#15: Age of Empires II

Beta Test

It started with a LAN party in Yarraville. I was young, full of joy and naive. I hadn’t picked up anything other than the sims since I was 12 years old. The only experience with Age of Empires I had was when my friend burnt me a copy of the first addition that he got in a Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain box. We played 3 hours of solid MMO game play. 3 hours of building, constructing, and fighting off computer bot after computer bot. It was a bloody battle, many died, few survived, but we rose victorious. Kings amongst men. It’s been three years since my first slaughter and…I’ll get right down to it, I’ve played 451 fucking hours on this game.

OK so this time it’s not completely unbiased, but I haven’t reviewed a game I know before so hold onto everything you hold dear because it’s a ride. (Also, this IS a review, not a written play through, so if you want me to do a legit play through let me know! I would be so psyched)

AoE2_Wallpaper_TeutonicTrebuchet_1920x1080.jpg

Ayo-yoho wololo wololo, I’m Bethany Griffiths, and this is Beta Test. A game review platform where I ‘Hombis, Arectus!’ choose one game a month to go ham on until either I get better or get wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely (un)biased review.

Last month I went on two holidays and felt great, now it’s mid March and I’m getting to know just why the March Hare was so mad. Everything is in crazy town this month, work is up in the air, my health is up in the air, a kid egged Fraser Anning, People are getting shot, the world is dying from an intense case of people-itis, and I haven’t seen a good nail technician in for-ev-a. I’m so done I don’t know who’s Arthur or Martha. But I do know gaming! And I know Age of Empires!

Age of Empires II Developed by Skybox Labs, Hidden Path Entertainment, Ensemble Studios, and Forgotten Empires, and published by Microsoft Studios, is a scenario based RPG that incorporates ancient, lost, and forgotten empires that you battle against to claim victory. There are hundreds of campaigns and scenarios to play through. All of which get you to do different things to win, such as capturing all the relics, death matches, and historical based story lines. With limited resources, and a tech tree that follows the race you’ve chosen, it’s a bloodbath that you will win or rage quit trying.

I’ve been playing for a few years now, and let me tell you, this game holds water better than a camel in the desert. I’m 32% through the steam achievements and I have no intention of slowing down. (What can I say, I’m a glutton for anything with achievements and statistics.) Stylistically, the game gives off the old time feeling of geographical cartography. The trees, buildings, and landscapes all have that hand drawn perspective, while maintaining the integrity of the gaming style of 2013. The sound track will get stuck in your head for hours. You don’t know how many times I’ll be in the shower or making food and the main theme decides it wants to blare in my ears like the constant reminder that I haven’t completed all the scenarios yet (I’m getting there! I swear), And the game play is fun with friends or by yourself in a dark room, at two in the morning, guzzling dry cornflakes out of a Thomas the Tank Engine bowl.

Age of Empires II is unique in that because of the way the game is constructed, you can structure your experience however you want it. In the main scenario chart, there are heaps of specs to choose including different races, landscapes, amount of people you can have in your village, starting age, and tech tree prerequisites. In game, you can choose alliances, play bloody, or play peaceful by building a wonder or capturing all the relics (my personal go to is to advance absolutely everything, amass an army, and slowly sweep across the board, killing everything I can get my grubby little hands on). It really is a choose your own adventure game, that I’m proud to say I’ve never gotten bored with to this day.

The game runs old. By that, I mean it doesn’t need any special computer tech to get it off the ground. In fact, I think I could run this on my family windows 2003 desktop and still play without a hiccup. The only real bugs i’ve found in game has more to do with my settings, where my task bar doesn’t disappear sometimes, making map reading, and constructing just that little bit trickier, and the annoying glitch that if you’re away from your keyboard for too long (say, a couple of hours) it can get stuck like a scratched ‘so fresh hits of summer 2005’ CD in a boombox, and you have to task close. But over all, Age of Empires II runs smoothly, doesn’t overwork your systems, and rarely lags.

I love Age of Empires II like I would love a dog, or a small child. It’s an iconic game that you need to get into if you haven’t already. It’s accessible, and takes very little energy to play, as well as being infinitely entertaining.

