Saturday, November 27, 2021

Psycho Killers in Love Author notes

Some interesting annotations for PSYCHO KILLERS IN LOVE. Basically, just random bits of trivia for those who enjoyed the book.

1. Psycho Killers in Love is a prequel to the United States of Monsters series, taking place in the year 2000 before the Reveal of the supernatural in 2006.
2. Billy England is named after Billy from BLACK CHRISTMAS (the first slasher) and Robert Englund a.k.a Freddy Krueger.
3. Billy's Santa-themed murder spree is inspired by SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT as well as the series of. He is meant to be something of a suckier and lamer version of Billy/Freddy Krueger as well as more overtly banal in his serial murder.
4. William Englund's actor was Alexander Ludwig who in addition to THE HUNGER GAMES was  also in FINAL GIRL as the villain. He was also in THE FINAL GIRLS for another slasher parody.

5. Psycho Killers in Love can refer to either Nancy and William or William and Carrie or all three, depending on how you interpret William, Nancy, and Carrie's feelings.
6. Nancy Loomis is named for Nancy Thompson from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET as well as  Doctor Loomis from HALLOWEEN.
7. The impetuous of the book is BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SCREAM, HACK/SLASH, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and THE FINAL GIRLS that are all parodies/homages of slasher movies. Even a little TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL.
8. The concept of Artemis is a loose adaptation of the concept of Slayers as well as the "Final Girl" phenomenon. I chose Artemis because her warrior maidens had to remain pure and chaste, which Nancy has problems with.
9. Slashers as a concept primarily owes itself to the loose rules applied to Jason and Michael Myers who are inexplicably invincible. HACK/SLASH also developed the concept in the comic series where they're regenerating revenants. Their abilities growing stronger the more an urban legend about them consists is a concept borrowed from CANDYMAN.
10. Nancy's mother is a thinly-disguised Laurie Strode from HALLOWEEN and her mother is a (inexplicably alive) Marion Crane from PSYCHO.
11. The Fraternity of Orion is meant to be a distillation of the misogyny that so many slasher movies are accused of but also draws from FINAL GIRL about a group of murderers that a young woman hunts down to execute. Obviously, the name is a reference to the hunter linked to Artemis and Apollo in Greek mythology.
12. Cujo is, of course, named for the dog-centered novel by Stephen King.
13. Gerald Pasteur is a character from I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER from the Bright Falls Mysteries.
14. Cassandra Cassidy is the primary villain of ESOTERRORISM in the Red Room Trilogy.
15. Olivia Munn was a major inspiration for Nancy Loomis as an actress. THE HORROR OF SUPERVILLAINY cover was more based on Kristen Kreuk. I also drew some inspiration from meeting RL Scream Queen Danielle Harris.
16. Alyson Hannigan was my pick for Carrie England. So was Galadriel Stineman (Until Dawn).

17. The cover to Psycho Killers in Love includes homages to the BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and HALLOWEEN movies.
18. Billy England's power over dreams and the ability to suck people in is, of course, an homage to Freddy Krueger.
19. Slashers "adapted" to movies in this world are Fred (Krueger), Mike (Myers), The Camp Killer (Jason Voorhees), and Lucky (Chucky). Mike Miner is meant to Mike Myers but, for copyright purposes, you want to make him a little different.
20. The Prom Queen is actually the corrupted form of Nancy's mother, who is of course, a reference to Jaime Lee Curtis as the ghostly slasher.
21. Lamia is the mother of all vampires and shifters in the greater UNITED STATES OF MONSTERS universe. Her defeat here isn't permanent but a sign that she's underestimated all of her children (as well as Mike's power as the world's most famous slasher).
22.The Fraternity of Orion was created from the juxtaposition of puritan moral values and misogyny in slasher films vs. the fact horror actresses and Scream Queens frequently made the movies have a strong feminist bent. Which is to say a typical slasher plot is a bunch of fun teens being murdered only to have one eventually turn the tables on the monster.
23. HP Lovecraft Memorial Hospital makes an appearance in THE FALL OF THE HOUSE where it is where the House keeps its dangerous supernatural patients. William and Carrie never realized that they were being studied by the Red Room the entire time.
24. Summer Day is, of course, a reference to Buffy Summers and makes a nice contrast to Nancy who is more Faith-like.
25. A Shoggoth is a notable monster of H.P. Lovecraft.
26. The Book of Midnight is my all-purpose Necronomicon stand-in that doesn't just appear in the United States of Monsters but also my Supervillainy Saga book.
27. William also shows up in A NIGHTMARE ON ELK STREET to kill one of the Red Gods. He and Nancy make a guest appearance in THE HORROR OF SUPERVILLAINY and are even on its cover. They have undergone some level grinding by the time they show up in that book.

