency by this point. Almost every other main character had already been explored to at least some extent, kicking off their respective journeys to becoming some of the best and most fully-realised creations the franchise can claim. Dax, however, has been all but ignored ever since the Prophets returned her from the wormhole. In the five episodes since “Emissary”, she’s had precisely ninety-seven lines to say – that’s eight more than Vash got in “Q-Less” – and almost every one of them has involved exposition, technobabble, or fending off Dr Bashir (or combinations thereof). This is a waste not just of a character with great potential but of an experienced actress too, and apparently someone finally realised it. Hence we get this episode, intended both as an exploration of Dax’s character and a chance for Terry Farrell to demonstrate what she was capable of.

Let’s start with the latter goal first, because that’s the one that’s an unqualified success.  Finally offered enough room to work, Farrell absolutely nails it. We already knew from the pilot and the early scenes of “A Man Alone” that she could convincingly sell the strange, self-contradictory nature of her relationship with Sisko, and of course she does so again here. Here though, she’s given much more beyond that to work with, and she doesn’t put a foot wrong throughout. The range of emotions Farrell can get across with her face alone is amazing; she shifts effortlessly between serenity, pride, confusion, and a kind of devastated sadness. It’s extraordinary to watch. The way she carries herself is brilliant, as well. A lot of what we might call pride in a man north of sixty might read as arrogance when projected by someone in their late twenties, but Farrell sidesteps this trap entirely. She simply radiates the calm self-confidence that access to centuries of memories can bestow upon you, or at least she does up until Ilon Tandro arrives and things start getting complicated.

All in all it’s an excellent performance, made all the more impressive by the story actually requiring her to do very little. Which is where we begin to get into trouble.

The central problem with “Dax” as an episode is that it explores not Dax herself, but some kind of photo-negative of her. We learn not what Dax is likely to say or do, but simply under what circumstances she will refuse to say or do anything. She is defined here by her inaction. We still learn about her from this approach, but it’s a bizarrely stilted method of presenting her character. The fact Farrell sells the absolute hell out of what she’s given here doesn’t change the fact she should have been handed more.

Dax’s refusal to engage with her own defence causes more problems than simply limiting Farrell’s role, too. It also forces Sisko to build his case upon the general nature of joined Trill rather than Jadzia Dax specifically. What this means is we learn about her as an entity rather than as a person. This is character study as exposition, a ten-point listicle on Trill physiognomy awkwardly stuffed into the preamble to a murder trial.

“They’re Guilty When Killed And They’re Killed Where They’re Found”

It’s also worth noting the gender balance here. It’s somewhat discomforting watching four men explain to each other who and what Dax is, especially given their interest is in the man she was rather than the woman she is. Thank the Prophets, then, for Els Renora, the century-old Bajoran arbiter with no time for fools and little time for anything else. I delight in Arbiter Els. I’d love to know the story of what she did during the occupation; I can’t imagine her having the slightest patience for any Cardassian who crossed her. She’s certainly fearless here, arriving at a station run by an immensely powerful interstellar society which is all that stands between her homeworld and the return of its former brutal occupiers, and straight up telling the representative of that society she won’t let him waste so much as a minute of her time. She’s smart, she’s formidable, she’s Ruth Spacer Ginsbourg. Having her preside over the extradition hearing doesn’t remove the issues inherent in Dax’s self-imposed paralysis, but it certainly helps. She even gets to shut men up by smashing a ball into a hard surface: the visual metaphor is as obvious as it is hilarious.

(I wonder how much of DC Fontana is bound in the Arbiter, actually. Whatever the answer is to that, though, the fact this episode was written by both the franchise’s oldest hand and one of its newest, brightest stars is delightfully appropriate given its focus.)

Arbiter Els, because she’s awesome, can also help us find our way back to positive territory. Let’s move on from seeing this as a character showcase, and frame it instead as an exploration of a legal quandary. Because whilst “Dax” isn’t actually all that great a vehicle for Dax herself, the questions the hearing throws up are genuinely interesting. Whilst “Justice” was an episode about capital punishment, “Dax” is about collective punishment, and the two episodes share a willingness to provide a steel-man defence for their respective choice of draconian punishment. So, let’s take the episode’s lead and poke at the idea of punishing groups of people for the actions of individuals (presumed to be) hiding among them.

When collective punishment is employed against a population, it’s often for one or both of the following reasons. Either those judged guilty are too deeply hidden within a population centre to be winkled out, or there are so many people breaking the law in a given area that actually identifying individual criminals no longer becomes possible. Obviously, that’s a far from exhaustive list, but it covers an awful lot of historical examples, from executing civilians in retaliation for partisan activity to launching drone strikes against wedding receptions. “Dax” takes the first of those examples to its most extreme point, by imagining a situation in which a murderer has literally hid themselves within another person. Now, they cannot receive justice without someone else suffering the exact same punishment alongside them. We’ll skip over the acceptability of the death penalty itself here, since I covered that last week. In any case, you also wouldn’t be able to imprison Dax without imprisoning Jadzia, so the issue remains even under threat of a more lenient sentence. The point is that what’s usually merely rhetoric is made literal here: there is genuinely no choice here other than to either punish the innocent, or to let the guilty go free.

And just as it has been before when at its best, Star Trek is unequivocal here. If you can’t punish the guilty without punishing the innocent as well, then you are entirely out of luck.

This position, and the desire to publicly state it, is absolutely key to the episode. It’s why it takes the shape it does. It wouldn’t have been all that difficult to centre “Dax” around an actual trial, instead of an extradition hearing. You’d need a courtroom set, yes, but Piller has gone on record as saying the decision to not build a set for the hearing came about for story rather than budget reasons – why would the recently ransacked and abandoned station have suitable facilities for legal proceedings? This certainly implies the episode could have been set in a courtroom on Klaestron IV, with our heroes attempting to save Dax from execution itself, rather than the possibility of execution following her deportation.

The obvious reason this route isn’t taken is that the actual question of Curzon Dax’s guilt isn’t actually the interesting one. The script sacrifices a quick route to cheap drama in order to actually give us something worth saying. Whether or not the Dax symbiote bears some responsibility for General Tandro’s death is a supreme irrelevance. All that matters is that Jadzia doesn’t.

Watching Ilon Tandro argue to the contrary is infuriating, but it is also instructive. Many of his arguments are reminiscent of those deployed in our own world. He starts off by insisting that failing to punish the new host a guilty Trill symbiote goes on to hide inside will encourage further criminal acts. “The perfect Trill crime”, he calls it. Let’s leave aside the fact this is a ridiculous position, and focus instead on how similar it is to the suggestion that say, civilian populations that are found to have partisans hiding among them must be punished, to prevent other partisans from feeling safe doing the same thing. In this framing, the punishment of the innocent is an unfortunate necessity of war – sometimes you just can’t kill the bad guys without the occasional civilian being sacrificed alongside.

