One Hell of a Good Time: The Doom Eternal Review You’ve Waited an Eternity For

I finally, finally finished playing Doom Eternal a couple of days ago. I took my sweet time with it. I savored every minute of it. And by “savored,” I also mean that I stressed my brain out trying to find every collectible and complete every time trial.

Now that I’ve finished the game, it is time to tell you, my Above Average readers, my thoughts on it. It’s time to go into the good, the bad, and the ugly of Doom Eternal with a deep-dive review.

Side note: This game is not ugly. I just wanted to type out “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Just in case you’re not in the mood to read a lengthy review, I’ll tell you my base impression. Doom Eternal is high-octane fun, definitely engaging to the millionth degree. The only things holding it back are a few story decisions (but who plays Doom for the story anyways) and a couple of odd gameplay inclusions.

Anywaysies, let’s rev up our chainsaws and pop out our flame belcher! It’s time for a Below Average review of Doom Eternal!

Story

Doom Eternal takes place after the events of Doom (2016). A demonic invasion is taking place on Earth as soon as the game starts. The Doom Slayer (or Doomguy as he is colloquially known) preps himself for battle in his Fortress of Doom.

Side note: It remains unclear how he got this floating fortress in space or what happened directly after Samuel Hayden teleported him away after the first game.

What follows is a rampage. The Doom Slayer needs to take down three Hell Priests in order to stop the invasion on Earth. Once that is complete, the Slayer can focus his attention on the Khan Maykr, a highly-advanced being who is responsible for Hell’s forces taking over countless worlds in her quest to use “Hell energy” to sustain her race.

Annnnnd that’s pretty much it for plot.

I don’t know if this counts as spoilers, but the Doom Slayer accomplishes every single one of his goals. He stops the invasion by killing the Hell Priests, he defeats the Khan Maykr, and then he goes along on his merry way.

It’s a straightforward story, and I appreciate that. However, things are muddied up a tad thanks to a plethora of Codex entries. See, throughout the game, one of the items you can find and collect are these Codex pages, texts that extend your knowledge of Doom lore.

You learn about Hell’s hierarchy, the rise of the Maykr society, the fall of Argent D’Nur. It’s a bunch of cool stuff, and a lot of it is interesting. However, it can get a bit confusing, especially when coupled with the Codex entries from the first game.

For example, in the first game, Argent energy was said to come directly from Elemental Wraiths trapped in Hell. The Wraiths’ souls made a Well that stores this hellish energy, and that’s what insane and idiotic human scientists were trying to tap into as a resource.

Doom Eternal complicates the process a bit. According to new Codex entries, Argent Energy is made using energy from Sentinels and the power of tortured souls in Hell, and it is then purified by the Elemental Wraiths due to Maykr technology.

Confused?

Yeah, me too.

It’s a minor grievance though. I’m not playing Doom Eternal for the story.

My bigger story gripe actually deals with how the game handles the Slayer himself.

In the first game, players were never removed from the Slayer’s perspective. You stayed in first-person mode no matter what, always looking through the eyes of Doomguy. When he opened a door, you saw his hands appear in front of you to lift it. When he picked up a new gun, you saw him hold it up to his/your eyes to inspect.

Doom Eternal makes the dubious choice of pulling players out of Doomguy’s shoes. On occasion, there will be a cutscene, and the “camera” will float out of the Doom Slayer’s eyes and instead hover around him cinematically so you can see his body from a more remote perspective.

I’m personally not a fan of this.

Call me old school, but I liked the immersion of being the Doom Slayer from Doom (2016). I liked feeling like his actions were my actions. In Doom Eternal, I felt like I was buddy-buddy with the Doomguy instead of being him.

And to add insult to injury, they actually have the Doomguy speak at one point.

Ugh. Noooooooooooo.

I did not like that one bit. I’m not going to grab a torch and pitchfork about it, but it definitely took me out of the game to hear the Slayer suddenyl growl “Rip and tear” in a totally contrived fashion.

My final thoughts on the story would be a low-key appreciation for the multiple locations it took us to. It often felt like we (the Doom Slayer and I) were going all over the place in a short time span. That dizzy variety of places, while befuddling my grasp on plot points and objectives, did give me some great arenas.

Which leads me to my next section…

Environment

Doom (2016) had fairly bland environments. You were either on Hell or Mars, and both locations were always tinted either shades of red or shades of grey.

Doom Eternal blows its predecessor out of the water when it comes to environments.

You’ve got the devastated landscapes of Earth during the demonic invasion. You’ve got the garish colors of Urdak, the Maykrs’ home world. The fiery environs of Hell are dangerous and mesmerizing. Even the somber nature of the Sentinels’ realm stands out from the crowd.

Plus, each of these locations offers up great arenas. Since mobility is prized in Doom Eternal, the maps have to be designed to allow a greater rein of movement. There are bars to swing from, lifts to propel you into the air, and ledges you can clamber onto. These mini-arenas are all superb.

In between arenas, there are quiet moments where players can explore the area for secrets. Cheat codes, collectible figurines, and music albums to hang around your Fortress of Doom are scattered throughout Doom Eternal, and looking for them is half the fun of the game.

