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    Starship Troopers: The Series

    June 23rd, 2011

    As many of you frequent podcast listeners will know by now, the people at the GR clan are not exactly afraid to discuss their favourite television programmes in depth, especially those from their times of innocent youth, ranging from the epic eardrum bursting symphony known as “COBRA-LALALALALALALA” as performed by Dianna to the more recent talk about soul-crushing endings to a series (or season for those Americans out there; you know who you are!). Well, with this in mind I thought it would be appropriate to put in my two cents and tell you about my favourite TV series, probably of all time!

    The Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles (or Starship Troopers: The Series) is a CGI series from 1999 (made using the same animation style as Max Steel and Beast Wars: Transformers for anyone who remembers those) based on both the novel Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (a must read for all sci-fi fans out there) and the 1997 Paul Verhoeven film adaptation. In other words, it takes elements from both and mixes them together into what is a pretty darn good hybrid; it combines a lot of the bug designs (and a few original ideas) plus some of the action from the film, with the powered armour and equipment from the books. The reason for this hybrid creation becomes obvious when you find out Paul Verhoeven is actually the Executive Producer of this series; he always said that he wanted to try and have some of the features such as the power armour in his movie, but budget limitations prevented him. In many ways then, the CGI series is the film that he always wanted to make.

    The setting for the series is very similar to both the book and the film; humans wage an interstellar war against an opposing force of aliens known as “The Bugs”. Against overwhelming odds the humans must try to find victory and wipe the bug menace from the galaxy before they do the same to us. Right on the frontlines are a squad of Mobile Infantry known as Alpha Team, or Razack’s Roughnecks, and it is through their eyes that we see the conflict, following them across the galaxy as they fight the bug menace from planet to planet. Exciting stuff! This is all made even better by the pretty amazing writing and the well done characters. Each one has a personality and you soon become attached to each individual, something that is helped by the voice acting. Seriously, the voice actors in this are just perfect; I mean the guy who plays Johnny Rico has even been in several games including  Mass Effect.

    Now, after that description you are probably wondering, “Phill you cradle of wisdom! How have I never heard of this series before?” and that is the same question I asked myself when I first discovered it at a car-boot sale in Wales (long story). Well the answer is quite simple; it was cancelled. Now that might sound like a very big reason to just ignore everything I have said and never watch the series, but that would be a big mistake. The cancellation order came after many problems which were beyond the creators’ control. Sony released the series too early, which resulted in the animation team failing to make the episodes all on time, and this lead to the show being pushed back to a less than optimum time slot, which meant it never gained the support that it truly deserved, and that is such a shame.

    Anyway, there is some good news, some light at the end of the bug-hole. If I have managed to pique your interest in this excellent animated series, then you can watch them all for free on Youtube, Crackle.com as long as you are prepared to sit through some adverts at intervals (a small price to pay in my opinion), and I believe it is available for instant stream on Netflix. Just for you, here is the link to Episode 1: Freefall on Youtube. Watch it, and I hope you will fall in love with it as much as I did.

    Now it’s your turn GR community! What are your favourite TV shows past and present? Leave a comment below or visit the forums.

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    Mount and Blade

    February 4th, 2011

    I began as a local hero, leading a small band of men to rid the area of bandits. My ranks grew and I entered a war on the side of the Rhodoks. Once the war was over, the King requested that I become his vassal, and I accepted. I was given a small village to call my own, and it prospered under my rule. Another war broke out, this time with the Vaegirs crossing our borders, and so my services were once again requested. My force, now at 500 won battle after battle, siege after siege, always the first in and the last out. Upon crossing the border we walked into an ambush, 3000 hardened Vaegir veterans lying in wait. We didn’t stand a chance. I was taken prisoner along with the surviving soldiers in my service. My King, whom I had remained loyal to this whole time, refused to pay the ransom, calling me a coward. My men were executed and I was dragged around for days before making my escape. I returned to my village only to find it razed to the ground and all the peasants dead, murdered by the one I once called Majesty. He now hides in his last remaining stronghold and I am leading the army of my former enemies. The siege towers have reached the wall; it is time to end this.

    This is just one of the many scenarios that I managed to create for myself playing one of the most open-ended action RPG’s I know ofMount and Blade is a great game that was unfortunately overshadowed and left to collect dust on the shelf. Only one of my ‘real-life’ friends knows about this game – apart from me – and it seems a shame that a game so full of possibilities just went unnoticed by so many.

    Mount and Blade is a rare beast, an RPG that has no fantasy elements. It instead opts for a medieval style land named Calradia, populated entirely by humans, horses, livestock and peasants (fine, I suppose peasants count as humans too). As for the story? Go and make your own! Mount and Blade puts you through a simple character creator, asks you a few questions about your character’s background for your initial stats, then unleashes you into the world of Calradia, riding your noble steed, and wielding your sword , allowing you to do what you please. Want to become a Robin Hood style character and give riches to the poor? Go ahead! Maybe you want to become the Cool Thomas Jefferson of the medieval world? Feel free! Mount and Blade offers the amount of freedom that many sandboxes try to promise you before failing to deliver.

    Something I love about Mount and Blade is the way it implements its mechanics in such a simple way. It provides the freedom that they boast without making you feel overwhelmed while also proving that cutting-edge graphics don’t make a good game. The combat is simple enough for you to easily grasp, but complex enough to allow for interesting battles with surprises here and there, and the same can be said of the world map. Unfortunately, simplicity can also be the game’s biggest weakness, causing repetitive quests and making some of the NPC’s feel like glorified travel guides instead of humans, simply telling you a location and what to do in a text screen. Still, if you apply a little imagination and forget about the little flaws, it adds up to a simple yet addictive experience.

    I firmly believe Mount and Blade is the first great medieval RPG, and with the addition of multiplayer in the standalone title Mount and Blade: Warband (plus a small community of modders creating constant expansions that constantly expand the game, ranging from extra continents and even Lord of the Rings themes), you really have no excuse not to try this at some point. Plus, thanks to GameStreamer, you can download it at a rather low price, so what are you waiting for? Mount up!

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