The Victorian Hawk Dragon has currently reviewed the following:
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring - Part Two
No indeed, the Elves do not! But what of Men, can they throw back the Darkness of Sauron, all by themselves? For a Time, does this Classic Fantasy Tale, appear to suggest (at least to me), that Men very well can! Or perhaps instead, I to (like Boromir), was under the Spell of Darkness, and the Power of the One Ring, to Rule them All:
For the forth point, on why this is one of the best, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy Novels, that you can ever read - is it's range of Dark Fantasy Creatures ... At the Head is Sauron, a Dark Sorcerer, whose Magnificence of Old, is only hinted at (within this Tale). Even so, did I quite enjoy, the Chapter called The Council of Elrond, as it lays the seeds, for the Character of Sauron, in the Later Days of Middle-Earth. He wants the Ring, the One Ring that he made, the One Ring, that he placed much of his Sorcerers Powers in! For me, the One Ring, goes hand-in-hand, with Sauron's most prominent, Dark Fantasy Creatures - his nine Black Riders. Who are akin to Phantoms, with no physical form, other than Dark Visage in a Cloak. They wield Blades, that are both Cruel and Evil. I shuddered when Frodo was wounded (by such a Blade), at the thought of what he could become - a Wraith of some-kind! I feel that Frodo was right, when he chooses to avoid the Black Riders, even though doing so, meant entering the Old Forest (the lesser of two Evils). I found myself sitting, on the edge of my seat, when Frodo was racing for Rivendell (the Elven home of Elrond), with Black Riders chasing him! Added to this, are Sauron's Black Dragons (although here in this Tale, is it just the briefest of glimpses - with a bow shot from Legolas, downing the Dragon). And yet, are there also, other Dark Fantasy Creatures, at work within Middle-Earth - although I feel, that they have no direct knowledge, of the One Ring itself (and thus, do not directly, answer to Sauron). For example, I liked the Orcs and Goblins of Moria, together with the concept of the Balrog (a large Fire Breathing Western Dragon of a Daemon) - who to me, is one of the Oldest of the Old. An Elemental Dragon/Daemon, that lives in the Hottest Fires of the Earth. Yet do I find, that both the Balrog, and the One Ring, have a connection (at least in a saying): Delve Too Deep in Greed, and Pay the Price! The Black Riders delved too deep - what once was King, now Phantom of the Night (and Day!). The Dwarves delved too deep - what once was Moria, was lost to Dark (Durin's Bane - a Balrog!). And of the Wraiths? The Barrow-wights, sent a shiver down my spine! As there's something Unnatural, about former Kings, and Warriors of Old, that feel that they, still have a Hold, on the Living. Wake up Frodo! Fifth: is it's range of Fantasy Swords ... I've always liked the idea of Magical Swords, and the background build-up, to the Sword of Elendil, is no exception: a Sword that was shattered, upon an enemy of Old (Sauron), that is reforged, and renamed Anduril (Flame of the West), the Weapon of Kings (borne by Aragorn) - made me want one :) Added to this, is Gandalf's sword, Glamdring - which I for one, have long desired, to look upon! Yet, do I like the fact that Glamdring (borne by the mighty), is also matched by Frodo's short-sword Sting (borne by the lesser/Little People), as both gleam/glow blue, when in the presence of Orcs - which if you think about it, would be slightly scary, whilst deep in the Mines of Moria! Sixth: is it's range of Fantasy Castles ... For me, there's four that immediately spring to mind: i) Rivendell. The Fantasy Realm of the Elves, with it's Last Homely Gardens, and it's Waterfalls of Sea in Dream, and it's Ford of Guardian Horses (in Force of Water - commanded by Elrond). I liked the idea, of Powerful Elf Lords in Rivendell, that could resist the Darkness, at least for a Time :) ii) Minas Tirith. The City of Men, the City of Kings, that is foremost in the Defence, against Sauron's Armies. I to (like Frodo), found Hope growing in me, at the description of Minas Tirith (within this Tale) - especially at the mention, of it's Towering Battlements :) iii) Minas Morgul. Is perhaps the clearest indication to me, of the One Rings power to Corrupt, as what once was Good, fell into Ruin (owing to the neglectfulness of Men), and became a Fortress of Darkness! I did not like the thought, of both Fear and Dread, to be found there - in the plenty. iv) Lothlorien - not a Castle as such, more a Stronghold in the Trees of the Elves. I liked the idea, that the Elves of Lothlorien, climb upwards, and live in a Kingdom amongst the Treetops :) As to me, a City in the Trees, feels like a strong connection, to the Roots of the Earth, and Nature. Seventh: is the Hobbits themselves ... I found myself, constantly amazed in this Tale, that the Affairs of the Mighty (such as Wizards, Kings and Sorcerers), are at the Mercy, of the Little People: Frodo Baggins, and his trusty companion - Sam Gamgee :) For even with all of Sauron's Might, he can't find a Hobbit! But Gandalf can, yet bows to Frodo - for Frodo is the Ring Bearer :) As chosen by - the One Ring. And what of Merry and Pippin? I find these two Hobbits, to be of less importance (especially in the second half of the Tale), but Gandalf holds them in High Respect. I like this, because the Good Deeds of the Tiny, can unravel the Dark Deeds, of the Mighty :) Overall: An amazing, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy Novel, that took me longer to read, than I had expected - as I reread several parts (especially the Mines of Moria). I also feel, that there's a deliberate shift, in the concept of the Main Fantasy Character (as you read this Tale). It's always Frodo, but at the beginning, I thought for a while, that it was Gandalf - until he met his match! I especially like the fact, that this Fantasy Tale, is a David verses Goliath, that's played out on a bigger scale - with Powerful Elements, on both sides :) Finally: The One Ring, is a Ring of Power, is a Quest of Power, between Good and Evil - whose Fate is most directly, in the Smallest Hands of the Land, the Underdog: Frodo Baggins :)
In Kingdom's Ethereal, White be Haze. In Tangled Ribbon, Wind be Touch. Born of Water and of Air - this Dragon's Spirit, Ninjas of thy Monk to be:
Dancing through this Water's Verse, Temples of the Spire so High. Skating through this Ocean's Realm, Churches of the Light so Bright. Weaving through this Sea's Domain, Chapels of the Stance so Right. Darting through this Element's Empire, Ninjas of the Rain so Proud. Guiding through this Cyclone's Wind, Shoguns of the Rule so Wise. Fighting through this Heaven's Day, Abbots of the Monk so Scribe ... Temple here, Temple there - one Church here, one Church there! Ninja here, Ninja there - Abbot say, Abbot do! For in Heaven's Lore, there was a Place - donned in Shroud, donned in Guard. This Heaven's Realm, called Monastery. This Heaven's Arms, called Swiftspear. The Shimmer of a Blanket Sea. The Sparkle of a Tungsten Blade. The Tonal of a Falling Wall. The Twinkle of a Pointed Gaze. The Shading of a Rising Spray. The Glimmer of a Shearing Edge ... For in Shogun's Lore, there was a Place - born of Dragon, born of Ninja. This Dragon's Realm, called Monastery. This Ninjas Arms, called Swiftspear. The Obelisks of a Element Wise. The Patters of a Silent Feet. The Monoliths of a Dragon King. The Assassins of a Samurai Way. The Pillars of a Eastern Dragon. The Warriors of a Human Monk ... Shogun here, Shogun there - one Spear here, one Spear there! Ninja here, Ninja there - one Foot here, one Foot there! Running through this Temples Maze, Knowing of thy Paths to Take. Skipping through this Churches Fog, Certain of thy Turns to Make. Sprinting through this Water's Edge, Splashes of thy Toes to Beat. Jumping through this Airy Cloud, Vapours of thy Swift to Dodge. Skimming through this Temples Lore, Pleasing of thy Craft to Rule. Honing through this Churches Art, Dreaming of thy War to Make ... War-cry here, War-cry there - Dancing here, Dancing there! Fighting here, Fighting there - Sculpting here, Sculpting there! For in Monastery Swiftspear, there was an Army - born of Human, and of Monk. This Humans Realm, called Eastern Way. This Monks Penance, called Scribe of Art. The Writings of the Empire Verb. The Teachings of the Kingdom Pure. The Drawings of the Realm in Shape. The Learnings of the Wise to Power. The Letters of the Artist's Form. The Knowings of the Spear to Battle ... Ninja here, Ninja there - one Strike here, one Strike there! Shogun here, Shogun there - one Wound here, one Wound there! Victory here, Victory there! As in Monastery Swiftspear, there came a Monk: donned in Ninja, donned in Shogun, donned in Samurai ... The Guardian of this Fortress Monastery: swathed in Mist, swathed in Robe, swathed in Rune, schooled in Lore, schooled in Arms, schooled in Question ... Who be you that comes to Sea, this Temple Realm - of Monastery Swiftspear?