28. Bloody Mary has a larger role in the RED ROOM trilogy where she seduces as well as empowers protagonist Derek Hawthorne.
29. The choice of making William the Accountant was the juxtaposition of how he's a more educated and erudite slasher than the majority of his kind while also parodying how silly their concepts tend to be.
30. The use of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" was due to the song inspiring the entire concept. An entire song list was created for the creation of the story.
31. Created as a standalone, one thing to note is that according to William in A NIGHTMARE ON ELK STREET, the antiheroes eventually do destroy most other slashers on their world. What happens to his relationship with Nancy will require more books to reveal.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Behind Blue Eyes: Fallen Angels by Anna Mocikat review

    BEHIND BLUE EYES: FALLEN ANGEL is the sequel to BEHIND BLUE EYES by Anna Mocikat. It follows up after the traumatic ending where our heroine discovers that resisting a totalitarian mind-controlling corporatocracy isn't as easy as it sounds. The situation is pretty terrible with Metatron keeping her as his mistress and, worse, Nephilim not even knowing that she's supposed to hate him.

    The scenes between those are cringe-inducing and you just want her to gut him every time he fakes affection for her. The book introduces new characters in Shiro and Spider that I really enjoyed as well as gives information on the state of the rest of the world. The complicated politics of the setting are also spelled out better with Metatron shown to be in a rivalry with the board of the Olympias Corporation.

    The premise is Nephilim has once more fallen under Metatron's evil sway. The charismatic cybernetic leader of the Guardian Angels managed to force Nephilim to being his mistress and erased all of her memories of her rebellion against him. He remains obsessed with making her his queen and, unfortunately, she is unaware she hates him for much of the book. However, as thorough as Metatron's purge of her memories was, it hasn't been as effective as he thought. Little tidbits of memory as well as questions about the corruption of the Olympias Corporation remain that Metatron is blinded to. She also has friends she made that remain determined to reunite with her like her former programmer Finnick and ex-lover Jake who is stuck behind enemy lines.

    I really like Jake's story this time around as before he seemed like an idealized revolutionary. Now, the revelation that he was a honeypot for the Rossum Corporation that wants to eliminate all of the Guardian Angels (Nephilim included) means that he's a far more interesting character. He wants to save Nephilim but his betrayal is not something that could be easily forgiven and it's clear he hasn't developed a desire to defect either (nor would Nephilim be accepted by his people either). This is a very interesting twist and makes their romance or its dissolution very interesting. Much of the book is also dealing with a serial murderer of cyborgs and the twist as to who is "really" responsible is both hilarious as well as ties a lot of the books' twists together.

    I really liked the new characters of Shiro and Spider. Both are police detectives who provide a "grounds eye view" of the Olympias Corporation as well as its corruption. Shiro is an alternative love interest for Nephilim and I'd be interested in seeing how they connect. Mind you, so is Spider and I like that all three of them have sexual chemistry. The books are very queer friendly with a bisexual protagonist and a society that is friendly to unconventional sexual expression. Sadly, this book also has the protagonist brainwashed into her current relationship so some readers may be put off reading by that.

    I also liked the corporate intrigue depicted in the book with the conflict between Rossum and Olympias, the internal conflict between Metatron and the Board, plus the people of each arcology versus their own governments. I think cyberpunk is a great genre for infighting among factions and moral ambiguity that Anna Mocikat really brings out. I am eager to see which corporation emerges triumphant but the fact that all of them are awful in their own way is part of the world-building. Olympias gives you all the sex and material pleasure you could want but is ruthlessly oppressive to free expression. Rossum allows religious expression but creates scapegoats from every other faction and wields a terrifying propaganda machine.