That argument tends to be insufficiently persuasive, however – it’s too easy to imagine ourselves as being the completely blameless citizen wiped from the earth to make someone else’s war easier. Therefore the idea mutates, changing into the suggestion that there’s no such thing as punishing the innocent along with the guilty anyway, because the very fact the enemy chooses to hide within a community proves that community is offering them aid. If someone lives beside the enemy, then they are the enemy (this is an argument the US has made explicitly regarding drone strikes in recent years – any adult male killed by a strike is deemed to be an enemy combatant simply by dint of being in an area the US targeted). Because how could a resistance fighter move in to your village and you not be aware of it? And why would you do what armed soldiers tell you to unless you actually supported their struggle?

It gets a lot easier to judge people guilty when you label ignorance and fear as crimes. This too is a position Tandro echoes, when he suggests a new Trill host becomes guilty of the crimes of their antecedent selves simply by agreeing to the joining, irrespective of whether they had any knowledge or even suspicion of a criminal past.

But it gets worse. Somehow, it always gets worse. Ultimately even these absurdly expansive definitions of guilt can’t get the job done, because the people you want to label as guilty are rude enough to turn out to be infirm, or children, or left paralysed by the last strike you authorised. At that point, the argument magically shifts back to this being a tragic but unavoidable cost of punishing the guilty. Each person hurt ends up in a kind of Schrodinger’s trap, becoming both frothing sympathiser and tragic casualty whilst we wait to hear whether or not they could’ve held a rifle. Whichever position most easily allows the killing to continue will be the one ultimately settled on. Because the killing must continue, or else how else will we stop the killing?

Once again, Ilon Tandro is essentially doing the same thing here, shifting his argument between two different positions based on whomever is currently testifying. When Bashir takes the stand, all that matters is that there’s no evidence of change in the Dax symbiote’s brain waves since its time in Curzon.  It remains unchanged, and therefore can be seen as being the same being it was at the time of the general’s death. Once he’s questioning Sisko, though, it’s suddenly critical that Jadzia and Dax have joined, because that means Jadzia is guilty alongside her symbiote. These positions are incompatible. Either Dax’s brainwaves means it remains a distinct entity, or the Trill joining creates a single being, unique each time. Dax has to remain the same so it can still be considered the entity that killed the general, but also it has to have formed a unique single being with Jadzia so she can be held accountable for that murder. Whatever gets him the result Tandro wants is what he argues at any given time, and what he wants is death.

Family Proceedings Court

Not that there’s any chance of getting Ilon Tandro to understand that. His entire being is caught up in this; it’s essential to his self-worth that he demonstrate Jadzia Dax needs to die. I actually think that, now that Sisko has challenged him to justify himself, Ilon has decided getting people to agree with him is actually more important to him than having Jadzia extradited. Why do I believe that? Well, to answer that question we have to talk about Seelin Peers.

Peers, for those who’ve not seen the episode for a while, is the Trill minister sent to observe Dax’s extradition. I’ll kick off with the obvious: there is absolutely no way that Trill society does not already have an answer to the question as to whether legal culpability can be passed from one host/symbiote pairing to the next. Even if we assume crimes on Federation member worlds are pretty rare, and that the joined are even less likely to step over the line for fear of infecting future hosts with undying remorse, this issue will have come up before. There can’t be a law student on Trill who got through their first year without having to discuss it.

Despite this, neither Sisko nor Tandro actually ask Peers what the culture that produces symbiotic pairings has concluded on the issue. In Sisko’s case, I think this is because he knows what he’s going to hear, or at least fears he knows – we never did learn what Kira found out regarding precedents. After all, were the Trill dead set against the idea of punishing new hosts for earlier crimes, their government would have petitioned the Federation to deny this extradition request, not send a representative to Deep Space Nine to point Dax out to Tandro. At the very least, they’d have sent Sisko a warning this was coming under the radar.

(So why wouldn’t Peers volunteer this information himself during the hearing? Because being required to honour a ridiculous Federation treaty – unilateral extradition? Really? What do the Klystronians have on us? – isn’t the same as actively helping to risk the life of a fellow joined Trill.)

This ties in to the suggestion throughout that Sisko is sure Arbiter Els will uphold the extradition order, and that he’s just playing for time. He knows the writing is on the wall of the execution chamber. While his questioning of Dax in the final minutes of the hearing seems impressive – and as a final message to his old/new friend, it’s desperately sorrowful and sweet – it takes just six words for Tandro to tear our hopes down.

This will only take a minute.

What does he have? How can he be so sure he’s about to shoot down Sisko’s arguments so easily and completely? The structure of the scene makes the answer obvious. The killer question, the final, unanswerable accusation that is so damning  Enina Tandro has to appear at just that moment to save her former lover’s former chest-slug, is this:

As a Trill candidate, did Jadzia fully understand the responsibilities to be assumed upon becoming a Trill, and did you willingly accept those responsibilities, and whatever consequences they might entail?… And would that not obviously include the consequences of criminal acts committed by Curzon Dax?

The whole episode has been leading to this. Absent Enina’s cavalry charge, Dax is dead. The episode might seem to dodge the question as to whether Jadzia Dax can be punished for Curzon Dax’s actions, but basic story structure is making it very clear that the Trills think the answer to this is “yes”. Now I can answer my own question above. I believe Ilon Tandro wanted to “win” the hearing more than he wanted Dax extradited because had he asked this question to Peers rather than saving it for Jadzia, he’d be headed home with her in his hold before Odo had made his first report.

Tandro doesn’t go down that route because it’s too important to him that Jadzia admits that she needs to answer for any crimes Curzon committed.  He needs her to tell him the collective punishment he has in mind is genuinely just, that’s he is not simply on the pointless, destructive revenge kick his mother said he was. By being so set on justifying his course of action, however, he gives his mother the time she needs to reveal he’s doing the exact opposite, tearing herself down in the process. It’s almost Shakespearean, actually. Ilon is so desperate to punish someone for the death of the globally beloved father, he causes the destruction of his own mother’s reputation. He’s so intent on demonstrating his father’s closest friend betrayed him that he forces his mother to confess the “betrayal” was hers.

(I say “betrayal” because I’m not sure how much right Ilon has to be upset with his mother for sleeping with someone other than his father. Having not been on Klaestron IV at the time, I’ve no idea what the actual interplay between Enina, Curzon and General Tandro actually was. We know Curzon himself felt he was acting shamefully in sleeping with his best friend’s wife, but then I’m actually a little uncomfortable with how Jadzia Dax frames this guilt. “Acting shamefully with another man’s wife” carries with it a faint implication of Enina being her husband’s property. Sleeping with your best mate’s partner in secret is obviously a massively crappy thing to do, but that’s not the same thing as equating any kind of affair as shameful, nor does it concede that Ilon or anyone else has a right to judge. From what little Enina says on the subject, it’s clear her marriage was not a happy one, at least not towards the end. If she felt she needed to sleep with Curzon to improve matters, I’m not sure anyone should be throwing stones.)

