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by Nick Dinicola

15 Jan 2010

Role-playing games have changed greatly over the years. They’ve become more accessible, more forgiving, and more popular. One of the more radical changes to the genre has been the elimination of random battles. In most modern RPGs, players can see their enemies, monsters exist in the actual game world instead of an imaginary battlefield, and the genre is better for it. In retrospect, the random battle was a terrible mechanic, frustrating, relentless, and ever-present; they were a chore. So, it’s surprising that they play such a major role in Dragon Age: Origins, many gamers’ pick for the best RPG of 2009. Instead of just removing this annoying mechanic, Dragon Age: Origins twists it into something new and better, something that improves the RPG experience rather than breaking it.

Random battles never happen when you’re in control of your character, only on the world map. You get your first look at the world map a few hours into the game. It’s a literal map, with places of interest highlighted, and when you select a destination, a trail of blood droplets fall onto the paper that mark your progress across the country. This is the only time a random battle can occur: the drops stop, you hear swords clash, and you enter the battlefield. By confining these fights to the world map, Dragon Age ensures that they never become the annoying interruption that most people remember. They only happen when we’re inactive, when we’re watching instead of playing. This also encourages exploration, since we’re free to run around any environment as much as we like without fearing a constant barrage of unseen enemies.

by PopMatters Staff

15 Jan 2010

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Dirty Shirt Rock ‘N’ Roll: The First Ten Years
(Shout! Factory/Majordomo)
Releasing: 30 March

A career retrospective is on the way this spring from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. This is just the opening volley in an extensive re-issue campaign which will see the re-release of all the band’s records in deluxe, expanded, and remastered form. The sets will include copious extras, including previously unreleased and rare songs.

by Thomas Britt

15 Jan 2010

Jazz drummer Ed Thigpen died in Copenhagen on Wednesday, January 13. His death at age 79 followed his struggles with Parkinson’s disease and a late-2009 hospitalization for other “heart and lung problems”. Widely recognized as an exceptionally tasteful and versatile drummer, Thigpen played with Oscar Peterson, Billy Taylor and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.

Read his detailed obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

by Bill Gibron

14 Jan 2010

They say that God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, however, he’s as straightforward and obvious as they come. In the new post-apocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington plays the title character, a man traveling a scorched and desolate Earth. For almost thirty years he has toiled under the burden of a divine missive - take an untitled tome and deliver it West. Along the way, he runs into the dregs of remaining humanity - highway thugs who rob and murder, cannibals who feast on the flesh of humans for food. Somewhere deep in the middle of America, the despot (Gary Oldman) of a decaying ghost town wants the manuscript Eli is carrying. If it’s what he thinks it is, it will provide all the power he needs to rule the world.

This is not The Road, however. Life as we know it may be circumvented for various acts of debauchery or evil, but there is hope on the horizon. Though he’s desperate for the sway said book holds over people, Oldman’s Carnegie just wants to bring the planet back -with him in charge, of course. His microcosm of thieves and killers might be wicked, but in his mind, it’s a way back from the madness the Final War has wrought. Thus the Hughes Brothers, filmmakers famous for such unusual fare as Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and From Hell, have their own religious allegory to contemplate - the sacred vs. the profane, the solely secular vs. the undeniably holy. Set against an enigmatic and atmospheric backdrop, the duo avoids the standard sci-fi trappings to forge something meaningful and memorable.

by Oliver Ho

14 Jan 2010

The first story in the first issue of Crime SuspenStories presents an interesting case of a tale that reverberates back and forth through the last half of the twentieth century.

First published in October 1950 by the notorious EC Comics, Crime SuspenStories #1 opens with “Murder May Boomerang,” drawn and most likely written by the legendary Johnny Craig. In the 2007 EC Archives edition, author Max Allan Collins notes that “Murder” was probably inspired by the short story “Revenge,” by Samuel Blas, which had appeared in a 1947 issue of Collier’s magazine.

In Blas’s story, a husband seeks to avenge his wife’s rape, while in the EC Comics version, a son is driven to murder after his father is brutally attacked. In both stories, the crime that sets off the quest for vengeance is random, the victim beloved by someone, and the bleak, ambiguous “moral” seems to be that every act of violence haunts the victim and perpetrator forever; one brutal act can never erase a previous one.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Doctor Who': Casting a Woman as the Doctor Offers Fresh Perspectives and a New Kind of Role Model

// Channel Surfing

"The BBC's announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor has sections of fandom up in arms. Why all the fuss?

READ the article