Because of the meme quality, kick ass score, and ability to do a full kill sweep of the board, I give this game:

3/5 Wololo’s for style
1/5 Wololo’s  for plot
4/5 Wololo’s for easiness
5/5 Wololo’s for Slowly sweeping your forces across the board and killing everything

So, my dudes! I’ve been Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a ‘dada hee?’ Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked. All in the hopes that I can provide you with a completely unbiased review. If you have a game that you want me to give my two cents on, Please let me know!

Until next time,

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A Podcast Called FRED #59

Kendall, and Wayne deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • James Gunn returns as director for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3;
  • Ezra Miller and Grant Morrison writing script for the Flash movie
  • Taika Waititi to direct Time Bandits pilot for Apple;
  • and more!

Trailer Park discussions:

  • Batman versus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Aladdin
  • Avengers: Endgame

Quickie Review:

  • Kendall delivers her verdict on Vox Lux.

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss their favourite final scenes in a movie—featuring responses from you!

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #59 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #58 ⬇️

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #33: Avengers: Endgame Trailer 2 Reaction ⬇️

Non-Scripted Ramblings #33

Marvel Cinematic Universe fanatic Kendall Richardson delivers a spontaneous reaction to the second Avengers: Endgame trailer… direct from her car! Check it out ⬇️

Watch the trailer for yourself here and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 

RELATED EPISODE: Non-Scripted Ramblings #29: Avengers Endgame Trailer Reaction ⬇️

FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

SIMPLY MARVELOUS!

I’m a Kendall Richardson and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is the superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel

Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Set in the 1990s, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

To say we have been waiting for this film for a long time would be an understatement. After twenty films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally have Marvel’s first female-led superhero film. Captain Marvel enters the MCU in superb fashion with this expertly executed origin story. Whilst certain parts of Captain Marvel are by the numbers, because nearly all of these films have to follow a particular formula, I am happy to report that there are certain twists to the origin format that make this movie stand out as one of Marvel Studios’s best origin stories. Our heroine begins the film already in possession of her incredible powers, but with no knowledge of how she got them.

Brie Larson portrays the titular Carol Danvers, or Vers, with ease and such strength behind her. The Academy Award-winning actress was a perfect casting choice, as all of the casting across the MCU is. She imbues Carol with such a commanding presence, a wicked sense of humour, and a wonderful spirit that really surprises you once you learn that this is Larson’s first time in a role like this. She is such a natural and an absolute pleasure to watch on screen, regardless of what film she’s in or what character she is playing. I am very much looking forward to seeing her share the screen with the Avengers in the upcoming Endgame, particularly because I feel her and Steve Rogers will get along quite well. Carol is very much a solider in the same way that Steve is, wanting to do anything it takes to fight the good fight, but also possesses the resilience to change allegiances when she knows the fight is wrong.

This movie gives more background into the previously introduced alien race known as The Kree. We get to see their home world of Hala and meet the leader of their race, an AI known only as the Supreme Intelligence, who communicates with her people by taking the form of the person they most admire. In Carol’s case, however, she does not remember who the person she sees actually is. A big part of the driving force of the film is Carol trying to remember who she is and who this woman, played by Annette Bening, was to her in the life she once led. We also get introduced to the Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters the Kree are at war with. Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn portrays their general, Talos, and was allowed to keep his native accent for the part. For die-hard fans of the MCU, seeing the Skrulls on screen for the first time is going to be a big highlight, especially considering they will most likely play a huge role in the upcoming Phase Four.

A major highlight of the film though has to be its visual effects. Not only do we have the standard action scenes on Earth and in space filled with gorgeous CGI, we have probably the most impressive de-aging effects work ever done in a film. I’m of course talking about seeing a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a young Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) here in their early S.H.I.E.L.D. days. Both actors look absolutely outstanding thanks to the convincing effects work. Whilst we see early shades of the future man Coulson will become, this version of Nick Fury is near unrecognisable compared to his modern day counterpart. And I’m not referring to the fact that he has both of his eyes. Younger Fury carries with him a lot more heart and soul, and is a lot less jaded or hardened due to having not lived through his tumultuous future yet. It is a real high point of the film watching the way Jackson and Larson bounce off each other; they have an excellent on screen chemistry that is just a joy to see.

Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is another interesting character and, without spoiling too much, I really appreciated what they did with him and his relationship with Carol as her mentor. But my favourite character of the whole film, and yes I’m jumping on the bandwagon here, is Goose the Cat. Every single scene with Goose in it belongs to her. And the reveal of just who this cat really is will leave your jaw dropped. I still cannot believe what I saw; seeing the reaction of the characters in the film and then listening to those from the audience in the cinema, was just beyond hilarious. Speaking of hilarious, they really had a lot of fun with the 1990s setting. The music was on point; one particular fight scene with No Doubt’s Just a Girl playing really tickled my fancy and the showcasing of the ’90s technology was exactly what it needed to be—absolutely hysterical.

Co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck join the ranks of esteemed MCU filmmakers that handle a film of this caliber with such style and wonderful storytelling that cements Captain Marvel’s place among the best films of the MCU. And to finally see a woman take down the bad guys in such a powerful way—seriously, you guys, Thanos should be shaking in his gauntlet—is so incredibly inspiring. The next generation of women have got a marvelous role model on their hands. 4½ / 5

 

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law.

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck | Writers: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet (story by Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet based on Captain Marvel by Stan Lee and Gene Colan; Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan | Producer: Kevin Feige | Music: Pinar Toprak | Cinematographer: Ben Davis | Editors: Elliot Graham, Debbie Berman

In cinemas now.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Kendall Richardson and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #32: Captain Marvel Spoiler Review ⬇️

A Podcast Called FRED #58

Kendall, Fulya, and Phillip deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Actor Luke Perry, musician Keith Flint, and former wrestler King Kong Bundy die;
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s seventh season and Arrow‘s eighth season to be the last;
  • Idris Elba to replace Will Smith as Deadshot in The Suicide Squad;
  • and more!

Trailer Park discussions:

Quickie Review:

  • Kendall delivers her verdict on the latest MCU blockbuster—Captain Marvel.

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss their favourite final scenes in a movie—featuring responses from you!

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #58 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #57 ⬇️

RELATED VIDEO: Non-Scripted Ramblings #32: Captain Marvel Spoiler Review ⬇️

Non-Scripted Ramblings #32

Marvel Cinematic Universe fanatic Kendall Richardson delivers her verdict on Captain Marvel. Lots of spoilers ahead—check it out ⬇️

What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments!

 

PREVIOUS RAMBLING: Non-Scripted Ramblings #31: Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer Discussion ⬇️

FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Black Shampoo (1976)

‘SHAMPOO’ SIMPLY DOESN’T RINSE.

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is the blaxploitation flick Black Shampoo

Dimension Pictures

A salon owner (John Daniels), with a reputation for being as good a lover as he is a hairdresser, takes on the mob after his receptionist (Tanya Boyd) is kidnapped and colleagues are assaulted.

Inspired by the Oscar-winning Shampoo (1975) one year earlier, Black Shampoo delivers what is expected: sex, nudity, violence, questionable acting, and a paper-thin plot that will keep fans of the blaxploitation genre happy. Unfortunately, the film suffers from poor pacing, with director/co-writer Greydon Clark apparently more concerned with finding reasons to link soft-core porn-esque sex scenes, and their accompanying score, together than presenting a taut action caper.

So while there is much to critique Black Shampoo about, there are also a few positives to draw from it. Although not given much to do and not the greatest actor to ever grace the screen, the beautifully imposing John Daniels does well enough with the material at hand and Tanya Boyd is also quite engaging.

However, what is quite remarkable about the film from a contemporary viewing is the manner in which homosexual characters are not only depicted but also interact with their heterosexual counterparts. The queer men here are extreme stereotypes: effeminate, flamboyant hairdressers. But this is nothing to be offended by.

Exploitation films and their subgenres utilise stereotypes as a form of shorthand; in-depth character development is never a priority. Additionally, what a wonderful manner to depict society’s outcasts—Queer. Here. Get over it. This, of course, means nothing if our macho hero does not accept them unconditionally. But accept them, Daniels’ Mr. Jonathan does. Not only that, but the beating of gay salon worker Artie (Skip E. Lowe) is one of the driving motivators for tensions between Jonathan and the mob. And this loyalty is a two-way street. Artie’s refusal to jeopardise Jonathan’s safety escalates in him being sexually assaulted with a curling iron. (Rape as a weapon is a common trope in exploitation films reserved for women and gay men.)