    As before, the action is incredible and the story is entertaining. I really want Nephilim to get free and turn against Metatron but I also know that this is mostly set up for the next installment of the series. This is the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the series. I strongly recommend the book to those who read the previous one but there's a lot of gut punches here given how hard we rooted for Nephilim the first time. I recommend the audiobook over the Kindle edition due to the excellent narration by Sean Duregger.


Available here

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Vampiraz4Life is now available on audiobook


From the best-selling author of the Supervillainy Saga

It's been a rough year for Peter Stone.

Vampires are not meant to be quarantined, and most of the nation is under lockdown. It has been extra hard in the city of New Detroit, which depends on tourism not only for its economy but its blood supply. With his creator kidnapped, mother dead, and finding himself once more exiled to the fringes of their society, Peter's ready to call it quits. That's when he receives a mysterious message from a long-dead friend who tells him that his problems are just beginning.

A mysterious new player in town wants to recruit Peter to help form a supernatural alliance against the oppressive new voivode and his human-hunter allies. Unfortunately, Hell itself has sent an assassin to erase our antihero, and even a new set of allies may not be enough to protect him.

Enjoy Peter's final exciting adventure!

Part of the United States of Monsters universe with the Bright Falls Mysteries, Psycho Killers in Love, Morgan Detective Agency, and The Red Room.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Cowboy Bebop (2021) review

     Cowboy Bepop was one of my all-time favorite anime when I was in college. It was 1998 and I was a huge otaku with a love for anything shown on television or available to buy on VHS. It was unlike anything else I'd ever seen (Firefly wasn't out until 2002 and The Expanse wouldn't be out until 2015). It was a beautiful well-realized science fiction world taking place in the solar system in the near-future that managed to combine the used future of Star Wars, jazz, Westerns, martial arts, and Hong Kong action movies.

    The premise was two bounty hunters ("cowboys") named Spike Spiegel and Jet Black are trying to make their fortunes by bringing in high paying rewards for criminals. Unfortunately, to the point of comedy, they often end up killing their quarries instead. The two of them live together on a starship called the Bebop and gradually accumulate an oddball family with con woman Faye Valentine, data dog Ein, and master hacker Ed. Along the way, Spike's past as a former assassin for the Red Dragon Syndicate comes to haunt him.

    The live action version was something that I was interested in from the moment it was announced but wasn't sure how it would go. While a fan of John Cho (Spike), Mustafa Shakir (Jet), and Daniella Pineda (Faye), I had to remember Netflix's adaptation of Death Note. That was flat out terrible and I didn't want to experience the same level of corruption. Still, I liked the trailer for the show and didn't bother paying attention to any other build-up before deciding to binge the series when it came out. What's my opinion?

    Eh, it has its ups and downs. John Cho is excellent as Spike Spiegel but doesn't quite have the physicality for the role. Mind you, you can animate the world's greatest martial artist while getting someone able to pull it off in live action is a lot harder. Mustafa Shakir plays an older crustier Jet with a daughter rather than simply an ex-girlfriend. It was a change that was silly in places (one plot with a coveted doll falls flat) but I overall felt he was a great interpretation.  

    Faye Valentine is easily the best version, though, and I think Daniella Pineda perfectly embodied the character after an initial false start with her as a tough girl cowboy herself. Faye isn't a cowboy, she's a con woman. There's a big difference. Some fans may also be put off by the decision to make her bisexual in this adaptation but I didn't have a problem with it. As for Ein? Well, whenever Ein is not on screen, I was asking, "Where's Ein?" He should have been in every shot and that's all I am going to say on the subject. 

     There's some odd choices that I didn't quite agree with. The Red Dragon Syndicate is just made into the Syndicate and populated with primarily non-Asian actors. The problem was they keep most of the Triad motifs that make them come off as white guys who like to cosplay as Yellow Peril villains. Still, it had John Noble show up as one of the Elders and it's hard to argue with him in anything. I also think changing the conman who conned Faye by pretending to be her husband into a woman pretending to be her mother was an overall good one.