During my first week of play, I had decided to concentrate on building up my Fantasy City and it's Troops. I had chosen to go about this, by initially focusing on the build-up of resources (which I believed would allow me to construct, a well-defended First City). This is how my Fantasy Realm looked - at the end of the first week:
To support my Quest for resources, I quickly realised - that I would require a high level Fortress. Thus, was it a key priority to upgrade my Fortress to level 6 (as this would allow me to have 26 resource buildings). Over time, did my Fortress grow to support this - and I decided to aim for a fairly equal spread of resource types (8 Farms, 5 Lumber-mills, 5 Mines and 8 Quarries). Whilst upgrading my Fortress, I found that my eyes were constantly drawn towards another associated structure: my City's Wall. As this structure also had demands for high-levels of Stone, I knew that my decision to build 8 Quarries - would pay off eventually (even if it took a while to dig the Stone for each upgrade). Thus, did I find that the upgrading of my Fortress, and the upgrading of my City's Wall - could proceed in unison (which I liked the idea of). Even so, I found that I became slightly frustrated - because with each Wall upgrade, I expected my Wall to turn to Stone! The next Quest I became involved with, was the construction of my Dragon's Keep (the home of my Great Dragon). A memorable highlight was when my Dragon's Egg hatched forth a baby Dragon! I was somewhat excited ... As it felt like my City now had something to guard (even if eventually it's your Dragon that guards your City). Thus, did I feel that my decision to build a level 4 Wall (early on) was completely justified - as it helped to protect what I regarded as the Heart of my City: my Great Dragon. Then did I find that my thoughts turned to Dragons (in general), as I elected to both construct and upgrade my Dragon Rookery. The race was on! I wanted as many Swift Strike Dragons and Battle Dragons as possible ... Unfortunately, I had neglected the building of my Garrisons - so I had to learn something of the Art of Patience, as I waited for my Garrison(s) to upgrade first to level 5 (for Swift Strike Dragons), then to level 7 (for Battle Dragons). In the meantime, did I find myself following the guidance that was available within the Quests Plane - as there seemed to be quite decent Rewards (for the training of lower-level Troops). As such, did I task myself with the training of: Porters (resource gatherers), Conscripts (low-level fighters), Spys (information gatherers), Halberdsman (agile bladed warriors), Minotaurs (heavy hammered warriors) and Longbowman (death from afar). Even so, I found it hard to view these Troops as anything more, than as a means to an end! I wanted to train Dragons - to field an Army of Dragons! Thus, did I find myself inspired - when I first trained Swift Strike Dragons (the smallest of the Dragon Breeds, a Western Dragon with short-ranged Fire). Thus, did I find myself excited - when I first trained Battle Dragons (the ubiquitous leviathan of the Dragon Breeds, a Western Dragon adorned in Armoured Plate). It was here (with 335 Halberdsman, 23 Longbowman, 350 Minotaurs, 30 Porters, 20 Spys, 143 Swift Strike Dragons and 300 Battle Dragons) that my thoughts turned to Conquest! With little regard for the Art of Spying, I marched my Army right into lower-level Anthropus Camps ... With 300 Battle Dragons I (mistakenly) believed that I had nothing to fear! At first, did my Conquests go well - I gained Hoards of resources, and boosted my resource production levels (by conquering Wilderness). As I had started Conquering on the last day of protection (from Attack) - I thought nothing of marching into higher-level Anthropus Camps (without Spying). Unfortunately, this is where I had underestimated the strength of my Army ... I lost (at least) a half to three quarters of my Army, then did I notice figures appearing on my screen with minus signs in front of them (it turned out that my Commander's Power Level had dropped). Feeling slightly overwhelmed, I recalled what was left (of my Army) and sent them to ground protecting my First City (by assigning them to my City's Wall). It was here that the dwindling one day of protection (from Attack) started to sink-in! Earlier on, I had received an invite to join an Alliance (which I had ignored - as I wanted all the Glory to myself). But, with an eye upon my Troop numbers, I decided to embrace this Alliance ... Thus, did my first week end! Overall: My decision to concentrate on the building of my Fantasy City (and my Fantasy Troops) meant that I neglected Conquest until the last minute (let alone the Forge). Some might say that this was a mistake, but I would say that this approach - has given me a strong Fantasy Realm (with good foundations), from which to Grow an Empire!