Ultimately, the final act is where a film such as this sinks or swims. It is violent and blood and is spilt, but remains a little underwhelming, particularly when compared to its contemporaries. It is unfortunate that this badly acted and even worse written caper did not receive a little more care and a slightly bigger budget, because Black Shampoo has all the potential of a genre masterpiece. 2½ / 5

 

Starring: John Daniels, Tanya Boyd, Joe Ortiz, Skip E. Lowe, Gary Allen, Anne Gaybis, Jack Mehoff, Bruce Kerley.

Director: Greydon Clark | Producer: Alvin L. Fast | Writers: Greydon Clark, Alvin L. Fast | Music: Gerald Lee | Cinematographers: Dean Cundey, Michael Mileham | Editor: Earl Watson

Available: Amazon

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

 

WHAT TO WATCH: Scroll through the complete FRED Watch archive of spoiler-free Quickie Reviews HERE.

A Podcast Called FRED #57

Kendall, Fulya, and Phillip deliver the latest in nerdy news and geeky goodness in the pop culture podcast that refuses to behave—it’s A Podcast Called FRED!

 

Nerdy News includes:

  • Will Smith’s Deadshot will not be in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad;
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine renewed for seventh season;
  • Carrie Coon and Finn Wolfhard in talks to star in Ghostbusters 3;
  • Nintendo announces Pokémon Sword and Shield for release later this year
  • and more, including Kendall’s Oscars wrap-up!

Trailer Park discussions:

Quickie Review:

  • Kendall delivers her verdict on the biopic On the Basis of Sex.

Popcorn Culture:

  • This week, the team discuss what they consider to be the greatest Oscar subs ever—featuring responses from you!

Check out A Podcast Called FRED #57 ⬇️

Remember to let us know your response to the Popcorn Culture question so you can be featured in the next episode of A Podcast Called FRED!

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: A Podcast Called FRED #56 ⬇️

 

FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: The Sand (2015)

TREMORS ON THE BEACH

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is the B-grade monster movie The Sand

Taylor and Dodge

Following a rowdy Spring break party, eight classmates awake on the beach to discover that their friends are gone and that the sand has an appetite for flesh…

Sticking closely to genre tropes—and not that there is anything wrong with that—this has all the potential for a low budget masterpiece. However, even taking this for what it is, The Sand falls short of what could have been; you only need to look at the cult classic Tremors to see where this movie should have gone.

Instead, moments of intended tension are put aside to watch dull interpersonal relationships sort themselves out after spunk Jonah (Australian Idol contestant Dean Geyer) cheats on girlfriend Kaylee (Brooke Butler) with an unapologetic Chanda (Meagan Holder).

Thankfully, there’s still some silliness to enjoy here. The computer-generated gore is fun and Cynthia Murell is unintentionally hilarious as Ronnie; she “acts” (if this is what the profession will allow me to call it) in a manner that would make Tommy Wiseau proud! Every bit of her poorly written dialogue is so badly delivered, Murell at least elevates the movie to a far more enjoyable standard than it has any right to be. I found myself laughing out loud whenever she opened her mouth.

As for the rest of the cast, Cleo Berry spends most of his time in a bin with an ever-changing penis drawn on his face, former Playboy Playmate Nikki Leigh brings her expertise to the table, and it’s remarkable that Jamie Kennedy’s career has come to this.

Not to be taken seriously by any means, and best watched with a beer and pizza, but audiences deserved more from The Sand2 / 5

 

Starring: Brooke Butler, Meagan Holder, Cynthia Murell, Dean Geyer, Cleo Berry, Mitchel Musso, Hector David Jr., Nikki Leigh, Etalvia Cashin, Jamie Kennedy.

Director: Isaac Gabaeff | Producers: Gato Scatena, Jordan Rosner | Writers: Alex Greenfield, Ben Powell | Music: Vincent Gillioz | Cinematographer: Matt Wise | Editor: Sean Puglisi

Available: Amazon

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

The Monthly @ WiniFRED’s #20

Get ready for a new episode of The Monthly @ WiniFRED’s!

Join Fulya and Kendall as they discuss their favourite film and TV heroines—featuring inappropriate thoughts from you!

Have a listen and let us know which heroine you would like to rescue you! Also, get ready to respond to the next Monthly question, revealed at the end of the episode ⬇️

 

PREVIOUS EPISODE: The Monthly @ WiniFRED’s #19 ⬇️