It’s been a real hot minute since I’ve posted much of anything on here, so I think it’s high-time I gave an update!
Lord of Poison was completed a few weeks ago and is currently being translated into Spanish! Also, did somebody say “full manuscript request“? Because its currently being read by a publisher! I’m super happy with how the whole thing is progressing. But fret not, there’s a contingency plan if they don’t want it which will have an update in that case.
Some other exciting news: I have the prologue and 20 chapters of book 3, Ave Plague, outlined! This next one is going to be pretty insane – Cyberpunk Space Pirates! Yes, you read that correctly. Ave Plague will finish my “Of Man & Machine” anthology series, but I think I’ll write more within the universe. I love the lore and stuff in it too much to just be like “nah I’m done”, but I’ll be done with what XENOCHRIST started for sure and move on to new stories not connected to the series but set in the same universe, if that makes sense.
XENOCHRIST, Lord of Poison, and Ave Plague are all connected to each other through themes and cross-over characters with the third being the ribbon that ties it all up neatly, but I’m not ready to just leave this universe I created. I have a few short stories in mind but nothing solid just yet, but one of them is called The Valley of Thryng.
I think that’ll do it for now though, still loads of work ahead and I’m so fortunate to have people who give my works a chance, so thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Be good to each other, and GET VACCINATED!
UPDATE: This review has been updated to reflect my time playing the post A-Day content and will contradict my initial thoughts on the targeting system along with the other content presented. There are no new screencaps since I didn’t feel like doing more.
* = sections that contradict my later findings
So, let’s talk about the new Avengers demo: Don’t waste your console’s space.
Harsh? Probably, but this game is not good even if it’s just a demo.
Let’s just start off with the meat & potatoes, this game is rough to play and I downloaded it on my PS4. The controls feel like you’re fighting to move the sticks through water, like it’s all too flow-y. Nothing snaps into place, not even the *targeting which makes combat feel totally unnatural despite Crystal Dynamics claim that combat was to feel fluid.* While you’re combo-ing one of the generic baddies, who die in 3 hits anyway, you don’t stop the combo once they’re down or just finish the combo on the next enemy; you literally finish out the combo on the ground or air with nothing to be hit. Where’s the promised fluidity? The Arkham series was able to execute this on the last-gen, so it seems a tad absurd that combat works about as good as high-end PS2 games.
*Target locking in this game makes zero sense since it doesn’t snap you on the target, nor do you fire in their direction or melee. You essentially have to be near them for that to happen. The only instances I’d seen of target snapping was during scripted events, like when Hulk throws part of a tank at another tank.*
As you enter the mission you take control of Thor (I didn’t realize there was a picture mode until I got to Hulk and thus didn’t take screencaps of his section). His voice acting is top-tier cringe, not gonna lie. His mechanics aren’t too terrible considering the rest of the characters, and his character model isn’t all that bad either. My biggest issue with Thor is his hammer throw mechanic.
Even if you’re locked on You still need to move your stick to aim at the target, and to top it all off you need to press another button to recall Mjolnir, which also makes zero sense because once you start hitting your light or heavy attack buttons it just comes back to you anyway. All-in-all the Thor section wasn’t bad all things considered.
Next up you seamlessly take control of Iron Man coming from a minor cutscene introduction. You’re instantly thrown into a flight combat scenario which plays a lot like Superman 64 but on rails. You just weave around the scene that doesn’t really interact with you as you try to use your hand blaster to take down jetpack enemies who really pose no significant threat, and their elimination awards nothing. Just you swatting flies basically.
Just like with Thor the targeting does absolutely zero here which feels like a big missed opportunity since moving your reticle over each enemy to hit them just feels like a chore despite having sensitivity set to high. Much like with Thor, Tony’s voice acting is just not good, but at least his suit looks nice?
I really wanted to like his section more, but even after the rail shooter section and you finally can take control of him it’s a bit wonky. His melee combat isn’t good, and the only energy blast you can use is the hand blaster which, just like with Thor and Black Widow, require you to hold L2 and fire with R2.
With Iron Man, they should have made his quick blasts just instant with R2 rather than forcing you to use L2. His charging blast isn’t bad, and I can justify the L2 mechanic for that. His chest beam ability is cool but sadly only lasts just around 3 seconds and aiming is slower. I think if they’d nerfed it’s damage output and increased its time and aim speed it’d be a better ability. Notable Mention: Why are his wrist rockets and shoulder mounts missing? Maybe they come later on, but in the demo all we had was hand blasts, chest beam, and melee. A bit underwhelming, honestly.
Now we’re at one of the hyped moments: The Hulk.