This is the first web-based flash-based Fantasy Game that I have ever played. What caught my eye, was the idea of fielding an Army of Dragons - and suspected that this would be the ideal Strategy Game to fulfil this desire! I donned my Dragon Scales, and marched to War:
What I found surprised me somewhat! The veteran of many a strategy game, I was used to building structures (such as Castles and Barracks) whenever I wanted to. Yet, this game twists that all around - for you can only build one structure at a time ... At first, this caused me little concern - for I approached the game in the same way that I would other strategy games: resources first. Thus, did I set about building Farms (for Food), Lumber-mills (for Wood), Mines (for Metal) and Quarries (for Stone). Now, as I had expected - the level of my Stronghold-Castle (here a Fortress) constrained the amount of these that I could build (e.g. each upgrade to my Fortress allowed me to have three more resource buildings). Yet, it was when I was upgrading my Fortress, together with my resource buildings - that I noticed that the build-upgrade times were increasing! At first, it took 15 seconds to build a Farm - which soon increased to several minutes (e.g. it's 14 minutes 21 seconds for a level 7 Farm). Now, that may not seem too bad ... But, when you consider that a level 2 Fortress takes 9 minutes 35 seconds, with a level 8 Fortress taking 1 day 5 hours 5 minutes 20 seconds, then you realise that the limit of building one structure at a time - can quickly become a hindrance! Of course, there's ways to eliminate this - for example, by building structures overnight-over-weekend, or by acquiring speed-ups (which shorten your build times). I found it amusing that the game gives you a taster of speed-ups, then wants you to purchase Rubies to buy them (in the future). Despite this, I persevered, and was soon starting to feel that I had a good level of resources for my First City. Thus, did I go about wanting to build Troops to defend it! It was here that I discovered that these to, have various requirements (as I had expected). I tasked myself with wanting to build Dragons - specifically Swift Strike Dragons, Battle Dragons and (my first) Great Dragon. Whilst these troops require resources (such as Food, Metal and Lumber) - they also require specific buildings (such as the Dragon Rookery, Dragon Keep, Garrison and Metalsmith) together with specific research (such as Dragonry and Rapid Deployment). It was here that this game started to be become much more exciting! I quickly set about building the various structures, and completing the necessary research (within the Science Centre) with one goal in mind: to build my troops as quickly as possible. I liked the fact that there was a hierarchy here - I had to build Halberdsman (requiring Metallurgy research), Minotaurs (requiring a level 3 Garrison) and Longbowman (requiring Weapons Calibrator research) BEFORE I had any hope of building Swift Strike Dragons, let alone Battle Dragons! As each of these tasks (aka Quests) was completed, it was satisfying to see that you earn rewards (such as ten thousand Gold Coins, and-or five thousand Food). All of this started to fuel my desire to build Battle Dragons (which feature even higher requirements - such as a level 7 Garrison). Whilst all of this is going on, it's very easy to overlook one simple fact: that your First City shall only be protected (from attack) for the first week. I don't think that a weeks grace is enough. There's so much you have to do within this week, that the time seems to fly by - especially when you task yourself with upgrading your City's Wall, hatching your baby Dragon's Egg, carrying out higher level research and training 300 Battle Dragons. There's also the Art of Spying to learn, which allows you to Spy on enemies - both human and AI controlled Anthropus Camps (which when captured, increase your production rates-resources). To help you with all of this, the game features a Quests Plane - which I feel provides a useful task list of what to build (or do) especially in the Newbie (aka early) stages of the game. Overall (so far): I think that this game shows the potential to warm-up to become one of my favourite (online) strategy games. Even so, I feel that there's room for improvement. Apart from giving Newbies' more time (perhaps two weeks of protection), there's one area that I found confusing - the Forge. I found the layout of it's controls confusing (at first), as the ability to Forge and Adventure were greyed out. As such, I decided to ignore them, and concentrated on building up my City and it's Troops. I also found it quite common to run out of resources (in the early stages), and I became frustrated by time (an on-going concern). All of this is why, I have decided to grade this game four stars at present (as there's so much more - within the game to explore).