It’s even possible Ilon’s actions will end up shredding his father’s reputation, too – now the fourth and final name has been struck from Ilon’s list, the only remaining suspect is the general himself. Between Odo’s digging and Ilon returning empty-handed, tongues are bound to start wagging. By insisting his father’s legacy was all that mattered, Ilon might very well have destroyed it. Hell, Enina herself might help the process, if she gets sick of the hurricane of slut-shaming she’s likely got coming when she returns home, and decides she’ll set the record straight.

The Other Woman

Let’s take this opportunity to say with a few words on Enina Tandro before wrapping up. Enina is the third of the three women who’ve been dragged into a fight over the legacies of two dead men, and who’d rather just have been left alone. She only appears in four scenes and has only a handful of lines in each, but like Terry Farrell, Fionulla Flanagan has entirely enough presence to make this work. I’m sure it must be very difficult to make a role memorable with so little time to do it, but Flanagan succeeds capably, turning in an impressively powerful performance; all proud sadness and weary frustration. Doubtless this is helped by her having so tragic a character to work with. Each of Enina’s too-few lines just carries so much weight, so much anger over having to spend half a life in service to someone else’s lie. When she wishes Dax the life she could never have for herself, Flanagan absolutely kills it, wrapped the words in a rusted, burdensome chain forged over every wasted day of this woman’s last thirty years.

Enina also offers both commentary on, and inversion of, the common problem of female characters being defined mainly in terms of their relationships to male ones. Even Jadzia comes close to being described in these terms, as I’ve noted above, though ultimately Sisko explicitly states that he realises Jadzia is not Curzon, and that he’s not qualified to define or even describe the former at all. It’s Enina that represents the strongest push-back to the trope, however. This is most obvious in her demonstration of how utterly wretched a life it is to be defined only as a war hero’s wife, and the power in her decision to insist her story must now actually involve her as a person. More subtly, though, there’s the realisation that Curzon is given form here by Enina, who knew aspects of the man Sisko never did. He can testify about his memories of the man – though even that requires another woman to direct the questioning – but it’s Enina’s knowledge of Curzon that saves the day here, the only other person who can approach knowing him the way Jadzia does. If Ilon Tandro had listened to the story of Curzon his mother had told, instead of trying to write one of his own, none of this need ever have happened.

Now, both Enina and Jadzia are free to talk honestly of how Curzon features in each of their stories, should they wish. Those stories remain their own, of course. In some ways, this is what being a joined Trill means – you get to tell the stories of those long-dead and weave them into your own. You get to take a many-layered story from multiple previous authors and add to it in a way that honours them without rehashing their work.

That is what the joining passes to you. Not criminal responsibility, but a suite of ideas on how to put together the story of your life. And now, at long last, Jadzia Dax can begin to tell hers.

Ordering

1. Dax

2. The Infinite Vulcan

3. What Are Little Girls Made Of?

4. Justice

GS Blogger: Ric Crossman

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GameTale – A Gamebook for 3-9 Year Olds http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/books-2/book-news/gametale-gamebook-3-9-year-olds/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/books-2/book-news/gametale-gamebook-3-9-year-olds/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 10:38:26 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101607 Over on Kickstarter right now, you can pledge for a deluxe hardcover printing of a lovely little gamebook aimed at the younger audience. Gremmy's Big Adventure is a branching interactive tale with almost 100 paths. Check out more details here.

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If you head on over to Kickstarter right now using this very link, you will find a delightful little project aimed at the small children in your life.

GameTale is an adventure game-book which follows the cutest gremlin I’ve ever seen – Gremmy on an adventure strung together by the book’s reader. There are almost a hundred paths through the book, meaning this has a lot of re-readability to it. The book is currently available as a free downloadable PDF and the kickstarter is so that the author can produce a printed version of the book.

gametale book

Here’s the official low-down from the GameTale website:

 

How do you make little children fall in love with a book? How about giving them the chance to choose what will happen inside? The opportunity for a child and a parent to play together and make the decisions that will shape the fairy tale is something you will not find anywhere else.

 

The book sparks the imagination of children with nearly a hundred ways to be read and helps them understand how their choices shape their reality with twenty different endings.

I am a huge fan of interactive fiction like this and also have a young daughter who is fast approaching her third birthday. I read to her every night – quite often she will want the same books over and over which can get a little tiresome. But – with GameTale: Gremmy’s Adventure, the same book can be followed in completely different ways. Being able to let Kara make the decisions and branch the story herself is brilliant.

So please join me in making a pledge for a print version of GameTale.

 

Source: Kickstarter (via Jonathan Green)
GS Blogger: WedgeDoc

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GAME REVIEW: Die Young (PC Early Access) http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/games/game-review-die-young-pc-early-access/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/games/game-review-die-young-pc-early-access/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:00:22 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101518 We take a look at the Early Access version of IndieGala's Die Young, an idyllic island, a kidnap, and a good fun dose of running and climbing.

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After a montage opening scene that gives you a taste of your character’s personality: think plucky adrenaline seeker, you find yourself at the bottom of a hole in the ground. As game openings go, it certainly grabs the attention. I’ve been playing IndieGala’s PC game Die Young, a horror-survival game set on an idyllic Mediterranean island. Well, idyllic if you can look past all of the carnage. It’s within these first few moments that the game also introduces one of its core mechanics as it invites you to climb up out of the hole, to find the lie of the land. Die Young often wants you to climb up things, over things and along things using its parkour-style climbing system, and that seems only fair, unless you’re going to spend the entire game sitting in the dark awaiting a rescue that will probably never come.

Once out of the hole, you can see some of the island around you: sun-baked fields, buzzing insects and azure skies all seeming so tranquil and restful. Restful that is, until you have your first brush with the local wildlife. My first encounter was with a wild dog which promptly chased me up onto some rocks. I had nothing to fight back with and, as with many other games, the character has a stamina meter so she couldn’t run indefinitely. I managed to hide and break the dog’s view of me for just long enough for it to lose interest and walk away. It wasn’t long after this that I then encountered a snake which then suddenly decided that I was the most interesting thing around. Running away was much easier this time, the snake not really having the legs for a prolonged chase. My character became dehydrated after all of that running in the heat, a mechanic that you have to address or risk physical issues like blurred vision. I found a couple of houses with a handy water pump outside. After a refreshing drink, I discovered my first campfire, the game’s player-triggered saving system, which allowed me to save the game.

Die Young offers a number of quests to pursue. The main one is to escape the island, but there are others: like finding out what has happened to your friends, or visiting the island’s important landmarks. I recommend going for the landmarks as I seemed to find something important in each one. Of particular note was a crowbar that allowed me to fight back against the wildlife. Equipment does have a durability rating though, and once it breaks, unless you are lucky enough to find another one, you’ll need to hunt around for raw material to use in the game’s crafting system. Items which can be crafted fall into two categories: the consumable kind of stuff like bandages made from cloth or concocting herbal things to restore health, and the creation of tools which includes knives, crowbars and wrenches.