    The only part of the show that repeatedly falls flat and is just plain bad is the interpretation of Vicious (Alex Hassel) and Julia (Elena Satine). Vicious in the anime is like Sephiroth, a kind of pathetic individual who covers it up by being the most badass terrifying man who ever lived. Vicious in the live action show is more like Viserys, a guy who acts tough but is painfully obvious as a weak-minded fool. I don't dislike the interpretation of Julia in the show, she was always someone we knew Spike loved but never why, but something about her interpretation just felt inconsistent.

    The show is ridiculously colorful and entertaining with much of the anime's weird setting intact. Unfortunately, it may have gone for too faithful in its attempts to bring it to screen so that it, at times, feels like a live action cartoon. Dialing down the weirdness and grit that you can get away in an anime might have made the show land better. Ironically, they also dialed up the sleaze factor so our heroes are always in brothels or strip clubs. But Netflix gonna Netflix. Also, Ein whenever Ein isn't on screen, the other characters should be asking, "Where's Ein?" Oh and he should be angrier, grimmer, and have a time machine.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Twenty Kindle Unlimited books that don't suck

99c not KU - but it's my blog.
    Kindle Unlimited has been a feast and a famine to self-published as well as small press publishers throughout the internet. It provides a chance to get books out to a much larger audience than might normally be achieved and turns the Amazon algorhythm from friend to foe. At least theoretically. However, there's a certain level of caveat emptor to be found when trying to find your next monthly rental. There are many Kindle Unlimited books which stand up to the mainstream publishers in terms of writing, editing, and presentation. There are also many Kindle Unlimited books that do not. 

    As an avid reader, indie author, and semi-professional reviewer, I've read a lot of Kindle Unlimited books over the years. As such, I have decided to compile a list of twenty ones that do not suck. In fact, they're all quite good and entertaining. Why twenty? Well, that is the maximum number you can check out before having to return one. I actually dare say all of these books are worth buying directly rather than using the Kindle Unlimited feature but that's because I enjoy supporting authors directly. Even so, reading the books helps and that's all that matters. 

    For this collection of books, I've done my best to only select one example from each author as well as try to make an eclectic collection of science fiction, fantasy, grimdark, and noblebright. Really, I could fill this entire collection with nothing but cyberpunk entries. However, I already did one of those and recommend people check them out. I'm pretty sure there's something for everyone here and I hope you'll give them a look.

20. Brutal: A Sword and Sorcery Fantasy by James Alderdice

    James Alderdice is an author who enjoys writing old school Sword and Sorcery titles with antiheroes possessing mighty thews and Spaghetti Western morality. His nameless protagonist here goes to a town divided between two wizards and a scheming Duchess that is a obvious (as well as deliberate) homage to A Fistful of Dollars. I really enjoyed this one and note that he includes more than a few Conan references only actual Howard fans will get.

19. A Wizard's Forge by AM Justice

    AM Justice crafts a wonderful world where human settlers have settled down on a planet and reverted to barbarism. Only our plucky heroine's people remember the scientific truth. Unfortunately, she ends up a slave and brainwashed by a gas-lighting corrupt merchant prince. Escaping to a friendly nearby kingdom, the emotional scars remain and she must become a wizard to free herself entirely. Because, oh, magic is real. I liked this one because it dealt strongly with trauma and overcoming it even when you were a badass.

18. I'm Glad You're Dead by Hunter Blaine

    It wouldn't be a CT Phipps list without vampires on it and I'm Glad You're Dead is a fun book about a pop-cultured Irish vampire who spent centuries hunting down everyone who killed his family before realizing that didn't leave him much else of a life. I had a lot of fun with the adventures of John Cook and it is a fun series to get started on.

17. Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell

    This is arguably the best of the books on this list and really one of the few series I would think belongs up there with some of the best fantasy of the past twenty years. Basically, a deformed but wise witch's son realizes he could unite his scattered people by promising them the fantastically rich tropical paradises to the South. The people in the South live an idyllic life but are threatened by the imperial Navy the East. Everyone wants what's best for their people but that's mutually contradictory--or is it?

16. Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

    Michael R. Fletcher is an embarrassment of riches for the indie fantasy world and I recommend checking out any of his books. Indeed, I should probably recommend one of the more famous fantasy ones. However, Ghosts of Tomorrow has a special place in my heart. The cyberpunk story of the brainscan trade. Brainscans are a billion dollar industry and the only way to make true AI but the cost is the death of the doner. So, of course, there's a trade in unwanted children.

15. Child of the Night Guild by Andy Peloquin

     I like Andy Peloquin's books that tend to take place in dark wretched fantasy hives of scum and villainy or epic ecumenopoilis space operas. The Child of the Night Guild follows a young bisexual heroine sold to the titular Thieves Guild as a child and raised to be a thief. All she wants is a normal life but it seems like such a thing is beyond her. Especially since it turns out being "normal" isn't so great and the Night Guild may actually be the lesser evil. Too bad the lesser evil is still evil.

14. The Skald's Black Verse by Jordan Loyal Short

     I am a huge fan of the Warhammer 40K verse but, perhaps because they are trying to market to the largest market possible, it's not quite as dark in its official fiction as it could be. This isn't WH40K but is a dark fantasy space opera universe where the majority of humanity has degenerated into Medieval superstition. It is dark and well-written with lots of strong characterization that doesn't shy away from how horrible the setting is.

 13. Paternus: Rise of the Gods by Dyrk Ashton

     I will fully admit that I know Dyrk Ashton but I have to say that I met him because I read his awesome book and really enjoyed it. It weirdly reminds me of the backstory to the Eternals in that humanity has been unwittingly host to a conflict between two races of beings for the entirety of its history. This conflict being the inspiration for all of humanity's gods from Judaeo-Christianity to Ancient Greece.

12. Orconomics by J. Zachary Pike

     Orconomics is a wonderful Terry Pratchett-inspired parody of Dungeons and Dragons inspired economies. What happens when the banks get involved in dungeon crawls? What happens when the various monster races want to be workers rather than slaughtered enemies? What happens when racism and capitalism meet Gary Gygax? Well, it's a surprisingly sharp bit of social satire.

11. Starship's Mage by Glynn Stewart

     Glynn Stewart has written a huge ton of military science fiction over the years and often struggled with trying to justify the conventions of the genre. According to him, he finally just went, "Screw it, it's magic" and made an entire series about sorcerers who make starships jump. This is the story of the rise to power of one of these jump mages. I really enjoyed this series and binged the entire thing from start to finish in one month.

10. To Beat the Devil by MK Gibson

     I am a huge fan of MK Gibson's various series with Agents of MORTAL and Villain's Rule both being favorites. The Technomancer series is my favorite, though. This is the story of the apocalypse happening and God not showing up. Now Earth is ruled by demons and technology is frozen at a cyberpunk level. A courier named Salem then finds himself recruited by a mysterious figure to undermine the demon lords.

9. Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

    Steampunk is a somewhat underrepresented genre. Sarah Chorn does a fantastic job at creating a frontier mining town that is seeking a mystical spice-like substance called Shine that goes in everything from food to machinery. However, the corporation that controls its export is cruel and repressive while the dominating the frontier like slave owners. Very LGBT friendly.

8. The Immorality Clause by Brian Parker

    I'm a huge fan of cyberpunk if you know anything about me. I got into the genre not because of Neuromancer or Snow Crash, though I certainly read those, but because of this little series. Brian Parker's Easytown novels are noir stories set in a 2060s New Orleans where vice has been comodified with technology. Zach Forrest is a detective who discovers the line between sinners and saints is increasingly blurred when machines start to think.

7. Tropical Punch (Bubbles in Space) by SC Jensen

    Sometimes you just find a book that is perfect for you and I have to admit that may be Tropical Punch. Alcoholic ex-cop Bubbles Marlowe is in a bad way. She has been kicked off the force, her client is dead, and there's someone else walking around with her client's face. Hunted down by hidden enemies, she takes the only escape left for her in a cyberpunk future: a space going luxury liner. It is as insane as it sounds.

6. Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

    Picking which book to talk about with Rob J. Hayes is hard as he's a solid indie grimdark author. His Ties That Bind series was quite good and I absolutely loved Where Loyalties Lie. However, if I had to choose the most accessible one of his books then I'd choose this wuxia homage in Never Die. A small boy is able to give a second life to a group of swordsmen to kill the Emperor. However, some dark and sinister forces are at work. 

5. Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer

    I really recommend M.L. Spencer's Rhenwars Saga (also on KU) but Dragon Mage is even better. It is the story of a young autistic mage who is living in a draconian regime where the latter are milked like cows to provide a ruling elite with their power. Escaping, the young mage finds himself in a culture that rides dragons. You can pretty much fill in the rest. It is a classic fun fantasy that I absolutely adored.

4. Bill the Vampire by Rick Gualtieri

    Bill the Vampire is a crass, irreverent, and thoroughly entertaining story about a nerdy jerk named Bill who is turned into a vampire. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he is the legendary Free Will who is immune to vampire dominance. Unfortunately, this doesn't prevent him from constantly getting beaten up by the more powerful vampires around him. I also love the Hybrid of High Moon series by the same author.

3. Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

    Behind Blue Eyes combines The Matrix, 1984, Brave New World, and a pretty good Cyberpunk 2020 campaign in my opinion. It is a cyberpunk story about a beautiful stone cold killer named Nephilim who belongs to an angel-themed death squad of cyborgs. After regaining her free will due to an extent, she has to struggle to keep it even as every act of defiance could mean her end. However, is it so terrible to live in a paradise where the only thing you lack is the ability to make decisions? 

2. Into the Dark by JA Sutherland

    I am a huge fan of Honor Harrington by David Weber and always looking for the same kind of story without quite the level of power creep that happened toward the end. This starts with our plucky young heroine as a midshipman in the steampunk navy of Her Majesty. I had a large amount of fun with it and they're easy to read bite-sized books.

 1. Forging Hephaestus by Drew Hayes

    My number 1# draft pick is going to be no surprise to those who know me as a fan of superheroes as well as a writer of them. Drew Hayes did a fantastic job with his Superpowered series (albeit I prefer them on audio) but I feel this book blew it away. The story of a tenuous truce between superheroes and villains as well as those who keep the peace between them. Believe me, this was a hard call as I also love Fred the Vampire Accountant.

Recommendations: Poor Man's Fight by Elliot Kay, Mindfracked by MR Forbes, Caped by Darius Brasher, Faithless by Graham Austin King, and Cradle by Will Wright

What I'm currently working on

Just a heads up for my fans:

Current book progress:
Vampiraz4Life: COMPLETED - awaiting audiobook release

Space Academy Drop Outs
(Book #1): COMPLETED - awaiting publication

Space Academy Rejects (Book #2): 50K

Cindy's Seven (Tales of Supervillainy #1) 48K
Lucifer's World (Lucifer's Star #3): 45K
Brighteyes (Morgan Detective Agency #2): 45K
Daughter of the Cyber Dragons (Agent G spin off): 65K

Finishing up these books will be the progress of the next year and the next two Gary books that haven't been started but are now outlined ("Dictator Gary! Peace negotiator Gary!")

Monday, November 15, 2021

Far Cry 6 review

Anton Castillo calls all true Yaryans to reject the cause of Libertad and to embrace the peaceful reign of El Presidente!

    The Far Cry franchise hit its zenith with Far Cry 3 and Michael Mando's legendary Vaas character in the same way that Fallout 3 changed the Fallout franchise. It made an open world environment, gave us an interesting story about people degenerating into savagery, and also critiqued the savior narrative of video games by making it clear the protagonist is deluding himself that he's making things better by killing people. Since then, I've enjoyed most of the subsequent installments with the sole exceptions of Far Cry Primal and Far Cry: New Dawn.