It's been quite some time since I last walked the Lands of Lore and the Thrones of Chaos. Yet, all of that changed this week (with the help of DOSBox 0.72 and a hunt for my old 3.5 inch floppy discs!). I donned the boots of Conrad, and headed off for a trip down memory lane - to assist King Richard:
To be honest, I had expected the game to seem somewhat dated. The graphics are not in the same league as today's games, the 3d world is essentially tile based (where you move around using cursor keys), and ... You know what, I just don't give a dam! The storyline is amazing!! I found myself thinking about Quests and Adventures that seem as real now, as they did back then. Within the Draracle Caves, I was soon asking myself a question: what was the gift that the Draracle wanted? With some head scratching, I knew it when I saw it - a golden knife with red jewels in it. Then did the Draracle give me some riddles for an Elixir - that will save King Richard (albeit much later in the game). Still, I'm getting ahead of myself ... I love the fact that everything seems to fall into place in this game. When your Quest starts, you receive a Magic Atlas (which you need - as it's easy to get lost within the mazes of each location/level). Then do you receive a Compass (which you use with your Magic Atlas). Then do your receive a Spell Book (which holds your various magical spells - such as Spark, Heal, Freeze, Fireball and Lightening). Then do you receive a Lantern (when you first visit the Caves - which with enough Oil, helps Lighten the Dark). Your an adventurer (either Ak'Shel, Kieran, Micheal or Conrad) who has companions along the way (such as Timothy, Baccata and Lora). Prepare to have both your combat and magical skills tested - whilst at the same time, having a really good work out for your memory! It's easy to forget where you are in the mazes of these Lands ... Now, even though this game is (at least) two decades old - it does one thing that many modern games don't seem to do: it has the ability to make you laugh! For me, this always occurs in two places: the pits you find in various Mines and the sink holes (in the Gorkha Swamp). In both cases, it always goes something like this for me: fwd, fwd, left, left, fwd, fwd, left, AUGH! I've fallen down a hole! AUGH! Laugh, Laugh, Laugh. Then just for fun, I do it again! (Not quite so funny now!). Laugh, Laugh. As I say, this game's storyline pulls you in - especially when you feel like you've achieved something. It's great fun when you fix the Water Pump within the Urbish Mines (so that's what the lumps of coal and the gear/cog are for!). Although, the Urbish Mines themselves is a place that I've always found testing (both the getting lost, and those Avian Worms!). There's plenty of other challenges to - such as Scotia's Barrier(s)! These caused me nothing but grief a few years back, but this time - I remembered Vaelan's Cube! This game has more monsters/mythical creatures than you can shake a stick at. Some of my favourites are: Bandits, Cave Dwellers, Gimlets, Gorkha, Giant Lizards, Orcs and Great Orcs - as once you have some decent weapons (such as Great Swords and Great Axes), then these tend to die fairly easily in hand-to-hand combat. Some of my least favourite monsters/mythical creatures are: the Larkhon (a big worm - throw your sword at it), Magic Mirrors (walking jelly fish - they don't like Lightening), Rocklings (made of rock - dam, you blunted my sword!) and Wraiths (run, no really - run!). Overall: this is an amazing adventure/role playing game whose storyline seems to have stood the test of time. I'm amazed that it's challenges seem just as hard now, as they did back in the day (when I first got those 3.5 inch floppy discs home!). This may not be a game that you want to play full-screen now, but it can certainly play/run perfectly well in a window on your desktop (even perhaps whilst your doing other things!). One question I found myself asking was: where am I? I seem to be lost in these Urbish Mines! Let alone being lost in the White Tower ... Finally: it's been sometime since I've seen Scotia, but I do remember Dawn - was that a Cuckoo? Tip: for DOSBox 0.72, I used mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES (slash) westwood (slash) lands, c:, lands. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below).
A Kingdom of Love, with her Mum and her Dad. Two Twists of Fate, and a Test of her Spirit:
In Childhood Dreams, did Ella play - with Clouds of Horse, and Animal Chat. In Childhood Dreams, did Ella trust - with Mother's Verse, and Father's Smile. Belief in All, did Ella grow - with Twist of Fate, and dying Mother. A promise made, Truthful Ella - with Dashing Horse, and Wild of Stag. Father Dreams, new Stepmother - Merchant Trip, and Change for All ... Ella slaves, Ella plays - Ella's promise, to her Mother: Have Courage and be Kind! Yet: To Stepmother, Cinderella, to her Sisters, just a Half-wit. I love the fact that this film, tells the story of Cinderella, in a modern magical way! I especially love the portrayal, of the Fairy Godmother - who is just a little scatty! My favourite comedy scene, is when the Pumpkin grows into a Golden Coach: as both Cinderella, and her Fairy Godmother, manage to overlook the fact that there's not enough room for the Pumpkin to grow (inside the conservatory). Which leads to them both, being squeezed against the windows - and in turn, seems to be right at home, with the scattiness of her Fairy Godmother! On the other hand, does this contrast with the harshness of Cinderella's Stepmother, who at certain