While you are exploring, you will also come across items of apparel like sneakers, knee-pads and storage belts. These can augment your character’s abilities, for example the knee-pads reduce damage from falling. You will also come across a variety of resources that you can pick up for your crafting, from herbs to scrap metal and rope. There is also an abundance of diaries and note-papers to find, giving you glimpses into the lives of the island’s inhabitants. It makes me feel like I should be keeping a diary too, so that if we do have an apocalypse of some kind, the survivors picking through my remains (ever the optimist I know) will be able to discover that I suffer with anxiety, and also that I think daytime television is about as dull as things can get.

The views can get quite vertigo-inducing at times.

As mentioned, Die Young features a lot of climbing. Fortunately, the game’s climbing mechanic is very satisfying. Climbing surfaces are indicated by white smudges or moss growing down from the edge of grabable ledges. The game does suffer somewhat as to not all likely looking edges are actually climbable however. On occasion this can lead to a heavy fall for your character and mild swearing from the player. This is something I’ve come across in every climbing game I’ve played though, so sadly it’s something I’ve come to expect. It doesn’t detract from enjoying the game though, a long sprint up a dry river valley jumping and climbing ridges whilst being chased by a pack of dogs was a particularly engrossing experience, and even the odd ungrippable surface didn’t hamper me too much.

“Check out my cellar!”

I have yet to mention the story. The setup is that your character has been kidnapped and finds herself on a mysterious island. She must use her pluckiness to overcome the odds and find her way to safety. As you explore the island, you will encounter other people, both living and dead. The dead are often found laying in gruesome ways, the results of violence or falls: not a pretty sight. The living can be talked to, such as the old man pictured above who wanted me to check his cellar. Thinking about it now, it does sound a bit like a trap. I did check it though, and my reward was some fruit! I was hoping for tools or some such. The early part of the game also sees you having to avoid a big bare-chested guy roaming the island with an axe. He only seems to stick to small areas though and I rarely found him to be a problem. It also didn’t enter my mind to try to attack him. Rats take three or so hits to kill, dogs almost ten. I think my character would die ten times over trying to take that giant down. Less a case of dying young but dying of stupidity.

Hiding from the axe-wielding maniac is always a good idea.

Die Young is in Steam’s Early Access section which means that it is still undergoing heavy development. It is actually still in alpha, so expect to get frequent patches and updates if you do decide to purchase it. There have been a number of updates during the time I spent with the game, the last one tweaking the amount of health rats have and adding more settings that can be adjusted, among other things. The developer says that the game will stay in Early Access until the main story is finished, and at the moment, the island is just under half the size that it will end up being when it is all completed. The game currently features about 25 quests, which will be increasing to around 70 at launch. Other things will be added or fleshed out as development continues, such as adding more enemies and bosses, and introducing new game systems such as booby traps, drug induced hallucinations and more climbing mechanics. Even though it is in an alpha state, I experienced no real issues on the stability front. I ran the game at 1080p with the graphical settings turned to Epic and it ran well on my i5 4th generation GTX 970 system. The only issue I had once was after one update when I found myself at the bottom of a cliff rather than next to the bonfire I had saved at. This was nothing major.

The dry riverbed where I had my canine-motivated climbing run.

I enjoyed the time that I spent in Die Young’s world. At the moment, it seems that you can only progress to the Apricot Valley area (where I met the old cellar fella). There are fences that block off paths that look like they will take you to other areas. Even so, by the time I got to this stage I had sunk around five hours into the game, and I still have a few quests that I can go back to that I didn’t complete (I always take a “main quest plus a few sides” approach to gaming, rather than a “gotta find absolutely everything” attitude). I now find myself working through said quests.

Do I think Die Young is good value for your money at this moment in time? The developer makes it clear on the Steam Store page that you should only buy it if you are really enthused about supporting the game and giving feedback that they can use to shape it into something special. It is currently available on PC for £10.99 on Steam and $13.49 on IndieGala as part of a deluxe pack featuring another parkour-style game: Downward. Die Young gives you a landscape to explore that has a sense of place and threat, and the climbing-running-fighting mechanics are all satisfying enough. It probably will come down to how hyped you are to dip your toe in early rather than waiting awhile. I liked it, and the friends I have spoken to about it still seemed very interested even with all of the above in mind. I think it’s a game that certainly has legs, and I am interested to find out how the story will eventually end.

Rating: 4/5

Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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Stifled is a Game in which the Monsters can Hear your Fear http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/games/stifled-game-monsters-can-hear-fear/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/games/stifled-game-monsters-can-hear-fear/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 07:13:59 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101573 Stifled is a game that uses the player's microphone to help them make sense of what is going on in the game's world. The monsters can hear it too...

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The thing that prompted me to write this short news piece was seeing Stifled listed in an upcoming games release list. Not having heard of it before, I had a look and thought it looked very promising, but the release date is still to be announced sadly. This might be thin basis for a news story but if you are like me and hadn’t heard anything about Stifled, this could possibly give you a new game to pine for.

Stifled is coming from Singapore-based Gattai Games, and has already picked up a host of gaming show awards. The core mechanic is that the sounds made, either by your character or by you via your microphone, create an echolocation effect in the game world, revealing information about your character’s surroundings. The drawback is that the nasties that lurk in said world can also hear you! As a fan of horror games, this mechanic has me almost holding my breath at the thought of how unhelpful a sudden expletive might be in this game. If Alien: Isolation had such a mechanic, I don’t think I’d have been able to complete it!

Stifled, when it does release sometime this year, is set to come out for PC, Mac, Xbox One and PS4 , and will support PS:VR, Oculus an Vive headsets. You can watch the trailer below for an idea of how the echolocation works.

Source: Stifledgame
GS Blogger: Casey Douglass

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Press Days for Star Wars x Po-Zu Collection Announced http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/news/events-news/po-zu-press-days/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/news/events-news/po-zu-press-days/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 21:01:13 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101550 You're only a couple of months away from being able to fight the Empire in some fancy new shoes from the new Star Wars x Po-Zu range! Want to see the shoes before then? Sign up to visit Po-Zu HQ in London!

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You’re only a couple of months away from being able to fight the Empire in some fancy new shoes from the new Star Wars x Po-Zu range! Want to see the shoes before then? Sign up to visit Po-Zu HQ in London!

Click to view slideshow.

Award winning ethical footwear label and pioneer, Po-Zu launch AW17 Mainline & Star Wars™ | Po-Zu AW17. Offering a fresh look and feel to the signature Po-Zu range, the AW17 collection blends comfort and style with sustainable materials and the classic ethos of the brand.

 

The highly anticipated Star Wars ™ | Po-Zu range is set to launch in August 2017 in time for Christmas, globally. The collection includes styles for women, men and kids shoes, boots and sneakers inspired by the main characters in the Star Wars films under license with Lucas Film and Disney. This includes ‘The Last Jedi’, which launches 15th December.