The one downside to the environment is the platforming. In order to break up the constant stream of combat, developers decided to include light platforming mechanics.

These suck eggs.

Maybe it’s just me, but I loathed those weird gravity lift things on Urdak that would propel you through the air. They inconsistently launched you to sections of wall that you could “climb” on. And I could never get the timing exactly right the first time around. I either messed things up with an ill-timed double-jump, aimed my body right where it didn’t need to go, or plummeted to my death after failing to properly grab onto a wall.

I do not play Doom for platforming.

‘Nuff said.

Gameplay

However, platforming brings me to my next point. See, all that jumping and climbing and launching is meant to space out how often players are dancing in an arena. You can’t have players in combat 24/7.

But combat is where Doom Eternal shines the most. It is near goddamn perfection.

It is utter bliss to be running around an arena tearing up demons. What was first presented to us in Doom (2016) has been fine-tuned in Doom Eternal. Every weapon on the weapon wheel has a purpose to take down a demon, and every demon has a weakness that can be exploited. Cacademons can swallow a grenade from your combat shotgun. Precision shots from your heavy assault rifle can eliminate a Mancubus’ arm cannons. A Whiplash can be frozen in place with an ice bomb.

In the first game, you picked your favorite weapon (cough cough Super Shotgun cough cough) and stuck with it. In Doom Eternal, you need to constantly switch out to weapons that can better help you deal with specific demonic threats.

And the demons are gorgeous visually.

I mean, they’re ugly as heck.

But they’re designed to be ugly beautifully.

Every time you shoot them, chunks of flesh are torn from their bodies, a more rewarding manner of visibly letting players know they’re doing damage than a health bar receding above their heads.

The only demons that have a health bar are the big bosses, the Gladiator, the Khan Maykr, and the Icon of Sin (kind of). Those are intense but fun fights that truly test your mettle as a gamer.

My one major gameplay gripe has to do with the Marauder.

I hate that guy.

The Marauder is an enemy type that pops up from time to time to ruin a player’s day. The big issue with him is that he operates kind of like a boss. You have to time when you attack him perfectly. His eyes will flash green right before he swipes at you, meaning you have to shoot him with a heavy duty weapon at that exact moment. He can zoom around you very quickly, utilizing a dash feature similar to the one you as the Slayer possess. However, if you try to crowd him, he pulls out a shotgun that deals a massive amount of damage in one shot. And if you try to get some distance on him, he sends a ghostly hound after you that nips at your heels until the Marauder can catch up to you.

So the Marauder forces you to stay midrange with him, doing this slow-paced gun battle as you wait for his eyes to flash green before you shoot.

This in itself isn’t a problem. However, it becomes a problem when they stick the Marauder in a regular arena situation with a bunch of other demon types around. You can’t do a one-on-one battle with him until after you’ve dealt with the other demons. The Marauder halts the otherwise seamless flow of combat present in Doom Eternal.

And don’t get me started on that time trial that includes a Marauder.

Side note: Time trials are brief timed encounters with a group of four or five demons. One of them involved a Marauder. Imma be honest, I cheesed that fight so hard. I glitched it out so I “won” the fight without having to fight him.

At its best, Doom Eternal is an intense ballet of gunplay, with players switching out between weapons and grenades to take down the endless onslaught of demons. It takes skill, which makes the game feel like a challenge to overcome.

If you’re not staying on your toes though, a fight can quickly devolve into a jumbled juggle as you try to keep an eye on your shields and health while also running around trying to take down demons with a low ammo count on all weapons.

Music

In order to make players feel like a bad-ass even while they’re struggling with the intense gameplay, Doom Eternal has given us yet another pumping soundtrack.

I have never felt so alive and empowered as when I’m listening to Mick Gordon’s genius track while shooting down a horde of demons. He accomplishes in-game magic with his music.

I never thought metal and synth would be my thing, but it has slowly become one of my go-to sounds for feeling exhilarated. I feel unstoppable when listening to it. Even if I’m dying over and over and over again.

Final Thoughts

I would never say Doom Eternal is a bad game. It’s fantastic. However, it is most definitely not a relaxing game for me. My brain has to stay on high alert whenever I play it because it is one of the most intense gameplay experiences I’ve ever gone through. It’s a game I prep myself for, and I’ll drink a cup of coffee before I pick up a controller. That’s in stark contrast to the way I’ll play something like Super Mario Odyssey, slumped on my couch with a grin and a cup of tea.

And while I’m not fond of the changes made to the way the Doom Slayer is perceived, he remains one of my most favorite video game protagonists to play as. I’m not the best gamer. I’m below Below Average if I’m telling the truth. But Doomguy has always made me feel like a bad-ass, and that’s a sure sign a game can be tough and empowering at the same time.

I rate Doom Eternal a thrill-ride-through-Hell-that-is-a-gazillion-times-more-fun-than-it-sounds-and-it-already-sounds-hella-good.

Of Protests and Pandemics

Fractures persist in the criminal justice system.
So we choose to resist.
Meanwhile
An infection spreads,
Using worldwide connections to extend its reach.
The divide has never been wider
(Or Whiter)
Between the haves and have-nots.
This year is clearly
Determined to sear
Itself onto our collective memories.
But perhaps this time of unrest is for the best.
Granted, this trial by virus
Feels like the strike of a viper
Disinclined to let go
Until the flow of venom is spent.
But protests and calls for reform
Bring more than fury and woe.
They bring change.
And changing to better treat the people we meet
Is never a bad thing.