times, do I feel is overly mean - such as when she tears Cinderella's Mother's dress, and thus prevents Cinderella from attending the Prince's Ball (at least with her Stepmother, and two Stepsisters). Fortunately, such scenes are intermixed with further comedy: such as when the Prince's personal Oil Painter is lowered all-the-way to the floor (and accidentally finds a new painting position), and when the Prince laughs with his Father, at the girl who loses her shoes (as this reminded me of someone I used to know!). I find it interesting that the film goes to great lengths to illustrate two key points. First: that large houses (such as castles and country manors) may very-well be stocked full of possessions, but unless those very same houses are full of Love (from a woman that stokes the Fires of your Heart), than those same houses, may as well be empty! Second: marrying someone for any reason other than Love, is doomed to fail ... This is exactly what happens with Cinderella's Stepmother - who married Cinderella's Father for the sake of her two children. (The Stepmother drives this point home to Cinderella, when she again attempts to exploit, the Kindness that is found within Cinderella). I also feel that this film, gains much of it's magic, from it's use of Pixie Dust. There's two scenes where I feel, that this is particularly true. First: when Cinderella has her dress Geed-Up (as she twirls around in both pink, and blue Pixie Dust, intermixed with blue Butterflies). And second: when the Pumpkin is changed into a Coach (as there's Golden Pixie Dust, which glitters around the Pumpkin's sides - taking shape, forming wheels and curves, that befit the Carriage of a Loving Princess). And yet, in all of this, is there a twist: for if Cinderella had not been kind to the Old Hag (her Fairy Godmother in disguise), then it seems to me - that Cinderella would not have been able to go to the Prince's Ball (at all). Overall: I find this film to be a lovable mix of both fun (such as when Cinderella talks to her Mice - Jacqueline, Teddy, Matilda and greedy Gus-Gus), and harsh reality (such as when Cinderella's Stepmother goes to great lengths to seclude Cinderella - from family activities). An enjoyable reworking of a classic tale, that I feel, shall bring plenty of Pixie Dust into your Heart! Even so, I can't help but wonder - what would have happened, if the Stepmother (as portrayed in this film), had never overheard the conversation between Ella and her Father ...
This is by far the best Sword and Sorcery fantasy novel that I have ever read:
I was hooked from the first page! Prince Rupert has been sent upon a Quest: to slay a Dragon and rescue a Princess. But being Prince Rupert, the Quest does not go according to plan - and it is instead, just the start of his Adventures! I especially like the fact that the novel is packed full of Quests - both main Quests (such as the Quest to find the High Warlock) and sub Quests (such as the Quest to find out what has happened in Coppertown). Prince Rupert is not your typical Prince - he is a Second Son (in line to the Throne), and was regarded as a good-for-nothing (by most of Castle Society). I like the fact that Prince Rupert has numerous challenges to overcome, and in doing so, proves them all wrong! Even so, it's his Quest for the Dragon that changes his Character the most, as he has to pass through the Darkwood - which hones his fighting skills (by improving them the hard way), and earns him new friends (with which he returns to Forest Castle). My favourite main Quest has to be the Quest to find the High Warlock - as I like the fact that Prince Rupert takes command of an entire Troop of Guards, together with the Kings Champion, and leads them into the Darkwood. It is hear that the Champion starts to gain some respect for the Prince Rupert (instead of just seeing him as a threat to the Throne). I laughed when they first met the High Warlock - as he is somewhat anti-social, has some-what lost touch with the world (not having been outside his Dark Tower for years), and puts a Dead Rat in every barrel of Wine that he brews! He is also the most powerful Sorcerer that the Forest Land has ever known - and is perhaps, the only hope of throwing back the advance of the Darkwood (a Magical place that's full of Demons and the Night). Both the High Warlock, and the Dragon, provide much of the comedy (for me) - especially when it comes to what the Dragon wants to eat (mountains of food first, then will talk). My favourite minor Quest has to be when the Princess Julia (a friend of Prince Rupert's) goes on an expedition (within Forest Castle) to find the Old Armoury (which happens to be in the missing South Wing). How can a Castle Wing go missing you ask? Well, Forest Castle is somewhat unique: with Ancient Spells and Wards cast within it's walls - it's larger on the inside (than it is on the outside), and as such, most of the Castle rooms/halls change places everyday! I was excited when the Princess Julia (eventually) stands before the Doors to the Old Armoury - especially when you learn/remember that it's also where the most Powerful Swords ever made by Man are kept (the three Infernal Devices) - the three Broadswords, Rockbreaker, Flarebright and Wolfsbane. The storyline manages to merge Battlefield Drama with Castle Politics and Intrigue. There's a Plot to Overthrow the King, and appoint a new one (although not who you would expect). There's also several Traitors (one who I had expected all along), and another (who I didn't see until the very end). My favourite Warrior has to be the