Saturday, April 30, 2011
Most know Brandon Routh as Clark Kent and Superman from Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns". Sam Huntington played Jimmy Olson in that movie and had a couple of great comedic moments bouncing his performance off of Routh's straight man act. The two are paired up again in what I would describe as "Comedic Supernatural Noir".
"Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night" is about a former supernatural investigator (Routh) who has been out of the game for a few years but is pulled back in as those in his life are suddenly harmed by the supernatural world of werewolves, vampires and zombies. It's a modern story but has a dash of 1930's noir in that Dylan bridges scenes with darkly intoned, past-tense narration.
The performances by Routh and Huntington make the movie very watchable, despite the dialogue feeling dry and uncreative. The two leading men work great together, and while Huntington gets most of the laughs, I was pleasantly surprised by some previously unseen flavors in Routh's acting. Even so, Routh doesn't seem like the best fit for this role, despite the fact that he did a fine job. Some of the best moments in the movie were Sam Huntington's scenes dealing with a particular bit of misfortune he's experiencing that I won't spoil. I think an entire movie could have been built around his character's plot. Great stuff.
The visual effects and makeup leave something to be desired. The monsters all look pretty "rubbery" and the digital morphing effects look a lot like digital morphing effects. They would have done well to follow cues from "Underworld"(another relatively small vampire/werewolf movie) and use shadows to conceal flaws in both visual effects and makeup. As it is, they showed me too much and I found myself being distracted by technical flaws.
The movie has some great new takes on the myths of vampires, werewolves and zombies. Some of them are comedic and others are just original ideas that I found welcome. But I didn't find the movie scary, despite a number of attack/action scenes, which would have helped the sometimes sluggish pace.
I don't remember anything that could contribute to worthwhile, real-world discussion after the movie. It's just pure escapist entertainment for hardcore fans of the genre, who will enjoy checking this one out. If you're not starving for vampires, werewolves and zombies, you can easily afford to wait for this on video or tv.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of creature violence and action, language including some sexual references, and some drug material.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
Friday, April 29, 2011
Well, it's been a crazy busy week for both me and my wife, and unfortunately it's all been things that have taken away from my time at Spirit Blade Productions.
Now and then I have a week in "survival mode", where all I manage to do is post on both blogs, keep up with answering e-mails and somehow squeeze out a podcast. This is one of those weeks.
Still, I think the show this week will be a good one. I'm looking forward to seeing and reviewing "Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night" tomorrow morning and getting the podcast out sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening.
Thanks for your patience!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We hate the word "obedience". When we are told to obey, we think of ourselves as prisoners of authority. When we are told to submit, we think of ourselves as abused. We wrongly assume that submission implies inferiority or diminished self-worth. (Despite the fact that Jesus submits himself to God the Father and is still equally God himself.)
So we reject any role that puts us under the authority of another. We bend and break rules in service to our self-absorbed agendas. If we're told to wait five minutes for something we want, we start inching toward it at 4 minutes and 30 seconds. We aim to take just a little more than our authorities give us, and want special treatment when we have broken the rules that all are expected to follow.
A few days each month I do some substitute teaching at the high school level, and this week I was reminded of the natural human tendency to resist obedience. A tendency that is only reduced by regularly PRACTICING obedience. Each school is a little different, but in parts of the town where students have had rougher lives at home, it becomes quickly evident that they have not yet been trained to obey.
Granted, it makes for a frustrating day for me, but the long term is much worse. If we don't learn to obey or submit to each other, how many jobs will we lose? How many relationships will we destroy? How many laws will we break? These kids (the worst of which were surprisingly seniors, this time) have no idea the pain and frustration waiting for them(and those they interact with) because of the patterns of rebellion they've become comfortable with. And any attempt to warn them of this only sounds like more lectures from "the man". Instead, they'll likely suffer needlessly, at odds with the world for the rest of their lives because of this lack of self-discipline, and pass those same tendencies on to the next generation.
I heard a little while back how one father answered his young daughter as she pointed to a prison they drove past and asked, "Daddy, what's that for?" In the simplest, and surprisingly most accurate words he could use in response, he said, "That's where they put the people who never learned to obey."