The Hulk is probably the worst offender when it comes to gameplay, character model, and voice acting. Not that he’s the worst in all of those categories, but he has no redeeming qualities. When he’s Bruce the model and acting are the best, but somehow it’s all thrown out the window when he turns. The first thing you’re taught as him is his grab mechanic. Close to a foot-soldier? Hold Square (PS4) and he’ll snatch up a little army man and you can start flinging them around because Crystal Dynamics knew MCU fans would collectively cum their pants seeing this.
Sadly when Hulk snatches up one of these baddies the collision detection is nearly non-existent, so if you’re looking to score a screencap of the green guy about to smash some dude into the ground you’ll be disappointed to see that Hulk’s hand isn’t even actually wrapped around the enemy’s leg and is instead just sort of hovering around or near it.
Hulk’s section, much like with Iron Man’s opening section, felt like you were on rails. You only get to sprint forward and occasionally slam your fists into the ground around enemies. The few cool moments were 100% scripted completely taking me out of the immersion (well, what little immersion there was).
The action would suddenly stop and a prompt appeared telling me I needed to perform Hulk’s “Thunderclap” ability, which looked…alright? The most glaring flaws of his character model popped up during his abilities, which you’d think that’s when you’d want everything to look clean. I think why the Hulk is so disappointing to play as is because it’s not hard to get the Hulk right yet Crystal Dynamics just dropped the ball here entirely.
I know this entire post is just me shitting on Avengers, but I mean…look at what they did to Cap.
How do you go from watching Chris Evans essentially fuck your eyes with a perfect portrayal of the All-American Avenger to seeing this monstrosity in a flak jacket and motorcycle helmet? Gameplay-wise he’s actually pretty decent, especially that shield throw special and even his ultimate move I felt were really great. Then you’re reminded of just how little effort the developers made when making his model, and you can hear the voice actor’s disdain for even having to follow up Evans’ role.
Taking over as Cap felt like the first time I got to switch to Tifa in Final Fantasy VII: Remake, it was fast-paced and exciting, but unfortunately the opening section with him was all too short on top of having to cringe at the acting and model. Outside of the acting and model I will say the flipping-over-enemy-backs mechanic isn’t well done.
Black Widow: They did her dirty.
The model is the worst looking one in the entire game. It’s almost as if the developers had never seen a woman before. Gameplay for her should have been better than this, honestly. She’s got tons of gadgets at her disposal…allegedly, but we’re mealpieced what she can and can’t do depending on the phase of the fight. Her dual-wielding pistols were probably the worst aspect of her gameplay, and honestly, just long-range fighting overall in this game is just fucking awful. Her shooting works just like the original Tomb Raider’s on PS1, it’s clunky and deals little to no damage but leaves you wide open to attacks.
The overall fight against Taskmaster comes out of nowhere and is totally forced from a narrative perspective. He has simple and predictable moves making his fight easy until you’re forced into using a grappling hook mechanic you’ve just seen a prompt for. It’s at this point the fight just turns annoying since the mechanic isn’t well done. You have to wait for a blue icon to appear to pull it off successfully, but even then you’re supposed to fling him into some proximity mines he’s dropped to deal damage since he just now automatically dodges all of your attacks, and if you go to shoot he just instantly shield rushes you. So it’s an easy fight that just turns annoying at the drop of a dime and tries to shoehorn a new mechanic in order to actually fight him.
Overall my time with Avengers was met with confusion, disappointment, irritation, and just an overall sense that Crystal Dynamics and Marvel were really just wanting to cash in with the Avengers MCU lineup before their film franchise changes forever. The announcement of PS4’s Spider-Man as a console exclusive won’t save this from players hating the game. The fact that Square-Enix is publishing such a trash title would be surprising if they weren’t already a hit-or-miss studio. Final Fantasy VII: Remake saved them, and the future of the studio will be secured if they avoid making more games like Avengers.
After having written my initial review, the rest of the content had finally finished installing. So the review above is just my opinion on the A-Day mission (first mission) and the rest of this will be about everything after, or at least what I played.
First off when I saw I’d get to play as Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) I was a little excited since the other characters had really put me off the entire game. The mission that introduces Kamala involves her and the Hulk walking through a forest and we take control of the Hulk as we fight some generic bots and get introduced to Hulk’s throwing large chunks of earth mechanic because we now have to fight a thing that can teleport. Once we get to a certain point and find an old Avengers compound and go inside we take control of Kamala.
Trying to move her around is entirely too awkward, it’s like when you turn a direction she swings her whole body that way. Any sort of precision movement was disregarded because any movement takes up too much time. Just like with any other character with hair or things flowing off them it just looks awful with her too. When you motion her to face one way her hair and sash violently fling the opposite way and then harshly snap back into place as she awkwardly stops.