Ranking My Favorite Star Wars Movies (Skywalker Saga Edition)

These are stressful times, and one of my go-to comforts is rewatching the Star Wars movies. I have a deep and abiding love for the Star Wars universe, so doing a dive into the films is the mental equivalent of relaxing in a hot tub for me.

As such, I thought I would go over and rank my favorite movies.

However, when I first contemplated writing this post, I realized with a rise of horror that there is no way to subjectively rank these movies. (Yes, you heard me right, I said subjectively. I’m a Below Average reviewer, okay? Being objective about my geeky loves is nigh impossible.) I love each and every Star Wars movie, but I love them for very different reasons. My love for, let’s say, Attack of the Clones is far removed from my love for The Empire Strikes Back.

Therefore, I needed to come up with a way to rank my favorite Star Wars movies that wouldn’t make my heart explode with indecision.

And so I made brackets. That’s right. Brackets.

I’m going to bracket the nine films of the Skywalker Saga into the originals, the prequels, and the sequels, and rank them accordingly.

Side note: Just because I’m not talking about Solo or Rogue One does not mean I do not adore them. I frickin’ love those movies.

Let’s do this!

The Prequels

I think if I were to be objective, I could argue that the prequels are the worst of the Star Wars franchise. The acting and the dialogue felt stilted, the plot was terribly contrived, and who can forget Jar Jar Binks.

However, to this day, the prequels never fail to put a smile on my face with how ridiculous they were. No other Star Wars films lend themselves so well to making meme-worthy material. Plus, while the dialogue often sounds godawful, it is incredibly quotable. I might have hated Anakin Skywalker’s sand diatribe/pick-up lines with a passion, but I can remember them word for word. And the music for the prequels was fantastic. Perhaps the best scores of the entire franchise.

So, without further ado…

3. Revenge of the Sith

In last place comes Episode III. All of these rankings were tough choices to make, but I knew from the get-go that this would be my “least favorite” of the prequels. Before the movie came out, I read this novelization by Matthew Stover, and it was superb. If you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend it. It’s actually right up there with my favorite Star Wars novels.

The thing is, the novelization did such a great job telling the story of Revenge of the Sith, the film itself could not compare. I was let down by the movie, especially when it took such serious subject matters and made them seem laughable.

Still, this movie gave me my all-time favorite one-liners, including those brief quotes from Chancellor Palpatine. “Power! Unlimited power!

2. The Phantom Menace

I saw The Phantom Menace when I was really young, so a lot of the “politics” of certain situations went right over my head. I had no idea what was going on between the Trade Federation and Naboo, why people couldn’t stop the invasion, or what the heck was this Senate. As a result, I viewed Episode I as the “boring” Star Wars for the longest time.

However, it gave me podracing (which I thought was really cool) and the most epic lightsaber battle I had ever seen. When “Duel of the Fates” started to play and Darth Maul appeared, I forgave the movie for most of its sins. The only thing that ruins that fight for me is the knowledge that I’d never see/feel its like again.

And while the disparity between how ships and technology look like from the prequels to the originals is gargantuan, I have to admit, I fell for that sleek Nubian royal starship like you wouldn’t believe.

1. Attack of the Clones

The “romance” between Anakin and Padme is one of the cringiest things I’ve ever seen in a movie.

And I love it.

It is so incredibly awkward, unlifelike, and creepy that I love it. When considering this list, I initially thought to put Attack of the Clones at the rear of its bracket. But upon further reflection, I realized that nothing beats the sheer hilarity of Anakin’s stalker behavior and winning over of Senator Amidala.

I think Episode II is one of the most uncomfortable Star Wars movies to watch, which inadvertently makes it my most favored of the prequels.

Though, to be fair, it does have some fun action sequences.

The Sequels

I know there were many people who were disappointed by the sequel trilogy. It did not live up to the expectations of prequel lovers or original lovers. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying most aspects of the sequel films.

For me, at the end of the day, my love of Star Wars is rooted in my love of the universe. Anything that gives me more time in the universe already has a leg up on my affections.

Besides, I can’t hate on anything that gave me Babu Frik. I couldn’t call myself a fan at that point.

3. The Last Jedi

The major thing that bothers me about The Last Jedi is the structure of the movie. Call me a basic bitch, but I like a simple three-act structure. Beginning sets up the characters and the plot, the middle is full of rising tension, there’s a climax, and then a resounding ending.

While deviations from this structure can be exciting, The Last Jedi did not do it for me. Is the climax when Rey fights with Kylo Ren against the Praetorian guard? Or is it when Rose saves Finn’s life by crashing her ski speeder into his? Or is it when Kylo Ren confronts ghostly Luke? The story drags a tad for me, and Canto Bight felt unnecessary.

Plus, the Admiral Holdo/Poe Dameron subplot irritated me. It was one of those simple moments where just reassuring people under her command with confirmation that she has a plan would have erased that whole conflict.