Kings Champion. The Tale goes to great lengths to build him into a Hero out of Legend (which indeed he is): towering above the heads of mortal men, covered from head-to-toe in the Armour of a Knight, swinging his Axe effortlessly (against a never ending Tide of Foes), placing the Might of Steel above all others - defiantly against the use of Magic (although there's a twist towards the end!). I also approve of the use of Magic within this Tale - with it's first use being when the Dragon casts a Spell, so that Prince Rupert may make the Rainbow Run: a light appears before him (like a Will-o'-the-wisp) that leads him to his Destiny (or at least - part of it). I also liked the idea of the High Warlocks Teleportation Spell - although as we learn, he is not the only Sorcerer that's capable of such magic. I also enjoyed reading the parts where the High Warlock flies high above the heads of his Foes - casting Bale-fire, denying entrance to the Foes of Forest Castle. Another favourite Fantasy Character (of mine) is Breeze - Prince Rupert's Unicorn. He is also Prince Rupert's friend - who grumbles when he is fed grass (wanting barley only), who fights by his side (saying that the Prince won't last long without him) and who jokes from time to time (especially the part where Prince Rupert says: Were just going back into the Darkwood a little way - and Breeze replies: So I'll suppose we'll only be killed a little bit. Forget it!). Overall: this is an amazing Tale - which has kept me turning the pages, until many the early hours. I'm still amazed at how much the author (Simon R. Green) has managed to pack into just over four hundred and forty pages - whilst not seeming to rush the Tale (at all). If you like Adventure and Fantasy, mixed with Swords and Bale-fire, mixed with a Dragon and a Unicorn, mixed with Demons and a Demon Prince - then this is a Fantasy Book/Novel that you should definitely consider reading! It's also a book that I've reread several times over the past few years - five or six times now, as I enjoyed reading it so very much!
When it comes to a Role Playing Game (RPG) that allows me to masquerade as a Vampire, I'd be hard-pressed to name one better than this:
I like the fact that this game starts with a twist - as it's a while before you become a Vampire! The games storyline sees you take control of the character Christof, a Medieval Holy Knight, whose been injured on the battlefield (by an enemy arrow). Almost mortally wounded, it's only with the caring of the Nun Anezka, that Christof eventually recovers. Yet in doing so, Christof falls for Anezka, and the games storyline gains an important sub-plot: a wound for which there is often no cure - the Power of Love! I like the fact that this game strives to contrast the differences between Christof as a Human, and Christof as a Vampire, yet at the same time - it also fights to highlight the similarities! Whilst Christof is still Human, you undertake a Quest within the Bonn Silver Mines - to rid them of whatever Evil lies within. It is hear that you learn the basics of control: left-click to attack an enemy, left-click plus hold to powerfully attack an enemy. It is here that I first appreciated the quality of the graphics: as various flames/torches light your way, whilst leaving the shadows to themselves. It is also here that you shall encounter your first challenges: Just how do I drain the water from the Crossing? Just how do I kill the War Ghoul? And just how do I kill the first Vampire Boss? The answer to all three is essentially the same: left-click, left-click, left-click! Yet, as Christof is a character of strong Faith, perhaps some Holy Water shall save the day? The games storyline then gains another important sub-plot: as Christof fights to retain his Soul. His Desire for Anezka places it in Peril, yet it is the attentions of a Vampire that truly tests his Character ... I was excited when Christof becomes a Vampire - as this is when the game comes truly alive! I'm also a fan of the Vampire Mythology that's found within this game. First: there is the fact that there are several races of Vampire (such as Cappadocian, Gangrel and Nosferatu - each with their own particular traits, skills and appearance). Second: there is the idea that Vampires have their own beliefs and traditions (Christof is recruited by the Philosophers of Caine - the Brujah, whose primary aim is the collection of Knowledge). Third: there is the concept of Vampire Lore (that the Brujah only take from Humans the Blood that they actually need - not a drop more). Fourth: there is the suggestion that not all Vampires are the same (that the Brujah actually see themselves as Guardians of Humanity, and as such, are less interested in the Blood Lust that's often associated with Creatures of the Night). I was impressed by the games use of animation and narration to highlight several of these ideas (especially the part where Christof views the Scrolling Tapestry). Playing as a Vampire is much more exciting than playing as a Human! There's plenty to learn (as a Vampire) - and you shall earn your Fangs (so to speak) at Petrin Hill Monastery. Lesson One: Looks can be Deceptive - as the Monastery looks all Quite and Peaceful, yet open that Wooden Door, and you shall soon have plenty of opponents to fight - as there's Vampires and Skeletons (usually armed with Swords and Arrows). Lesson Two: Vampires require Blood. When Christof (and his friend Wilhelm) become low on Blood, they shall start to Rampage (possibly even feeding off each other). To counteract this - you need to learn the Art of