This issue is accentuated due to the fact that you’re constantly fighting against the camera when you’re inside buildings. Which leads into my next point: The camera inside buildings, even if it’s a bigger room, is atrocious. You’re constantly fighting it to see what’s around you to explore, and it’s even worse when there’s combat or action happening. When you’re in the field it isn’t bad, the camera naturally goes into a higher position and gives you a better look of the area, but heaven forbid you go anywhere near a building.
During her section deep inside the compound you’re tasked with platforming around a small area to flip switches and fight a wave or two of enemies. Entirely too predictable. Top this off with learning a mechanic of hers that I know was shoehorned in because they wanted Spider-Man, and the whole thing just becomes a little boring. You get a prompt letting you know Ms. Marvel needs to use her arms to stretch out and swing from hanging lights, which you know is what they’ll have for Spider-Man leading me to believe he’ll just be using the same mechanics as her, but instead of stretching arms to hit or swing he’ll be using webs.
After a very brief section where you sort of get to know her mechanics and fighting style Abomination suddenly appears from literally nowhere and demands Jarvis’ drive when out of also nowhere the Hulk tackles him and a fight ensues. The fight has you in an arena with electric stacks that you can use to stun Abomination, so nothing new here. The fight is brief and easy, as predicted. To be honest all of the times I’ve “died” has just been from falling off the map, which seems like a thing they’d not do.
The combat with Ms. Marvel isn’t terrible, she has close range and long range combos, and you know you’ll play as her for the bulk of the early sections of the game just because the game basically gifts you tons of gear for her each one better than the last. The voice acting for Kamala is by far the best, you can hear all the emotion and her lines come out clear, and thankfully they aren’t nearly as cringe-y as everyone else with stupid one-liners or just awkward dialogue. There was a particular scene where Bruce shows Kamala her new room aboard a decommissioned S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier and she’s clearly distraught, but for some reason Bruce is just super awkward and the entire convo is just one gigantic cringe.
I will correct myself regarding one of my issues from A-Day: Targeting.
*In my initial playthrough I couldn’t get the camera to snap to targeted enemies which made combat just feel like a chore, well, playing as Kamala I finally got to experience it. Targeting does snap to the enemy which was a pleasant surprise since I’d had such a hard time with it during the A-Day mission. But just to confirm my original review I’d asked a friend if they could get it to snap during the A-Day mission, and he too had a terrible time with it. Thankfully during these Kamala missions I could snap to the enemy and even cycle through them, aiming at them as Kamala wasn’t an issue either. But for some reason when targeting as Hulk and using his rock-throw ability still requires you actually take aim since the reticle changes to look like the type for a grenade launcher on Call of Duty or other FPS’.*
Matchmaking: A total nightmare.
When I finally got to be paired with another player I noticed that assets loaded much slower than you’d like which leads me to believe that it’s locally hosted instead of through dedicated servers. My compatriot would constantly just blink out of existence as we fought what few enemies were around. No joke. We were playing a wintery tundra mission, and the enemies never appeared until we got pretty far into the level. We’d spent a good 5 or so minutes just running around a massive map collecting resources before I said “fuck it” and just ran towards the goal.
The fight that ensued was just tedious since it required one of us to stick around on a circular plate as Jarvis uploaded something which reminded me of the entirely too many missions in Destiny and Destiny 2 where your Ghost needs to upload or link and you have to protect. Once the link is finished you have to dispose of the remaining bots and make your way through an elevator. During these loading screens, because that’s what they are, there are brief moments of conversation which tries to add depth to the characters, but since its you and Hulk the convo is fairly one-sided.
We made our way to the bottom and as I exited I realized the player Hulk was just standing there doing nothing. I made a lot of noise around them smashing into walls etc hoping to get their attention, but they just stood there doing nothing. Wanting to just get this over with I decided to continue on my own. The first half of this stage is just you running around collecting resources and gear until you reach a stairwell that leads you into what will obviously be a large brawl.
My player Hulk was still MIA in the elevator and I proceeded without him, and I made my way into the a back room where tons of chests with gear and resources just laid around and suddenly the Hulk player appeared and started looting. We then get thrown into a cutscene just before the big fight involving yet another “Jarvis needs to upload so you gotta protect” mission. But this time the player Hulk was present and actually fighting, so I’m not too sure what had happened here.
The fight itself was straightforward, fight the waves as Jarvis does their thing, and when it’s over you get whisked away into a jet where you either leave the party and go back to your own instanced carrier, continue on your own, or stay in the party and continue the mission line. I opted to leave after this and explore a bit of the carrier more when I learned of the HARM room, which is basically the Danger Room from X-Men where you fight holographic enemies in waves.