That said, I love Porgs. Those eyes ripped into my heart. And those strange moments between Kylo Ren and Rey felt charged as heck. I held my breath in theaters every time they talked through that connection because I was waiting for some other shoe to drop. And that lightsaber fight between them was kick-ass.

2. The Force Awakens

I was so pumped to see this movie. It marked the first time I could camp outside of a movie theater to see a Star Wars film. And while it did not meet every single one of my expectations, it did satisfy that need.

Its biggest flaw is how closely it adheres to the plot points set out by the original Star Wars. I was not so engrossed with giddiness while watching that I couldn’t notice that.

I mostly enjoy The Force Awakens for the little things. The fact that the previews and movie poster trick you into thinking Finn will be the “Jedi character,” but it ends up being Rey. The cool effect of Rey making her weird portion square turn into a piece of bread. The way that Han Solo says, “That’s not how the Force works!”

The Force Awakens gave me characters I knew I could fall in love with if I just spent more time with them.

1. The Rise of Skywalker

Feel free to call me crazy. Or stupid. Bear in mind that I’ve called my blog The Below Average Blog. I know what I’m like.

Nonetheless, The Rise of Skywalker is my favorite of the sequel trilogy.

Does it have its flaws?

Hell yes. Gaping flaws. It comes across as a rushed mess of a movie that reverses decisions made while making The Last Jedi while hastily covering up any discrepancies that caused haphazardly.

But I still love it.

This movie doubled down on lightsaber fights, introduced Babu Frik into my life, made C-3PO my all-time favorite Star Wars character, and ended with a nostalgic and resounding space-battle victory.

But perhaps the one thing it gave me that I had wanted since The Force Awakens was time between Poe, Finn, and Rey. If The Rise of Skywalker hadn’t delivered on that front, I might not have had as many positive feelings about it as I do. But seeing the three leads going on an adventure together was my bottom-line, I-demand-this desire for the sequels.

The Originals

Damn. This was tough. Tougher than tough. I rolled between the three original Star Wars films with more anxiety than an arachnophobic person walking through a spider exhibit.

But after much time and hair-pulling indecision, I finally ranked them.

It’s tough to decide which of three perfect films you like more.

3. Return of the Jedi

I love Return of the Jedi. It was the best way to end the original trilogy. Luke finally confronted his father, we got to meet the cuddly Ewoks, and Darth Vader saving the day made for a memorable conclusion.

However, this ranks at the bottom of my originals bracket (oof, it hurts to type that), simply because it feels a tad weird to have a second Death Star crop up like a reused tactic from the Empire.

But seriously, I’m not even that mad about it.

I just needed something to justify the ranking.

2. The Empire Strikes Back

The “darkest” Star Wars film was my number one movie for the longest time. I would watch it on repeat for hours just to see the big twist over and over again.

Episode V gave fans so much to love, from Yoda to AT-ATs to Lando Calrissian to the unforgettable revelation that Luke’s dad is Vader. It’s honestly probably the best of the original trilogy given how much it gave to us and how bold it was at the same time.

However, I’m going to place it in second simply because that cliffhanger ending is a killer.

1. A New Hope

I have a special place in my heart for beginnings. Origin stories are the best. This is the one that started them all. It created the universe without getting bogged down in exposition. It simply showed us a story. And in so doing, gave us one of the most memorable sci-fi franchises of all time.

George Lucas really followed the hero’s journey archetypes to a tee, but there ‘s a reason those archetypes became archetypes. For the most part, they work.

I will never forget what it was like to watch this movie for the first time. My Tia Kaki (my aunt) gathered my sister and me to watch it together when we were sleeping over at her house. She would whisper the lines to us right after they were spoken. (Like whenever ghost Obi-Wan would say, “Use the Force, Luke!”) The three of us together got swept up into that galaxy far, far away, and I don’t think I’ve ever fully come back.

Black Lives Matter

I was hesitant to post something like this. I’m a nonconfrontational person by nature, and I did not want to invite conflict onto this writing space of mine that has been largely positive for me.

But these issues need to be confronted.

I live in the United States of America, and while “freedom” and “equality” are terms that are bandied about quite frequently in our country, not everyone is free and not everyone is equal here.

Systemic injustices have permeated our society, injustices which have been demonstrated to endanger the lives of our citizens. A long-standing history of racism has been built into our country’s government. Our very Constitution was created with the notion that certain people only counted as three-fifths as a person.

And that’s not fair.

This has always been a problem within our society, but added pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic and a spotlight on racial inequity has set our “melting pot” to boiling.

Riots and protests are sweeping the nation, with support and condemnation rising up like a tide on all sides.

I have been incredibly fortunate to have had a life made easier due to possessing a skin color that borders on a light khaki versus a darker shade of brown. And not everyone has had this privilege.

And make no mistake, it is a privilege. I am not a victim of racial profiling as a result. I don’t fear for my life when police are nearby, and I have the freedom to wear a black hoodie and stand on a street corner with relative impunity.

And even though I have not discriminated against a person based on the color of their skin, I am wracked with guilt over having had benefits that other people are not allowed.

There are some who might say that I should not feel guilty. That I have done nothing wrong. That “all lives matter” at the end of the day.