Monday, April 25, 2011
Is God fair? If God is good and also has power and authority over everything, then why do some who have lived relatively good lives deal with suffering and difficulty and those who have lived relatively selfish lives not? Is it fair when God chooses to bless one person and not another?
This is the question in front of Paul, who just pointed out in previous verses that God especially blessed Jacob over his brother Esau, before the two were even born. How is that fair? Where is the justice in that?
It's first helpful to look at the word "injustice" in verse 13. The Greek word here is the negative version of the Greek word Dike. Dike is expected conformity to a standard designated by a higher authority. When we say something is unjust, we're saying that it does not conform to a standard that we are all accountable to. So to rephrase the question regarding God, we would ask "Does God ever act in a way that does not conform to a standard that he and all of us are accountable to?" Paul's reply is a big "NO".
He explains by quoting Exodus 33:19, in which God establishes that he will bring about goodness toward whoever he wants. (v.15) God's behavior conforms only to the standard of his own will. His choices are not limited by our perceptions of what is fair. Although often God brings about blessing or suffering in connection to human behavior (often enough, in fact, that we wrongly assume our behavior is the determining factor) his own will is the ultimate determining factor as he portions out pleasure or suffering.
Paul quotes Exodus 9:16, which reveals that God used the Pharaoh that mistreated the Israelites in Egypt to ultimately demonstrate his own power and goodness. (v.17) God's self-serving agenda is his ultimate priority.
That last bit might make you cringe. It makes me cringe a little bit, too. The reason is that we tend to picture God in our minds like a bigger, stronger version of us. And if that's what God is, then we have every right to cringe at the thought of an infinitely powerful egomaniac running all of reality. But the Bible repeatedly teaches that God is perfect.
Perfection is something we can't even picture. We know it's out there, but it's always out of reach and just out of sight, too. If God is perfect, in every possible sense of the word, then his agenda SHOULD be the highest priority, because it will be perfect. His character SHOULD be the focus of attention, because it is perfect. And when we think of the perfection of God, if any negative ideas come to mind (like boring, snobby, uptight, arrogant) we aren't actually thinking of perfect, but something else that we've invented. When we think about the fairness of God in dealing with humanity, it is VITAL (I don't know how to stress that more) that we remember his perfect goodness, perfect love and perfect... perfection!
It is God's perfect agenda that enacts mercy on those he chooses. It's also his perfect agenda that brings about the hardened stubborness of those who reject him. (v.18)
So what does it mean to say that God "hardens" someone? Does he take control of their will? If so, how can they be held responsible for their hardness against God? (v.19)
I don't think we have good reason to believe that God actually overrides the will of humans, causing them to stubbornly reject him against their will. The nearest example is Pharaoh. A re-read of Exodus, chapters 7 through 9, shows that both Pharaoh and God are said to harden Pharaoh's heart. In some way we can't see, hidden "behind the scenes", both wills are involved.
Throughout the Bible there are verses emphasizing God's sovereignty (his authority and power over everything) and human free will. Some passages even emphasize both almost back to back! The tendency in the debate over this issue of "free will vs.predestination" is to emphasize one over the other, and in the process ignore truth presented in scripture. But the truth is that we may not be able to even comprehend how the will of God and humans are compatible.
This seems to be Paul's point in verse 20. It's ridiculous to think that a molded object would say to it's maker "Why did you make me like this?", because a molded object can't even converse on the level of it's creator, let alone understand anything about motives or anything else! A molded object doesn't even think. And compared to God, neither do we. (v.20) Whatever human free will actually is or wherever it comes from, if God sat down and explained it to us, the last thing we would say is that our will has been violated by his. That entire conversation would just go way over our heads.
Additionally, (as if Paul's point in verse 20 isn't strong enough) it isn't even our right to question God's purposes for us or anything else he has created, any more than the computer screen or steering wheel in front of you has any rights of any kind. (v.21)
As I've mentioned before, Hugh Ross has written a great book called "Beyond The Cosmos", which illustrates how multi-dimensional space-time theory can provide compatibility between God's sovereignty and human free will. The two do not form a contradiction, but rather a challenging puzzle with a logical solution. I'd recommend "Beyond The Cosmos" to anyone wanting to examine this debate in both a biblical and logical manner. (Math skills not required, but still very handy!)