Overall I’ll say that my initial reaction to Avengers, with some minor changes in opinion based on later levels, is still my current reaction. The game wants to be Ultimate Alliance with a mix of Borderlands. But where these games succeed, especially in the parts that really matter, Avengers bellyflops. Some background assets looked fantastic, especially during the A-Day sequence, and the forest level was a hit-or-miss with this, but the frozen tundra was just a total mess with the assets. I don’t know if it was scaled down due to the co-op, or because it’s just to test the level, or that’s really just what it is.
I really wanted to like my time playing this, but each section in every level just left me confused and irritated. To make this a current-gen, or even the eventual nex-gen, Crystal Dynamics would do well to postpone the release and actually fix these issues. Halo: Infinite got pushed to next year to ensure quality after their demo received many complaints, so it’s crazy to think Square-Enix is so dedicated to releasing such an unfinished mess of a title.
As a community, we gamers need to do better too. We need to stop accepting sub-par games with promises of patches and fixes later on. We’re spending hard-earned money on full releases only to be met with trash. A recent example of this would be my issues with the new PS4 and Steam game Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. It’s a fun mini-game based party title, and it’s fun for sure, but it does have some glaring issues. I had recently voiced my opinion regarding those issues and one Twitter user happily reminded me that the game is only a couple of weeks old and thus doesn’t deserve to be complained about.
This is why we keep getting shit-tier games, because these developers and publishers know that we’ll accept it under the promise that it could or might be fixed at a later date. I know that will happen with Avengers, and it’s sad because this really could have been a great Day 1 game.
But just like with the many looter-type games that came before we’ll have to wait upwards of 1 year to see something unbroken (Unless you’re Anthem and just don’t fix your problems).
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. No, today is about how from July 25th through the 29th you’ll be able to download the Kindle ebook edition of XENOCHRIST for FREE only through Amazon.com as my way of celebrating 1 month since it released!
The offer is only for 5 full days, so if you’ve been wondering what it’s all about, or just simply haven’t been able to pick it up well now’s your chance to do it for free! To read it all you need is the Kinde app, you don’t even need an actual Kindle to read it and the app is also free on Android and iOS! I hope you all enjoy reading it as I did writing it (it was pure dread, so I hope you like feeling bad for 104,000 words). Once you’ve finished reading it I would greatly appreciate a review on the Amazon page and/or on my Goodreads page if you have one of those!
As a bonus here’s a cellphone background for XENOCHRIST if you’re looking to slap on that bad larry and show off just how cool you are!
Well, tomorrow XENOCHRISTgoes live on Kindle in every region, and paperback is available now in the US at least until the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, after the lift you’ll be able to purchase a paperback copy worldwide!
In other news, you can now grab sweet XENOCHRIST gear over at on my Threadless store! There’s some sick stuff in there like the following:
I’ve now finished the prologue and first chapter of my next novel in the Of Man & Machine series Lord of Poison! I’ve also started some of the other minor processes for the novel, a lesson learned from doing XENOCHRIST. With my first novel I waited until after I’d already written and edited to get everything together, the cover, the marketing images etc., so I’m happy to be doing all of that while writing Lord of Poison.
I think my biggest snag is making sure I stay as faithful as possible to a lot of the cultural aspects referenced. With XENOCHRISTI was able to invent a lot of things since the characters travel a lot in that book, but with Lord of Poison it all takes place in central Mexico, so I’m having to study and ask a lot of questions just to stay true to the cultural sources. There’s some things I do know and understand because I live in Mexico City, but as a white male writer who isn’t from this culture you often see writers just like me fail in that regard. That’s how we got American Dirt! The last thing I’ll ever do is write something so culturally and ethnically obtuse.
Ultimately, for me, Lord of Poison is a celebration of such an incredible place full of incredible people. When we scifi/cyberpunk authors write we often use Japanese influenced imagery, XENOCHRIST wasn’t immune to that either, so I wanted to really do something different.
Mexico City is now Metropoli de Mexico and it has that “used future” feel you get from works like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, but instead of the “future retro” vibe of Japan it’s Mexico. There’s so much beauty in this country and so many cool things to imagine a cyberpunk future with that I think it’d be so cool to explore. Like, imagine a cyberpunk future where your camotero or tamalero uses a flying or hovering cart to bring you plantains or tamales? It’d make my life more convenient rather than having to run 3 flights down and chase the guy!
I guess what the post has turned in to is my point that there are still so many incredible scifi and cyberpunk stories to tell in locations that aren’t often used, with themes largely ignored. I’m not pioneering anything with my story in Lord of Poison, but I hope that I can add to such a great catalog of existing stories of the future set in non-traditional futuristic settings.