I don’t think those people understand the gravity of the situation, of what it is like to be a person of color in America today.

As such, I refuse to be someone who stands by while fellow human beings around me suffer simply from being born with more melanin pigments in their skin.

I choose to acknowledge that these injustices exist.

I vow to support those who are fighting for their right to live without these injustices.

I pledge to abolish these inequities at every opportunity.

And I promise to have my actions speak as loudly as my words.

The Death of Travel Plans

For those of you who have stuck with me after all this time, you should know by now that I mainly talk about five things: books, movies, video games, my bird, and random stuff that pops into my head. However, if you’ve visited the homepage of my blog, you might have noticed there is a little-used “Travel” category there too.

See, when I started this stupid bloggy thing, I imagined I would have a few trips that I could write about from time to time. Small getaways with friends, vacations with families, and special gaming conventions would all become fodder for this blogging category.

Yeah, 2020 really put a lid on those ideas.

As with everyone else who is social distancing and “sheltering at home,” my travel plans went out the window with the rise of COVID-19.

Normally, I actually wouldn’t mind. For one thing, a decrease in travel content translates to an increase in movie/book/video game content for the blog. For another, I’m a homebody. I don’t go places for fun very often.

But this was going to be the summer my sister and I went on a big adventure.

We had made plans (as in bought plane tickets, booked hotel rooms, and everything) to go to New York, Ireland, and Iceland this summer. While I might not have a major travel bug, my sister does, and I’m her favorite traveling companion. We were going to paint the globe red with our antics.

So that’s basically not going to happen now.

It’s the smart and safe thing to do. Now is not the time to be meeting new people and touching countless surfaces on a quest. I told my sister as much when the first coronavirus whispers were starting.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be let down by it, right?

Anybody who has had to stuff plans for this summer (and this coming fall too, I bet) down the drain knows this dismay, this pang that hits your gut when you have to make the executive decision to not do something you wanted to do. It sucks.

And there’s not really a bright side to the situation aside from not getting yourself and others sick.

It’s at this point in time that I’m going to turn to one of my all-time favorite coping mechanisms, and that’s screaming into the void.

This evening, I’m going to take a very long walk. I have open fields of dirt for miles not fifteen minutes from where I live. (I live in an agricultural town, if you must know.) After walking for so long that I’m dead tired, I’m going to stop in a place where no one is around. Then I’m going to yell at the sunset.

I’m not mad at the sunset or anything. But the sunset won’t call me a whiner with first-world problems as I vent my disappointment in one nice, long shout.

And then I’ll go home and patiently wait for the time when I can go traveling with my sister once again.

No Eyes Will Stay Dry: A Silent Voice Review

I’m a mild to moderate manga reader and anime watcher. Like, I’ve read all of Death Note, but I’ve never read Bleach. I’ve watched a chunk of Naruto, but I haven’t even scratched the surface of Attack on Titan.

That said, I have friends who are avid manga and anime consumers. They are the ones who reproach me for never having seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or for reading an issue of Shonen Jump. They also advise me on absolutely everything I should be watching/reading.

Side note: Demon Slayer is apparently really, really good.

Of all my friends who watch anime, my good buddy Bubba is probably the best. (Hey, shaka brah!)

Since this whole pandemic started, we’ve been watching movies with each other using Discord or Xbox Live. From Blade Runner to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we’re chewing through films.

One of the movies we settled to watch was A Silent Voice, an anime film made in 2016 that hits you right in the feels. As of this writing, it is on Netflix.

It’s honestly a very touching story. Using blunt symbolism and dialogue left unspoken, A Silent Voice dives into tough subjects like bullying and depression. I approached this movie with absolutely no expectations, and by the time the credits rolled, I had to wipe my eyes and sniff snot back up my nostrils.

Needless to say, I thought the film was good.

The plot revolves around a boy named Shoya, who was a merciless bully to a fellow student named Shoko. Shoko is deaf, and it is this that forms the basis for her getting bullied. Egged on by his “friends” and classmates, Shoya is relentless in being mean to this girl.

However, after leaving middle school and entering high school, things have changed. Shoya elects to make up for what he’s done to Shoko, and spends the rest of the film desperately trying to make amends.

I seriously don’t want to spoil the ending, so I won’t detail how this situation is resolved, but it is a damn roller coaster of emotions.

The genre of the film is clearly slice-of-life, focusing on Shoya and Shoko’s teenage and childhood years. In the grand scheme of things, nothing dramatic or remarkable happens, but the emotional revelations the story places in your lap are enough to keep you engrossed in what’s going on.

A Silent Voice is based on a manga, so, as with anything that gets adapted into a film, there are parts that feel unexplained or rushed. While some might take this as a con of the movie, I feel like it contributes to the concept of peeking at the flashes of Shoya’s life.

That leads to one of the major draws of the movie. The manner in which the characters are examined perfectly encapsulates the overall message of the story. You don’t always know what is going on with a person below the surface. The film successfully conveys this in the way it gets you to (eventually) sympathize with a bully. Plus, there is a near-end-of-the-movie twist that emphasizes that point even further, showing that just because a person looks happy doesn’t mean they’re not struggling.