 

This collaboration marks a high growth period for Po-Zu including the recent appointment of Safia Minney, MBE, as Managing Director. Having been recently awarded the ‘Fashion Worked’ Best Ethical Label award, judged by Harold Tilman CBE and Tamsin Lejeune of the Ethical Fashion Forum, the team is building profile and traction in anticipation of the launch.

 

Sven Segal, founder and CEO: “this collaboration has been a fantastic opportunity for Po-Zu to drive profile on an international scale. We are excited to launch AW17 and the Star Wars range in London at our showroom and in Germany and Holland at the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, and Soul Salon tradeshows.”

Po-Zu will be exhibiting at the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin (4th-6th July) and at Soul Salon in Amsterdam (9th-10th July), as well as holding press days at their London showroom. These will be on June 29th and July 21st, both running from 10am to 6pm. You can sign up to attend the London events here. Not only will you have the chance to see the new collections in person, but also their lovely showroom and learn more about the great ethical work they do! You’ll also be able to chat to and hear talks from Po-Zu Founder and CEO, Sven Segal, as well as Managing Director, Safia Minney (People Tree, Slave To Fashion).

Also, also, also: Po-Zu are looking for eager volunteers to help them at various conventions! So, if you’re up for spreading the ethical message and info about the new Star Wars collection, then drop them a line. I helped them out at MCM this year and they are a delightful bunch of people to work with! Here is some info from their blog:

Po-Zu is looking for passionate volunteers to help out at all upcoming comic cons and events with the brand. Join us for an open call training session at 17:30 – 19:00 on the 6th July.
Po-Zu is a London-based award-winning sustainable footwear brand, launched in 2006, and currently ranked as the UK’s Number 1 Ethical Shoe Brand by The Ethical Company Organisation. We are collaborating with Star Wars™ on an exciting co-branded collection which will take our ethics into mainstream fashion.
Email Kate kate@po-zu.com with a little bit about yourself and why you want to get involved.
We will cover lunch and your event ticket. We ask that you are available to volunteer for at least 2 days minimum and we will ensure that you have time in between to have a look around the event. More on the Star Wars collection here.
And finally, here’s a clip of the Resistance shoe being made, because holy Hoth are these Po-Zu BTS videos stunning!

GS Blogger: Jess Hawke
Source: Po-Zu

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Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: Frayed – Part 2 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/doctor-long-way-round-frayed-part-2/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/doctor-long-way-round-frayed-part-2/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 11:00:23 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101461 We are now at the conclusion of the opening two-parter and I feel both more and less informed about this show.

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Frayed Part 2: Fox Hunt (pp 68-134)

Frayed Fox Hunt

We are now at the conclusion of the opening two-parter and I feel both more and less informed about this show.

We appear to learn a lot about The Old Man (now regularly referred to as The Doctor, so I will too) but it is unclear how much of this is true. Webber makes a big statement about him, that he is not human, not from Earth and she is not a pilot, nor does he have a ship that can take them back to Earth. All of these The Doctor appears to agree to and would appear to support some of the hints we have been getting so far. However, at the end we see him enter a ship and suggest it is possible for them to reach Earth. So are all these facts untrue or just the last one?

His actions also hint at a contradiction or hypocrisy. He is regularly utilitarian, thinking the deaths of others to achieve a greater good is acceptable. Until, of course, it comes to his granddaughter. Then he is willing to throw all caution, even his own life, in order to rescue her. From an external perspective this could be argued to be because he needs her in order to pilot his ship, but it is definitely presented as a genuine affection. That he can be truly heroic when the situation is presented.

Unfortunately, his granddaughter (now Susan) fares much worse. Whilst she is not fridged (as I feared she might be given how these stories often go) she is still largely put in peril in order to motivate The Doctor, rather than actually taking any action. It is perhaps most emphasised in one scene where she tries to speak but her lips fall off. By the end she does indeed play a role but it is not as a pilot (as it is suggested she might be) or a scientist (as The Doctor gets to be) but rather that she can listen to people and tell good stories. Now the merits of this approach are arguable within the context of this episode.

For the ability to communicate is central to the narrative. Whilst the first half was concerned with the stories we tell, this is concerned with what we don’t say. The war largely takes place because of an inability to communicate between the Humans and The Foxes and their desperation causes them to make irrational choices. The dreamscape is created so Jill can summon Olmec because she cannot reach him. Even the Foxes entity’s ability to understand the dreamscape is central to the resolution. So it could be argued that Susan’s role is one of the greatest strengths of all, as The Doctor is quite reticent about divulging any information and we still do not know how much of what he says is really lies. Yet within a broader context Susan is diluted into a poor role to introduce her. As this is only the second episode we can only hope she will get expansion, not merely continue to be pushed into the background.

In the midst of this miscommunication, Cass moves into being the central villain. She willfully deceives and kills purely in order to gain the power she seeks. Yet her real fatal flaw that leads to her fall is ego. In many ways her impulse is one that many people feel, if only I was in charge things would run a lot smoother. Of course, like coup leaders and demagogues the world over she soon discovers that life is not that simple. People are not automatons and the enemy is not simply a force of pure evil. For the Foxes trust those who “do not wear the colour of killing”1.

Then we get to the ending. I did not just avoid talking about this until now for the sake of chronology. Rather this consists of a series of rather problematic choices, which really need to be addressed separately. The first point is the solution to the problems of the dreamscape. In here the Mesoamerican legends are declared to be “just stories” by Olmec after being convinced as such by Jill and Susan. At worst this is horrific erasure of real beliefs pushed by white people. Even in the most generous reading it has to be acknowledged as terrible optics.

Outside this goes further. The humans live in occupation under threat of death but it is presented as a positive situation, suggesting an occupying peace is better than war and servitude to an occupying force is little different to working for a corporation. Now I am neither a fan of capitalism nor military ventures but this is the height of false equivalencies. When combined with the prior treatment of native religious beliefs these choices are deeply troubling.

Less related but still troubling is the central romantic relationship between Olmec and Jill. Olmec at this point seems to only be a trace of his original self so he seems to be fulfilling the fantasies of the Pre-Teen Jill. It could be argued that as they both only exist in a dreamscape this is all harmless, but I question the element of choice that is really present for either of them.

Perhaps there is some point in this. That the universe is a dark place where endings are messy? However, if so, none of the characters make this clear and I would expect this given that we are often well into the realms of didacticism with the other points the tale is making. Instead it is presented as a happy ending. For an opening two-parter, this is an…odd choice to say the least.

Will we ever see this planet again? It is possible of course but it seems with the title and ending we are destined to follow the Old Man and his Granddaughter, now (for the moment at least) Susan and our titular Doctor. Will we next see them on Iwa, Earth or another planet all together? We shall see.