Feeding! There's plenty of Monks around the Monastery for you to feed on (and slaying an enemy this way does not affect your Humanity levels - which comes in handy). Lesson Three: Sometimes the ability to fight is not enough - you have to use your brain as well, together with switches and keys. Many an Evening did I fight Mercuio (the Vampire Boss of the Monastery), and many an Evening did both Christof and Wilhelm die (to his Green Gas). Yet it was, when searching around, did I find my first special weapon: a Femur (bone) that introduces Mercuio to the Grave! The games more than just about fighting though. One part I really like is managing the equipment that my Vampires wear. Once you've found enough Gold/Jewellery/Jewels, I like to equip my Vampires (via the Blacksmith) with: Studded Leather Armour, Gauntlets and a Light Helm - which helps improve their combat/defence capabilities. Another part I really like is the Character Advancement screen: with each Quest you complete, you earn Experience Points, which you spend to make your Vampires stronger. When I have enough points, I like to increase (in this order): Strength, Dexterity and Stamina (as I feel that these help to establish the central core of my Vampires abilities). When it comes to Spells and Magic, it's a must to upgrade Blood Healing (as it quickly heals your Vampires, usually for less blood), and in the case of Wilhelm, his Feral Claws (a favourite of mine - as he's often at the fore-front of an assault). I also like to equip each of my characters with: two Scrolls of Awaken (so that they may wake fallen comrades) and a Scroll of Walk the Abyss (so that a doorway can be opened between the current Quest and your safe haven - a great way to save travel time, which also allows you stock up on valuable supplies!). Overall: I have spent many an evening playing this game! I found that I became fully immersed in the storyline (especially with the twists regarding Faith, Love and Souls). Yes, there are some frustrations (such as when you accidentally tell Christof to feed off Wilhelm), but there's also a great amount of fun (such as when you destroy the rampaging Golem). I was stunned by the beauty of many scenes (especially those that reflect a decorated ceiling of a Castle/Palace unto the floor). The most draw-dropping part of the storyline (for me), was when the Time-line changed (as I wanted to remain in the Medieval), and felt totally lost (at first) running around in the Modern Age. Even so, this is still my favourite Vampire game to play!
Dreams for a day, with laughing in mud, magic for quill, with haircuts to go:
I like the fact that this film is about being happy with what you've got (and remembering to live in the present) - rather than attempting to recapture your past. Shrek has become bored with his daily/repetitive routine (getting up, changing nappies, with no peace or quite to himself) and longs to return to the good old days (when he was able to scare the townspeople/villagers). Fortunately, there's an individual within Far Far Away that can help him with this: Rumpelstiltskin - the Shepard of your dreams! Unfortunately, Rumpelstiltskin has his own agenda: he wishes that Shrek had never been born - and when a deal is struck (for Shrek to be a real ogre again), it is Shrek that loses out. My favourite scene is when Shrek rides a broomstick through the castle of Far Far Away - as he is chased by witches, having to dodge both stairways and pumpkins, whilst finding myself foot-tapping to that catchy tune! My favourite (short) comedy scene is when Shrek grabs a witches broomstick - as the witch continues to fly, eventually ending up embedded in a tree trunk (with her legs hanging out - kicking). My favourite (short) cute/cuddly scene is when Shrek and family are flying along on the back of Dragon - as Dragon now has some seats installed on her back (to help keep Farkle, Fergus and Felicia safe), yet at the same time, there is also irony as they land: don't eat the valet! I love the atmosphere within this film - as its somewhat darker: first in terms of its characters (such as Rumpelstiltskin), then in terms of its locations (such as the Crone's Nest carriage park) and finally in terms of its lighting (with many subtle effects having been produced through the use of lanterns and torches). I was most amused by the changes in the character of Puss in Boots - especially the fact that he has put on weight! He would rather sit around drinking milk, than be out and about chasing mice (as he has now retired). I was also amused by the character of Rumpelstiltskin: he has numerous wigs to wear (business, angry or speech), he has a counter-approach to punishment (ignoring silly suggestions, whilst lashing out at sensible ones) and he sees himself as a goblet, is half-full, kind-of-guy (even when his socks have fallen down!). I approved of the cunning use of two trojan horses: the first is when the Pied Piper climbs out of a duck (to enchant the other ogres), and the second is when the ogres make use of a new glitter ball (to re-enter the castle). Overall: I feel that this films magic lies in the fact that it twists the standard (Shrek) storyline into something darker, whilst at the same time, reminding us all to be grateful for what we've got, and that even if we get what we wished for, that such wishes may be delivered in an unexpected fashion! I also liked the idea that we can be responsible for saving ourselves (from our own problems) and that you can be happy (both by yourself and with others). A fitting conclusion to the characters of Shrek!