While it can get heavy-handed, the symbolism in the film is one of its strengths. At one point, Shoya feels like he can’t interact with other people without hurting himself or them. He effectively cuts himself off from socializing with classmates. The film demonstrates this by having every person who isn’t Shoya’s family bear a giant X on their faces. Shoya never meets their eyes, and the movie ensures that viewers can’t as well. This feature of the film is one that only an anime could successfully pull off.

Needless to say, the story covers some triggering topics, with suicide being referred to several times. I think it is handled well, especially with the notion that no life is worthless being incredibly stressed by the end of the film. Anyone can come back from the edge, and while forgiveness does not come easily, it can be found in the unlikeliest of places. Though I did cry, the movie’s end left me with a positive feeling.

Bubba and I like to make jokes throughout our movie-watching, but A Silent Voice managed to temper them. It’s a sobering and poignant story.

I rate it a silent-and-resounding-success-that-should-be-seen-at-least-once.

Murder Hornets and More: 2020 Is Apparently the Year That Keeps On Giving

Murder hornets.

Seriously?

Murder hornets?

Ugh.

I schedule my posts way in advance, so I’m typing this right as Murder Hornets have become relevant in current news. For all I know, by the time this post is published in a few weeks, maybe they’ll have all flown away.

Yeah. Right.

So just in case you haven’t heard, a type of Asian hornet has somehow made it to North American shores, and it’s just another dump on the shit-heap of stuff that has happened this year. Vespa mandarinia is considered the largest hornet in the world, and it is absolutely savage in how it takes apart bees. That’s how it earned the “Murder Hornet” moniker. It rips their heads off.

These hornets are not really out to target humans (though their sting purportedly hurts a ton), but our agricultural honeybees are in danger. I mean, they’re in more danger than they used to be. Honeybees have a hard life anyway, what with vanishing colonies and all.

The last thing the bees need are Murder Hornets.

Goddamn Murder Hornets. Could they have been named something a little less foreboding? A little less apropos?

It’s not just me that’s feeling like 2020 is shaping up to be a very shitty year, is it? Normally, bad years are highly individual things. 2016 was a terrible year for me personally, but I had a phenomenal 2019. It’s all a matter of personal experience and perspective.

But I think everyone can agree that 2020 is a globally shitty year.

I’ve been keeping to routines, trying to help out family and friends who are more anxious than me, but current events are starting to wear me down.

Especially now with flubbing Murder Hornets all over my news feed.

Sometimes, on my walks that I take around the neighborhood, I imagine how these times will be talked about in the future. How everything will go down in history. It’s strange to think that I’m a part of it. I’m living through history right now. We all are.

It’s nice conceptually, but damn fucking unpleasant to actually experience.

My friend Mia, whenever we play Dungeons & Dragons with our party, she plays the cautious and practical character. And she swears up and down that the worst curse you can lay on someone’s doorstep is “May you live in interesting times.”

I’m really understanding her point now.

I Was a Soundtrack Kid: How Music Defined My Movies

Growing up, I always felt a step behind other kids when it came to being “hip” and “cool.” When portable CD players were coming out, I had nothing. When MP3 players came out, I had just gotten a CD player. When iPods came out, I was showing off my brand-new MP3 player.

You get the idea.

To make the stark contrast between me and other kids even starker, I did not hold any of the latest pop songs within my music devices. Instead, I had a love for movie soundtracks.

I swear, I listened to soundtracks all the time as a kid.

And while my taste in musical genres has expanded, to this day, I adore a good movie score.

Side note: That sick rhyme was totally unintentional.

My all-time favorite soundtrack composers were/are John Williams, Howard Shore, and Danny Elfman.

John Williams is one of the most prolific movie soundtrack composers ever, responsible for classic movie themes that everyone recognizes. He’s done Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, and Jaws. If you think about it, he’s probably composed the background music to a lot of your movie fantasies. You know, when you picture yourself as a Jedi or a student at Hogwarts? That’s John Williams’ song playing as your imagination runs wild.

Howard Shore did the soundtrack for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I may not have a bead on his other work, but by god, I know his talent from those three films alone. Elves, Rohan, Gondor, hobbits, and the Mines of Moria all had their own unique themes thanks to Shore.

Danny Elfman is most often associated with director Tim Burton since he composed a lot of the soundtracks to some of Burton’s most iconic films. He did Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare before Christmas. Elfman’s devious melodies often accompanied me on long car drives.

I made it a mission in life to try and collect albums of their work so that my everyday life could feel ten times more awesome as I hummed along to their tunes.

When I first started listening to soundtracks, I enjoyed them for the reminders they gave me of my favorite parts in movies. I’d listen to “Love Pledge and the Arena” from Attack of the Clones over and over again because I liked it when all the clone troopers came to rescue the Jedi on Geonosis.

I got crazy good at recognizing the times a track would play in a film. I would astonish and bemuse my parents by reenacting scenes from movies while playing the movie’s soundtrack on our communal CD player.

But then my love for these tracks branched away from just fond memories of the time they appeared in the film. I grew to enjoy the emotional beats I could find in the melodies, separate from the moments they accompanied in the movie. I had a love of playing with toys and creating epics sagas with my action figures back then, so I started playing movie soundtracks in the background while I played with them, applying the songs to my own stories.