    Unfortunately, Far Cry was starting to run out of gas awhile ago. While it had some genuinely innovative ideas like the spectacular cyberpunk hilarity of Far Cry: Blood Dragon, the repetitive gameplay as well as confused storytelling annoyed some gamers. Far Cry 5 had a lot of interesting elements, taking the franchise to the United States for example, but its weirdly racially integrated apocalyptic cult, the constant capturing of the protagonist, and cruel twist ending put a lot of gamers off it.

    Far Cry 6 had a lot to overcome in order to get gamers back into the saddle. I will admit, despite generally liking the franchise, I was uninterested in continuing. Even the stunt casting of Giancarlo Esposito as a Caribbean island dictator seemed a poor reason to pick the game. I've overthrown a lot of island dictators in my gaming history with the Just Cause franchise having more than satisfied any urges there. Still, I found myself itching to game after finishing Resident Evil: Village and decided to give it a go. What are my feelings? Mixed. But mostly positive.

    Gameplay-wise, Far Cry 6 is more Far Cry and the only changes are not ones that I am particularly interested in. The sixth entry into the franchise removes perks and replaces them with modifications you can do to your equipment. I'm actually okay with getting rid of leveling up in the franchise as there's nothing to be gained from it as the best way to play the game is New Game+ when you have all the options to play the game as you wish. Unfortunately, I really didn't like the crafting system and just wished they'd given a simplified game system.

    Improvements are extremely minor with the addition of horses as a means of transport and a new device called the Supremo, which is basically a gadget-filled backpack. I hate the Supremo and its ridiculousness. However, it's pretty much necessary whenever you face helicopters or tanks. The game also has gotten rid of human companions and I felt this was a mistake as they were a favorite part of previous games. I also didn't care for the fact some enemy types are vulnerable to regular ammunition, fire ammunition, and armor-piercing ammunition. Aren't all enemies going to be more vulnerable to armor piercing ammunition? It's a little too Borderlands for me.

   The combat is also unfortunately slow. When you want to kill someone with a machete from behind or even during combat, the animations are painfully slow. It can also be hard to get into the vehicles that you're trying to steal. For an open world game that takes so much from Grand Theft Auto, it's irritating that you can't move swift enough to engage in the mayhem that is the game's primary selling point. That isn't to say it isn't fun. I actually turned up the difficulty on the combat despite normally being a casual because I wanted to experience a harder more furious experience. So it had that going for it.

    You basically follow the same gameplay loop you always do. You are a soldier of the plucky but morally compromised resistance, Dani Rojas. You can play as either a male or female version of the character, much like Assassins Creed: Odyssey or Valhalla, but I feel the female version is far more interesting as well as better acted. Indeed, if there is anything that Far Cry 6 has going for it, it is the fact the characters are far better written than in previous installments. The cast is likable and entertaining throughout but this is the first game since Far Cry 3 where I felt the protagonist had any sense of personality.

   The graphics of the game are exceptional and Yara is a beautiful country to live in. Honestly, I'd probably want to move there if it wasn't a cruel and oppressive dictatorship. Giancarlo Esposito does a fantastic job as President Castillo and is probably my favorite villain alongside Vaas. The game also manages to retcon away the ending of Far Cry 5, which is deserving of its own acknowledgement. I actually cared about Yara's freedom to an extent and was impressed by the ending. Good job, writers.

    The biggest problem I can think of with the game is the fact Ubisoft really went out of their way to try to drain the customers. The Season Pass doesn't include any of the skins that are sale for Ubisoft points (that cost real money) or other material traditionally included with it. They also have things like the Breaking Bad bundles cost something akin to ten dollars each. That's just ridiculous and the only reason to get the Season Pass is an updated version of Far Cry: Blood Dragon. I think the "Villain Campaign" won't prove to be worth the money.

    In conclusion, Far Cry 6 is a game with a lot going for it. The core of the gameplay is as entertaining as it was in Far Cry 3 and removing a lot of the excess leveling up was good. Unfortunately, I really don't like the Supremo and the Crafting focus didn't wow me. The protagonist is the most likable in the series yet and the villain is fantastic. The supporting cast is also fun and the game beautiful. Sadly, it's biggest merit and flaw is it's just more Far Cry. Now with horses!