1. Although, given that a key part of this story emerges out of the fact that they murder a bunch of released animals from a petting zoo. Now some could be argued to be carnivores but what about if there were rabbits or chickens. I find this protestation a little hard to swallow. I feel I have to retcon this as a result of The Foxes assuming they were some kind of weapon but this feels like heavy lifting on my part.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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EVENT REPORT: GEEKS Wolves Comic-Con 2017 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/news/event-report-geeks-wolves-comic-con-2017/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/news/event-report-geeks-wolves-comic-con-2017/#respond Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:05:07 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101534 Wolverhampton was playing host to the small but fun GEEKS Comic-Con, read on to find out more.

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Cynical is how the conversation unfolded, as my companion and I walked to Geeks Con on June 10th at the Wolverhampton Race Course. We were sceptical about what kind of event this would be, potentially small, which is fine, we’ve been to smaller events before. For us Geeks Con was an unknown quantity, we didn’t know much about the organisers, would this Con be legit? It felt a little like we were walking into the middle of nowhere to find this Convention which didn’t shake that opinion. As it turned out we were so caught up in gossiping about comics and films that we walked right past the huge building housing the event. When we did find the appropriate building we then had to figure out how to gain entry. We could see the Convention, just not an entrance, it turned out we had to walk through the Holiday Inn, better signage next time please!

Once we arrived we had our tickets scanned, our hands stamped and then we entered. Although a small Con, the event was sprawling, spread across a number of rooms. The event made great use of space, the aisles were wide and the vendors’ tables well laid out. There was a bar area serving drinks, food and providing plenty of space to sit down. The rest of the building was taken over with the Con. There were about 70 vendors with a wide range of wares for sale: toys, crafts, collectables, clothing etc. Although if you were after comics the selection was limited, only one dedicated stall and no independent sellers. In the smaller hall a row of tables was set to one side for TV and film stars, highlights included Colin Baker, Hattie Hayridge, and Brian Wheeler.

The largest hall, in addition to stalls, contained rows of seating opposite a small stage area. Around the venue hung posters advertising the day’s program of events. After a good mooch through the vendors’ area we sat down by the stage for the panels and activities. The stage provided a great source of entertainment, partly down to the excellent hosts. Linked to the PA system was an iPad allowing for the hosts to play sound effects and music as they desired. It also allowed the use of a red prop phone that enabled a number of fun gags with pretend comedy callers, very inventive. We watched Geek or Not Geek, Star Wars panel, a Geeky quiz and Cosplay talk. All were really good fun, a great mix of audience interaction and comedy.

Other highlights of the day included Screen Play, which took up a large corner and had lots of props and fancy dress items for last minute Cosplays. This was in addition to various props around the venue providing cool photo opportunities. There was a stand with a number of Daleks adding further photo opportunities. Friendly Daleks roamed the vendor halls offering out Jelly Babies to guests. They even terrified a young boy who didn’t spot a Dalek creep up behind him, he leaped out of his skin when offered a Jelly Baby, funny! Immediately outside the venue was a small gun range with a variety of pellet guns. Not something I’ve encountered at a convention before, though proved to be good fun. Turns out I’m a pretty awful shot, I managed to hit 4 targets with 55 rounds, sad times.

Our cynicism was unjust, this event proved to be excellent. A smaller, family focused event, with plenty going on. My only complaint was the lack of signage when we arrived to direct us to the entrance. I’d highly recommend a Geeks Con event, a good price (£6), good selection of vendors (comics aside) and a very entertaining day’s programming.

Source: GEEKS Comic-Cons
GS Blogger: Richard Blades

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Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.7: The Day He Didn’t Die http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations-3-1-7-day-didnt-die/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/features/infinite-diversity-finite-combinations-3-1-7-day-didnt-die/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:00:08 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/?p=101312 It's the one where they almost kill Wesley. Which means I'm going to once again go against popular opinion, and point out this episode is chock-full of missed opportunities but that that ISN'T one of them.

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Justice

Star Trek TNG Justice

“Only a fool stands in defiance of the JUSTICE NIPPLES!”

Eesh. Punishment zone is right.

“Eternal Sign Of Barbarism”

Let’s start with the good news: “Justice” isn’t actually as bad as I remember it being. My decades-old memory of this episode suggested it revolved around one of those ridiculous Prime Directive quandaries. You know the ones I mean.  A story where the obviously correct decision is declared off-limits by slavish devotion to a rule which, while generally sensible, would on this occasion lead to a ridiculous result.

In fact, “Justice” is very much about the opposite. It takes Picard a while to state it – he’s a very busy man with a terrifying star god to worry about – but the moment he gets the chance to express an opinion outside an Edo’s hearing he’s unequivocal. Wesley will not be executed. Non-intervention is non-viable. And while Picard would rather persuade the Edo of the wisdom of his position if possible, getting them to admit that murdering a teenager for leaf-disruption is a trifle excessive isn’t actually necessary. It’s only the transluscent tripod of rage hovering above the world that makes him think twice about just taking Wesley and leaving, and eventually he tries to do just that.

So this isn’t one of those interminable stories about how the Prime Directive is a noble idea which can be difficult to live up to. It’s about how even the most fundamental and vital laws cannot be interpreted without empathy.  “Justice” is explicitly calling out many other Prime Directive stories, past and future, as being morally outrageous. Picard even says “There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute”, and he’s specifically referencing the Prime Directive as well as the Edo’s own system when he does so.

And that comparison seems very much part of the point. There are obvious similarities between the civilisation of Edo III and the Earth of the Federation. Both societies are considered paradises – I’m not sure this Earth has been explicitly called such at this point, but it’s a reasonable implication from all the dialogue about leaving behind destructive urges and moving past all those petty squabbles over economics and nationality. We’ll learn soon enough in “Haven” (broadcast after this episode but filmed before it) that the 24th century approach to romantic/sexual relationships is far less rigidly structured than that of American society as a whole, moving humanity closer to the Edo. Most pertinently, neither Edo nor Federation society has crime levels that rise above the negligible (again, I’m not sure if this is explicit yet, but it’s certainly implied by Picard here).

Put all this together, and it’s quite possible Picard and his crew would feel more at home on Edo III than they would in the America of the late eighties, or even now. Humanity has come a long way. And yet the franchise to this point (and afterward, really) has always been fairly hazy on just how we pulled it off.

This isn’t particularly surprising, of course. First of all, it would probably be difficult to do convincingly. It would also risk dating the show more quickly (and remember this episode was broadcast just five years before the Eugenic Wars of the original series were due to kick off). Lastly, and probably most importantly, it would be of questionable interest to most viewers. Who wants to tune in to a sci-fi show to be given a history lecture, and one that’s a pack of lies at that?

We can still gather up the occasional clue, though, and we get a rather nice one here. “Justice” tells us that whatever has allowed humanity to reach its (ostensibly) enlightened state by the 24th century, it wasn’t the death penalty. The argument put forward by some that crime could be wiped out immediately were we just willing to be far more draconian with our punishments is comprehensively rejected here. Indeed, the idea that this could possibly work is portrayed as backward, even childlike. Picard tries to be as diplomatic as possible when telling the Edo that humanity long ago realised this set-up is a terrible idea, but that’s still what he tells them.