Side note: You would not believe the depth of my toy Diplodocus’ sense of betrayal when Spider-Man refused to save his village. I had “Duel of the Fates” playing when this happened.

These days, video game soundtracks have joined my collection of music source material. I’m not as fond of television themes in general, but Game of Thrones is a huge exception to that.

I still use soundtracks to accompany my “stories,” but not with my dramatic toy playtime. Whenever I’m writing, whether for work or for my own fiction, soundtracks are one of the major sources of inspiration I use when crafting emotional moments.

I also have a more discerning ear when it comes to finding tracks I like when watching a film. It’s far rarer for me to find something I prefer these days, but I make do.

New additions to my roster of favorite composers include Ramin Djawadi, Michael Giacchino, and Mick Gordon.

Djawadi did the music for Game of Thrones so you have him to thank for getting that opening credits theme song stuck in your head. He’s also done the soundtrack for Westworld, which has its own collection of fantastic melodies.

Giacchino is the man behind a shit-ton of Pixar film soundtracks. The Incredibles? That was him. Up? That was also him. Giacchino crafted some heckin’ awesome tracks for the Speed Racer movie too, and as anyone who knows me should know by now, that’s one of my favorite movies.

Mick Gordon is the understated genius behind the Doom soundtrack. Though there is currently a controversy going on regarding his music for Doom Eternal, that does not change the fact that I adore his work, and I think Bethesda and id Software did him dirty.

Side note: I am totally not biased.

Soundtracks capture emotion in a way that few songs can. See, soundtracks are meant to accompany a story; that’s what they were created for. So they can follow along with a plot’s ups and downs. They’re perhaps the most transporting type of music you can listen to.

For me, they are a mild form of escapism for my day-to-day life, especially during stressful times.

And given the state the world is in, I think we could all benefit from taking a breath and listening to a good soundtrack.

Hold Onto Your Demons: A Below Average Review For Doom Eternal Is Coming Soon(ish)

via: wired.com

My enthusiasm for the Doom series is no secret. I’ve talked about it here and here and even here. As such, a lot of you may have started to wonder why I haven’t reviewed Doom Eternal yet. The game released on March 20, 2020, which was about a month ago. That’s more than enough time to have played the entire game. So why haven’t I typed up a review for it?

Well, my dear, dear, above average readers…I’m milking this game for all it’s worth. That’s why.

During that debacle I had with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, I was forced to limit the amount of time I played the game to one hour a day. However, even though my shortened game-time was pressed upon me solely by Ori’s constraining bugs, I kind of grew to appreciate drawing out my experience with a video game.

I’m used to blazing through my favorite games at breakneck speed, a total Eager McBeaver to see the end credits roll. But I’ve realized that savoring a game makes the journey longer and sweeter, especially if it’s an enjoyable title.

That’s why I’m taking my time with Doom Eternal.

I’m collecting every item there is to collect, replaying missions after I’ve already done them once, spending inordinate amounts of time in the Ripatorium just for fun, successfully completing every challenge, fiddling around with cheats, etc. Plus, I’m still limiting how much time I spend playing games a day just to make every time I pick up a controller that much more enticing.

And I am having one hell of a time.

Pun intended.

Of course, since I’m enjoying the game so much, I’ve been dying to share my thoughts about it with you. However, I have that golden rule here that I won’t review a game until I’ve finished playing it. So you’ll just have to wait. As will I.

Seriously, I love to gush about games. It’s low-key hurting me to hold back every single thought I have about Doom Eternal.

Anywaysies, to tide us over until I do write the review, I thought I’d tell you guys the anecdote about how I got my copy of the game.

See, I had pre-ordered it at my local GameStop. And if you can recall, Doom Eternal released right as California enacted its shelter-at-home order.

I’m telling you, I have never felt so anxious to get my hands on a game. ‘Just let me have Doom Eternal,’ I prayed to every higher power I could think of. ‘Just let me get the game, and then I’ll stay inside for years if you want me to. I won’t ever leave my house. Just let me have this.

When the stay-at-home order was given, I had an opportunity that evening, (since the order didn’t go into full effect until the next day), to drive to my GameStop to try and pick up my copy early. So that’s what I did.

It was lightly raining, the sun was gone, and only a few people were to be seen. It looked bleak and grey. I left the car in a rush, the smell of wet asphalt serving to increase my anxiety levels for some reason.

Another person walked behind me, heading into the GameStop as well, a man dressed in dark colors. His brisk pace followed mine, a decent six feet between us. When we got inside, tape markings were on the floor, indicating the social distance customers were supposed to maintain. The man and I stepped on our respective spots, waiting for the one employee working to address us.

The GameStop employee was as cordial as could be, and he laughed at my transparent worry over picking up Doom Eternal. Using antibacterial gel and gloves, he found my copy and handed it to me. I took it from him reverently, thanking him profusely.

I must have looked a silly sight. I was wearing my middle school sweat pants, navy blue with white stripes on the legs, and my hot pink, long-sleeved shirt complete with hood that makes me look like Little Mac from Punch-Out!! I was grinning from ear-to-ear like a kid at Christmas. I think I might have seemed deranged.

