Thoughts on Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim should be this generation’s Titanic, if there was any justice in the world.

Pacific Rim poster

A new IP based on a number of influences, too numerous to count. Oh, del Toro never saw Evas duking it out with Angels? Well I am dead certain a lot of his VFX, photography and props crews did, because the movie stinks of Evangelion and Escaflowne. And it’s a good kind of stink. And of course, even if he didn’t see Evangelion, he saw other animes and live action movies.

We had our Ghost in the Shell by way of The Matrix.
We had our Akira via Chronicle.
Now we have our Giant Combat Suit movie.

NOTE: Spoilers follow, don’t read if you haven’t seen.

It hits a lot of right notes. There’s humour, there’s seriousness, there’s a Rei lookalike.
It thrives on details, like the birth of a Kaiju inspired culture and the international Jaegers.

The acting is the kind a movie like this needs. It’s not a Tarantino movie, but neither is it a Michael Bay movie infested with characters of poor judgement skills. There’s a lot of shouting, and I wanted to join in.

I have not looked at the writing credits but I guarantee Lindelof, Orci or Kurtzman did not touch this movie’s script. It’s too contained, too in control for them.

It beats Cloverfield and Bayformers in action and monster hunting.

The fights are epic, grand, and for most of the time, easy to follow, even the hand to hand combat, which is a rarity these days.

The clean straight edges of the Jaegers are much easier on the eyes than the overly complex Transformers’ bodies. Therefore the 3D didn’t tire my eyes.

The movie can’t just live on the fights. The mind drift plot is very well done, it fuels the movie’s emotions. Rinko was awesome and proved to be more than a reference to Rei. The best acting on the movies comes from her. When she drives the sword and rips the Kaiju apart, the sun on the horizon, it really feels like an anime breathed life.

Right before that scene I kept telling myself “they should have put a sword on this movie” and BAM, a sword materialises out of nowhere. Bravo, Guillermo del Toro, for reading my mind.

The soundtrack is also amazing, mimicking the movie’s contained tone but being exciting enough to get the heart pumping. The guitar driven main theme is heard a lot through several variations and is the musical “Jaegers kicking Kaiju’s ass” motif.

That said, the movie hasn’t set the USA afire, as the movie debuts at a depressing #3. I can’t fault the studio as there was tons of publicity, not as much as Man of Steel but still. I won’t grudge about american audiences either.

If your kids are over 12, take them to see this and let their imagination roam free. And you go see it and let your imagination roam free, too.

Note: the writers are Travis Beacham and Guillermo himself. I knew it.

Note 2: Loved how the governments of the world went all Attack on Titan and were erecting a huge wall.


Why Obsidian Entertainment Matters To Me

If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I urge you to check out my interview with Chris Avellone of Obsidian Entertainment, published at Gameranx.


I never imagined I would have a chance to sit down and interview one of the persons responsible for Planescape Torment, an eye opening game I played as a teenager in the year 2000.

There’s few other game developers and designers I would love to meet as much as Chris Avellone. I started paying attention to him perhaps when Van Buren was still in development at Black Isle, though in reality I “knew” him long before that, as I played Fallout 2 and thoroughly enjoyed New Reno, one of his contributions to Fallout 2, and having had my mind blown by Torment.

After Chris started compiling the Fallout Bible in 2002, I emailed him to ask some questions, such as was Fallout in any way inspired by The Postman. Chris got back to me pretty quickly and it turns out it wasn’t inspired by it. This was probably my first contact with a game developer, as in that time seemed as distant as the clouds, or more so, what with living in tiny Portugal, where there was very little actual game development. Nowadays a lot of developers are approachable via Twitter, but back then getting an answer to an email wasn’t a sure bet, and I was happy to get my answers.

Things go quiet as Van Buren is cancelled and Black Isle shuttered. The fanbase is sad and angry, having waited for years for a proper sequel to Fallout 2.

But hope is reborn with the founding of Obsidian Entertainment, and although there were a few speed bumps like NeverWinter Nights 2, there were also diamonds in the rough like KOTOR 2 and Alpha Protocol, and fascination with Mask of the Betrayer, the first expansion to NWN2 which in all honesty really deserved to be its own game.

Meanwhile Chris, like Tim Cain and Josh Sawyer, gets increased recognition in the Fallout / RPG fanbase, earning the nickname MCA, which I don’t remember exactly when it started being applied.

These three developers have always been very vocal and happy to disperse with their game design thoughts, particularly Josh Sawyer since the Van Buren days.

After Alpha Protocol, hope was kind of lost for a proper return to the time of isometric (sic) deep RPGs. Alpha Protocol is a great, flawed gem and is a unique game which I am very fond of, but it didn’t slake the thirst for the return to the old days.

It’s been a decade at least since the last proper 2D richly interactive RPG, the fountain of Black Isle having been sacked.

Which is why Obsidian made 4 million dollars when it kickstarted Project Eternity. Everyone who played a Black Isle game was waiting for that to happen, the chance to give someone money to bring those games back again.

The Project Eternity trailer brought me to tears.

Hearing that fantastic piece of music by Justin Bell while the words: “AND LEGENDARY GAME DESIGNERS: CHRIS AVELLONE / JOSH SAWYER / TIM CAIN”, people I’ve read about and followed throughout the years, boomed onto the screen was (AND STILL IS) too much for me. It has been a long decade of disappointment with no hope in sight for a new game in this particular type of RPG. The type of game that molded me during my formative years and made interested in game creation.

I accompanied the Kickstarter from beginning to end with increasing excitement. Read every update and saw most of the videos, where the designers explain their ideas and go into excruciating detail about the game mechanics and the writing.

I feel that Obsidian making 4 million dollars was a vindication, the sign they needed to really bring us what the fans have longed for years. Finally, after the cancellation of Torn, Van Buren, Aliens RPG, the loss of the Fallout IP to Bethesda and subsequent Fallout: New Vegas (which, as a fanboy, I consider the real Fallout 3), we can finally have Project Eternity, and with that fantastic band of designers together.

With the success of the Kickstarter, the opportunity arose for Chris to visit the UK for the Rezzed game show, on its second year now. And funnily enough, I’ve been living here for a year now, having moved from Portugal to follow my dream to work in games. When I heard that Chris would be attending Rezzed, I was ecstatic. And the result is that interview at Gameranx, recorded at a deserted Starbucks after Rezzed was over.

Chris was also kind enough to sign my Planescape Torment poster and CD jewel box, which I brought from Portugal a month before on a chance flight I had booked to see Muse live.

I am very much happy that this was possible, that I too could get some vindication for all of those years spent playing his games and discussing on the forums (especially that RPGCodex) about how bad things were after Black Isle had been closed.

But now the dream is alive again, and we are indeed waiting for Project Eternity, Wasteland 2 and a spiritual sequel to Planescape Torment. If I went back in time and told myself this in 2003, I wouldn’t believe it.

Thank you Obsidian for getting the band back together. Now go make magic again.