And he’s right. I mean, I’m not thrilled about this being a show in which humanity jets around the universe explaining to other cultures that they’re just not as smart as we are, but he’s right. The idea that a society can be rid of crime more or less entirely by simply dialing up the severity of punishment is both morally appalling and totally incorrect. In my post on “Phage” I talked (in admittedly vague and shallow terms) about the multitude of different objectives a criminal justice system is reaching for. Those objectives are not necessarily parallel to each other, and most of them would be rendered impossible by a program of mass executions. In particular, the decision to kill everyone who commits any form of crime jettisons any concern for rehabilitation completely. Indeed, the only way to justify so outrageously immoral a system is to insist criminality is a kind of idiopathic condition, one that cannot be understood or cured or alleviated or vaccinated against, but merely destroyed. Quite frankly, this is a view of the world too simple to be acceptable in a Saturday morning cartoon. Even Skeletor eventually started doing ads for price comparison websites instead of trying to enslave Eternia.

And on top of all that, it simply wouldn’t work. It couldn’t work. People don’t stop committing crimes because the punishment for them is death; that simply couldn’t be more obviously and trivially true. We can go back and forth on whether execution has some effect as a deterrent, but it transparently doesn’t stamp out any crime it is used to punish. Yes, making jaywalking punishable by death would probably have a larger effect on the crime statistics than doing the same thing with murder, but that’s because a) murder happens much more rarely than jaywalking and b) murderers expect to gain far more from murdering than jaywalkers do from crossing when they’re not supposed to. That means you’d massively reduce the number of trivial crimes without impacting the most serious ones to nearly the same extent. You end up with a justice system with a single deterrent that is only actually effective in direct proportion to how perverse its application is.

(Plus, too, you’d end up with an unstoppable pandemic of stress disorders as people spent their entire lives fretting about accidentally stepping on the wrong bit of grass or mis-remembering the meaning of an uncommon road sign. You’d actually have to read the spiel that’s thrown up at the end of a DVD, no matter how rubbish and long the credit sequence. Imagine having to sit through the credits of Return of the King every time you watched it. Damn things are longer than the movie, which is the longest movie ever. But you’d have to do it, to check whether you’ve inadvertently broken copyright law and will need to go into hiding to keep yourself alive. “Three men were executed yesterday for watching Roman Holiday on an oil-rig”. This is terrifying on every conceivable level. Everyone would need a law degree as a matter of survival. Could a purer vision of Hell exist?)

And all of that is without even approaching the question as to whether this system could be reliably and equitably enforced. It certainly couldn’t be in our own world, where social division and the high price of decent legal counsel would mean certain kinds of people would always be more likely to end up dead than others (as the data on US executions makes inescapably clear).  And that’s just the trial. What about the process of catching criminals in the first place? No police force is going to have enough officers to patrol everywhere at all times. Who makes the call on where to focus, and on what basis? Because under this new system, a community you prioritise is a community from which you will be taking people and killing them, whilst other places are enjoying an easier ride.

This isn’t a recipe for justice. It’s a recipe for furious resentment.

It’s possible that these are issues that do not apply to the Edo.  The use of randomised punishment zones deals with the problem of cracking down harder on some areas than others. There still might be a workforce issue – if the mediators are a visible presence they need to be visible everywhere so as not to clue people in on which zone is currently active – but for all we know their god sorts all that out, transporting the mediators in to deal with any crime immediately after it happens. And whilst the issue of whether everyone receives a fair trial is still an interesting one, it doesn’t apply here. As the mediators say, they have both multiple witnesses and a freely-given confession. The fact the Edo don’t think to warn visitors of their draconian legal system is astonishing (and holy sky-tripod, did Yar drop the ball this week; she should be stripped of her commission for this), but these two mediators have most certainly got their man.

But this is what makes the underlying point here so solid. Both Wesley’s specific case and the more general (implied) efficiency of the Edo system means “Justice” is presenting the strongest possible form of the argument that the harshest punishments lead to the happiest societies. Not so much a steel man so much as a titanium one. And yet the moral of the episode is still that this is a terrible idea, and that society should be looking to understand the root causes of crime rather than thinking up ever more extreme ways to punish criminals [1]. In a country which did and still does execute people, often on shaky evidence and through a process that is nakedly unfair, this is an extremely important stance to take.

Say It Without Style

But. I’m sure you knew from the beginning that there would be a “but” coming, and here is it. The fundamental problem with “Justice” is that it knows what point it wants to make, but has no interest in delivering it effectively. Structurally, the episode is hopeless. Firstly, the inciting incident which kicks off the plot – Wesley disturbing new plants – doesn’t occur until halfway into the episode. Up to that point the episode is one part frowning over the angry ghost of a broken stool to four parts staring at half-naked Aryans oiling and/or feeling each other up.

And I use the word “Aryans” deliberately. There’s something deeply unsettling about a world described as an Eden that’s inhabited only by blonde, able-bodied and conventionally attractive white people. In theory I love the idea that the Edo are clearly a polyamorous society and their Starfleet visitors barely bat an eyelid, but this is overwhelmed in practice by the whole place looking like the Nazi love camp Helga kept wanting to be sent to in ‘Allo ‘Allo. This is an even worse decision here than it was in “The Lorelei Signal”; at least back then we could pretend it was only the alien women’s mind control powers that made everyone think the lithe flaxen-haired look was objectively the sexiest in the galaxy.

Once the story actually bothers to show up, things don’t really get all that much better. I’ve said already that it’s a misreading to think of this as an episode about agonising over the Prime Directive, but “Justice” doesn’t really help itself with how long it takes for Picard to make his position clear.  Yes, the matter of the alien god is pressing, and yes it wouldn’t have been smart to announce in front of Rivan his plan to take Wesley by force, but Picard seems to almost intentionally be keeping Dr Crusher in the dark about the fate of her son.

The late arrival, first of the plot and then of Picard’s position, leaves the ending far too little room to function. I hadn’t paid any attention to the time when I first watched the episode for this post, and so I mistook the realisation that the Edo God was blocking transportation as the end of the third act. Picard’s internal dialogue had been resolved, he’d made his move, and the terrifyingly powerful alien presence above had retaliated by blocking his escape. It was all kicking off, as the kids used to say, maybe.

But no. God moves in mysteriously unenthusiastic ways.  All it takes is Picard explaining the moral of the episode to everybody – I guess in the future humanity has evolved past the need for subtlety – and the Edo God immediately relents. This makes the ending here both anticlimactic and didactic, as well as being a pale re-run of Q’s judgment at the conclusion to “Encounter At Farpoint”. After a frustratingly long and slow taxi out to the runway, “Justice” takes off, immediately runs out of fuel, and then completely fails to stick its landing.