The guy behind me, conversely, was dressed in black jeans and a black T-Shirt with grotesque cover art from some metal band on it. He was a big guy, beefy and dark-skinned, with an almost expressionless face.

As I was leaving, I brightly asked him if he was picking up Doom Eternal too.

He looked at me, not saying anything for a good, long moment. Then he smiled and said, “No, I’m getting Animal Crossing.”

Final thoughts?

The relationship between Animal Crossing and Doom fans is one of the most beautiful things to spring from this shit-show of a year so far.

How To Start Your Day When You Just Feel Blegh

Even though quarantining, self-isolation, and sheltering at home have not largely altered my life, I’m not immune to the monotony of my new routines.

I mean, I’m a very comfortable introvert, but even I’m longing to just go to a movie with one of my buddies.

Or to pick up a smoothie.

Or to find some tasy goddamn dumplings.

Ugh. I’m craving dumplings.

Lately, I’ve found myself stagnating in a pool of ambivalence every time I wake up because my day will follow the same cookie-cutter schedule without any deviations.

I wake up, go to work, eat lunch, do some chores, go for a walk, watch a movie, play a game, go to sleep. Rinse, dry, repeat.

Anyway, as a continuation of my new “How To” series, I’ve decided to write up some tips about how to stave off this blanket of boredom and ennui I’ve been suffering from. If you feel the way I do, hopefully these steps help.

Sleep Till Your Belly Button Pops

I know this might seem counter-intuitive if you’re trying to make yourself more alert and ready for the day, but sleeping in is a must if you want to maintain a) your health and b) your energy level for the rest of the day.

Occasionally, there are times where sleeping in makes you feel more tired than before (which is weird, but it’s happened to me too), but overall, I’d say the benefits of only leaving your bed until you want to outweigh the negatives.

I mean, at least sleep will take up some time from the boredom, am I right?

Drink Your Daily Coffee

You don’t neccessarily have to imbibe caffeine every morning, but you should have a regular drink you sip to start your day, be it orange juice, tea, or milk.

I like to drink a cup of coffee in the morning, and by doing so, it’s one of the ways I let my body know it’s time to start the day.

Plus, yeah, caffeine helps.

Give Yourself a No-Work Lazy Day Once a Week

One of the reasons I’m being crippled by listlessness these days is that I work every day. I work from home, so this sheltering in place thing has seen my workload continue, if not triple. As such, I don’t have that rejuvenating break from work colloquially known as “the weekend.”

Something I’ve noticed that can help me out is if I finagle my work schedule so that for one entire day, I have no work. It’s just one day of me being able to do whatever the hell I want (while self-isolating). I can walk around the block one hundred times. I can go on a Star Wars movie spree. I can work on a puzzle while drinking supbar lemonade.

These breaks are bliss, and I should really schedule more of them for myself. Sadly, I’m a bit anal when it comes to working every day.

Play That Funky Music

I can’t understate the importance of listening to uplifting tunes in the morning. It’s one of the only things that keeps me sane.

Nothing gets you excited for the day like bopping along to some foot-tappers.

I highly recommend “Tragedy” by the Bee Gees, “Sunlight” by TheFatRat, or “Another Sunny Day” by Belle & Sebastian. (Those are just a minuscule fraction of the songs I listen to every day.)

Meme It Up in the Morning

I groggily reach for my phone every morning to see if anyone has texted me. The answer is usually no, but sometimes I have a few work emails waiting for me.

Yay.

One thing you can do to brighten up your day is to browse through social media feeds looking not for how awesome and stellar everyone else’s lives are but for those sweet, sweet memes.

Starting your day with a guffaw is helpful.

Take a Shower

I think I shower once every other day.

On the days when I do shower, there is a noticeable increase in my evergy levels. Something about getting clean and dressing myself just kind of wires me up to be more prepared to tackle my day.

Force Yourself To Go Outside at Least Once

I’m not a naturally athletic person, so I can empathize with people who just stay indoors all day.

Still, going for a walk around the block, a run in the park, or, hell, even just standing outside on the front lawn, can be refreshing.

Make Your Own Holidays

I did this for a bit, and it was quite fun for a while.

I made up imaginary holidays, like Hat Day, Feet Day, Romper Day, etc. Went on for a good two weeks. I posted daily on my Instagram stories and even got some of my friends to follow along.

In the end, I got tired of having to be so active on my Instagram (oops), so I stopped doing it, but it was definitely a diverting manner in which to break up my typical routine.

Schedule Treats for Yourself

I have an agenda that I use to make sure I keep up with my work schedule. Every time I finish a task, I check it off on my agenda.

In order to liven up my days, I also include fun things on my agenda. For example, for today, I wrote “Movie Night with Bubba,” because my friend and I are going to hop on Discord and watch a movie together while social distancing.

Even though it’s an inconsequential, fun activity, it feels so satisfying to check it off when I’ve done it.

Dunk Your Head in Water

Seriously.

Do it.

You might think this is something that only works in movies and TV shows, but it works.

This is the ultimate wake-up call, and I never feel so alert as after I’ve randomly soaked my head in water.