Final Fantasy VII remake

Full disclosure up front, the original Final Fantasy VII is probably my favourite game (Last of Us runs it close). The remake is therefore something I was extremely anxious about. I could write an entire essay on this game but will try to be concise. 

I was disappointed with this game. Not hugely so as I had already prepared myself for the fact that it was going to be something different. So fundamentally have the dismantled everything that made the original good however, that I am more angry than anything. 

What was good about the first game? The story. Exactly as it was, in full. The music. The materia system. The bad guy and his gradual, sinister introduction. 

What did they do with this game? They split one game into three. Hence an inevitable need to pad out the perfect story with extra stuff, none of which adds to it and all of which detracts. In addition, the story itself has been altered to the extent that I had really no idea what was going on. So totally has the story been altered that there is a suggestion it is going down the ‘alternate universe’ path. Nonsense. 

Sephiroth is immediately introduced in meaningless visions as opposed to the sinister blood trail that we follow in the original. One of the best bits of the game in my opinion and no where to be seen in this one. 

The music is also padded out with new songs which sound like a Japanese pre-teen playlist or weirdly out of place dance music/rock fusions. 

The combat means the materia system is significantly sidelined. Yes it’s still there but there is so little variability or potential for strategy that the best system for RPG ever devised is hamstrung. The combat is a mess of confusing button mashing action, as if it has been drawn into the prevailing template that countless other games align themselves to these days. 

What annoys me as none of these changes seem likely to have made production any easier. They seem to have been conscious decisions. Obviously the cynical decision to split it into three is to make more money. This is at the obvious expense of quality. The add-ons, the in game purchases and all the modern crap further detract from this decimation of a classic.

By no means does it appear high on ranking lists but I suspect it would be even lower if it weren’t for the curious phenomenon that causes humans to will themselves into enjoying something, even if they don’t. Without the original, this game would barely create a stir I suspect. Overall, just a huge shame. Everyone involved in the decisions on the direction and structure should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. 

Rant over.

Wild Hope

This is not normally a book I would pick up from the shelves unprovoked. In this case, its author is someone I went to infant school with but with whom I have since lost touch. 

It’s a book exploring the waves made by the Roe vs Wade decision in the context of the world her mother faced during the late 70s. A good example of the cyclical nature of history and all the warnings that humanity seemingly fails to heed with alarming regularity. A good insight for me into how such passionate feminism can develop. Poignant, well written and timely. 

Fake Law

I read his (her?) first book and enjoyed it. Quite dry and necessarily detailed in places and this one was no different. He writes superbly well and paints a detailed but concise picture of the issues surrounding law and the way it is presented and twisted within our media. Evokes a good deal of frustration at the malleability of the fellow human. But I learned more than a little. Most importantly of all, the ‘legal paper’ yellow edges remain a great gimmick.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain

I’d had my eye on this book for a while. Lovely cover and the natural world is of great interest. I finally decided to dive into it prompted by a wild camping trip to Dartmoor. I had suspected there would be some overlap although I didn’t realise just how much overlap there would be. Several places I walked through were name-checked heavily in the book and this enhanced both the trip and the read. 

This book is an impassioned, wise and delicately written account of how we have destroyed our natural landscape. It is a plea to restore the temperate rainforests of Britain that many people don’t even realise exist. It is an attempt to correct the shifting baselines of the masses. 

Impressively researched and, for a book that goes into lichen and moss to quite a significant degree, actually really readable for the layman. I can draw similarities to The Book of Trespass in its efficient, clear and powerful message. A good book to read at any time. Even more so if one is doing so while camping out in the wilds of Dartmoor! 

The Killing Floor

I’ve heard a lot about these books over the years. One of the things I know is that there are lots of them, hence my slight reluctance in diving into a big franchise. This first book grabbed me though and I must say I can now see what all the hype is about. I had almost expected it to be a bit trashy and simplistic. What I uncovered was a sophisticated, interesting, well written and well paced thriller. 

It seems as if it has created a bit of a niche for itself. Part detective novel, part action thriller. A combination that is melded into a hugely enjoyable read and one that means I will be steadily working my through these books. 

Four Thousand Weeks

I don’t usually do self help books but this one kept popping up on my radar either in book shops or online for some reason. Eventually I caved and picked it up. Little did I realise it may as well have been written specifically for me. 

Based on the average number of weeks we live through in our lifetimes, it takes the reader through the pitfalls of focusing too much on the future, of unachievable goals and of packing their lives with the work that might be required to get there. It goes on to give some sage but hard advice about the ways in which one might cut things out and optimise things in order to live in the moment a bit more. 

I took away a few lessons although I would say that such a book is unavoidably general. Some of the advice might seem as if it applies to the reader at points but I suppose one must also not take everything to literally. Everyone’s life has nuances that mean that seeking out goals, even if they are seemingly unachievable, might still be the right path to take. To be read and analysed with caution I would say. 

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

I had picked up one of his other books which looked quite good but I thought I would read this first as it was one of his earlier books and had good reviews. I loved it. This is a real gem. Following the story of a frustrated novelist trying to write his second book, he finds out his mentor has become embroiled in a murder scandal and he sets out to prove him innocent and to simultaneously write his masterpiece in the process. 

The setting for this novel is part of its biggest appeals to me – the New England small town vibe drew me right in. Not to mention the depiction of a writer’s lifestyle which obviously appeals to me greatly too. The story, the characters, the twists and turns and the way it is all wrapped up make it a proper novel. It’s right up there for me and I would highly recommend. 

Days Gone

This is the first video game review I’ve done, but I will go back and cover the games I’ve played in the recent past. 

Days Gone is by no means the best game I’ve played but having said that the critical review it received when it came out was, in my opinion, very harsh. It is a good game and an ambitious one. On the face of it, an open world zombie game set in North America is not very unique. Look deeper though and you will find game mechanics and levels of playability that belie the outward cliché.  

It’s a long game, probably too long. The first half is slow and it doesn’t feel as if much progress is being made. If you persevere however, you will be rewarded. I liked the voice acting and the difficulty and the strategy element involved in taking out large hordes of zombies (Freakers). I loved the environment  – I’m a sucker for the pacific northwest. Marks off for a story diluted with fetch quests and a missed opportunity for more depth and structure. The finale didn’t quite hit the mark for me. 

All of that said, I’d love there to be a sequel. I think the premise has potential. While I was sort of waiting for it to end initially, once I was past that midway point things no longer felt like a slog, and I settled into it. Fun. Tense in places, reasonably challenging and a game I would recommend.  

The Future of Geography

A really interesting exploration of what we can expect in the next couple of decades in terms of space exploration and what that means for geopolitics. Exciting and disturbing in equal measure. Makes you realise how many paths we could find ourselves going down in the near future.