And I’m still not done. This story manages to further frustrate by hinting at all sorts of other tales that could’ve been told instead, and which had far more potential. How much more interesting would it have been to see the Enterprise-D returning to Strnad to tell the colonists they have to evacuate their brand new home because a nearby floaty space-deity vanished and that might have been a signal they have to hit the bricks, for instance? Hell, pretty much any tale of space-pioneers has potential compared to this. Even the story of Yar’s awkward comment of “Any hat” – and why Liator doesn’t need to ask her if she’s into casual sexytimes – could have been interesting; certainly Crosby desperately needed something to work with. Neither of those stories would come without issues of their own, but that’s precisely my point: they’d be problematic and yet still be obviously better.  This episode is stuffed with problems like a fridge bursting with substandard ingredients, and yet it’s easy to see how tastier treats could have been made from them.

Sticking with my exciting new food metaphor, though, let’s bear in mind that this was simply the starter in a three-course meal on the subject of 24th century justice. Next week I’ll be serving the main meal, a delightful stew of Bajoran, Trill and Klaestron legal precendents. TASTY!

[1] I’m assuming this is what Picard means when he talks about “[detecting] the seeds of criminal behaviour”. The alternative reading would be that the Federation has embraced some pretty nasty ideas about there being a genetic predisposition towards crime. That would be terribly unfortunate were it the case, though, so I’m going to assume Picard meant his comment in the more palatable sense. As always here at IDFC, generosity is our watchword. As opposed to our word for watches, which is, um, “watches”.

Ordering

1. The Infinite Vulcan

2. What Are Little Girls Made Of?

3. Justice

GS Blogger: Ric Crossman

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TABLE GAMES REVIEW: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Board Game http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/reviews/table-games-review-kerala-2/ http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/reviews/table-games-review-kerala-2/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 08:29:30 +0000 http://geeksyndicate.co.uk?p=101497&preview=true&preview_id=101497 Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned 20 this year. Lynnvander and Jasco Games have released a co-operative game set in the world of the show. Amy is a massive fan of the Buffyverse, so she and Ant picked up a copy to check it out. Here's their review.

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Joss Whedon’s seminal television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, turned twenty this year. The show became a trend-setter and inspiration to many and turned the “girl in the horror movie” trope on its head by giving that girl supernatural powers. Earlier this year, Lynnvander and Jasco Games published a new co-operative board game set in the world of Buffy. Players team up to save Sunnydale from the Big Bad. Does it capture the essence of the series? And is it any good? Well, you’re about to find out what we thought.

Official description of the game:

Into every generation a slayer is born: One girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer. Help Buffy the Vampire Slayer protect Sunnydale from the forces evil in this fully cooperative board game.

  • Publisher: Lynnvander / Jasco Games
  • Number of Players: 1–6
  • Play Time (Approx): 60 mins
  • Ages: 10 +

We are big fans of co-operative board games and we own and have played a number of them over the years. Since Amy is a massive Buffy fan, this seemed like it could be an excellent addition to our collection.

The game is priced at around £35 and the box is packed full of cards and tokens that feature some stunning artwork of characters, artefacts and more from the television show. The quality of the components is good as well and there’s no chance of this feeling like a cheap tie-in. One element of the game’s components that we really like is the inclusion of four action tokens which each player has in addition to their character’s token and information board. Using these (flipping them over) makes it easy to keep track of how far through a turn the game is.

Buffy Components

A selection of the game’s components

The folks at Jasco Games have put together a “how-to-play” video which runs through the basics of the game – you can check it out at the end of this review, but we’ll go over the basic mechanics here. In simple terms, each turn consists of players performing four actions. These are performed sequentially, all players taking their first action then all players taking their second etc. This mechanic helps to keep the amount of “dead time” between players actually playing to a minimum.

As an action, players can fight to stun or kill a demon or vampire in their area, they can move to any other location on the board, they can search for new items, use a location’s ability or perform a special action. When the Special Action is used, an event happens which places townies (who need rescuing), vampires and demons on the board as well as possibly adding another factor to play.

Speaking of characters, the game comes with an odd selection – Buffy, Willow, Xander and Giles all make sense, but rather than keeping with the feeling of the show and using the strong female characters, the developers decided to use Angel and Spike as the fifth and sixth characters. I can understand one of these ex-evil vampires being present, but surely one could have been replaced with say Anya the vengeance demon for example? This would have created a 50-50 balance between male and female characters and been a bit more in-keeping with the show’s pro-female vibe.

Player Area

Giles has four Items in hand

Master Revealed

All Clues Revealed – Players can Attack The Master!

It also seems that there is a bit of an imbalance in character’s special abilities as well. For example, Willow becomes an unstoppable powerhouse if she has a couple of magic supplies to hand (and she starts the game with one). Xander has the useful ability to give another player his action. Using these two characters effectively could – we feel – make the game less challenging … provided the event cards aren’t too terrible of course! There are mechanics in the game that can limit these effects – Willow can use magic supplies to heal wounds on the apocalypse track and there are events that require supplies be discarded, for example, but in our first play through, Willow had one set of supplies all the way through to victory.

The mechanics of the game are simple. There are a few different items, each of which have specific uses – stakes kill vampires, weapons kill demons and garlic stops a vampire entering a location, for example. This limited number of items may seem to limit the world-flavour of the game a bit but actually the mechanics work well and help keep the game flowing. After a round or two, everyone will know what items are used for.

Buffy Game In Progress

The Scoobies (Giles and Willow) defend Sunnydale

Buffy Apocalypse Track

The Apocalypse Track advances …

The players lose the game if Sunnydale is overrun with demons or vampires (any time a vampire or demon needs to be added to the board but there is no token with which to do so) or when the total number of townies killed and player wounds reaches the end of the apocalypse track. While juggling with the lives of townies, vampires and demons, the players must also defeat three monsters of the week, gathering clues as to what is needed to kill the Big Bad. They must then defeat the big bad – requiring success on three different encounters with them. Finding the right balance between allowing townies to die, protecting them from monsters and tackling the monsters of the week requires team-work and a dash of luck.

The board game does feel like it is set in the Buffyverse and as a fan it’s very fun to play but the lack of female playable characters and an odd choice of big bads does let it down. There is a hope that Lynnvander and Jasco Games release some expansion packs soon as it would be great to turn it into something of a campaign-driven or even as a legacy game following the gang through all seven seasons of the television show.  This could easily be done by adding more scoobies as playable characters and setting additional rules – for example prohibiting the use of Willow when she is the big bad.

Overall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a fun co-op game that offers a level of challenge that is in no way insurmountable. This isn’t an extremely punishing game, unlike say Pandemic or Forbidden Desert which are notoriously weighted against the player. This means the game is accessible for new gamers. We think this deserves a place in the gaming cupboard even if it’s not the finest example of co-op gaming.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
Reviewers: Amy-J & WedgeDoc

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