I don't believe our sense of peace over the events of life will come from understanding WHY they happen. Those answers are outside our capacity to comprehend right now. (Maybe forever.) But peace can be found in remembering who God is. He is perfect, infinite love. Perfect, infinite knowledge, perfect infinite power, and perfect infinite goodness. Whatever our circumstances, if those things are true of God, then we're in good hands.
Next- God's Goodness Toward Both Friends And Enemies
Coffee House Question- What do you think the potential problems are with over-emphasizing God's control or human free will?
Friday, April 22, 2011
Part 1 of the Interactive Audio Commentary for Pilgrim's Progress: Similitude Of A Dream is available for free download right now on our Media Page!
Included in this segment: How to make chain mail without chain mail! Where all the character names and "curses" come from! And when did I record just one letter of another actor's line for them?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Beginning in Chapter 9, Paul focuses on the Jewish people and their relationship to God, while also giving insight to the nature of God's power and how it interacts with our free will.
Many believers today conclude that the nation of Israel and the Jewish people have no role in the Kingdom of God; that they have been cut off and are essentially now obsolete in purpose or irrelevant to God's plan for humanity. In history, we’ve seen “Christian” movements hate or persecute Jews in the name of God. But despite these movements being associated with Christianity by many, one doesn’t have to look far or deep in the Bible to see that hatred or disrespect for Jews is not biblical.
Paul's words stand in sharp opposition to any kind of "anti-Jewish" sentiments. He emphatically states, with Christ and the Holy Spirit as his witnesses, that he would rather be forever cursed and separated from God than see the Jewish people be separated from God forever for their rejection of Christ. (v.1-3)
Paul validates the extraordinary significance given by God to the Jewish people. They were selected out of all humanity to be the first among God's children. They had the honor of being on display as his representatives. They were made a part of God's plan for blessing humanity. They were the first to read and learn God's recorded words, which not only improved their lives but gave them a picture of what God is actually like! They alone were permitted to interact with God in worship through richly symbolic activities that illustrated who God is and what he lovingly does for us. They were repeatedly promised blessing by God. (v.4)
Among them God placed the wisest teachers and leaders in history, who delivered the words of God himself. And from their bloodline, God himself emerged as a human being. (v.5)
This is why Paul was so broken at the fact that the majority of Jews have rejected God. But this doesn't mean that God's purposes for humanity have failed. God didn’t place the totality of his plan in just one bloodline or culture. Nor are all Israelis God’s chosen nation of Israel.
In the time that Paul wrote Romans, it was a popular Jewish belief that simply being descended from Abraham guaranteed special standing with God. But God has always chosen people for special roles based on his own agenda, not on anyone’s previously good behavior or status in life.
Paul makes this distinction here, between the Israelites by blood and the Israelites within that group who are true Israelites by God’s choice and promise. Abraham had other children, but they were not part of this specific promise of blessing from God. And although his son Isaac had twin boys, before they were able to do good or evil, before they were even born, God chose one to have greater significance to his plan for humanity than the other. (v.6-13)
On a side note, when some translations say that God “hated” Esau in verse 13, it’s because of Paul’s use of a Hebrew idiom, in which an opposite word (hate versus love) is used in contrast while actually meaning simply a lesser degree. (Jesus did this in Luke 14:26) In other words, God enacted his loving kindness toward Esau to a lesser degree than he did toward Jacob. Though he still loved and blessed Esau. (Genesis 33:4-17, 36:1-7)
At this point, someone might look at this and say, “How is that fair? Why does Jacob, or anyone else get special treatment from God and others get less when they haven’t even done anything yet to deserve reward or punishment?”
Paul responds to this hypothetical complaint, and we’ll take a look at that next time!
Next- Our Will And God’s Will. Who Is Responsible?
Coffee House Question- Imagine living as a Jew in the time of the Tanakh. (The Old Testament) What one or two things from verses 4 and 5 of this chapter do you think you would be most grateful for or excited about?
Last year I started seeing full page ads in my comics for a horror movie called "Monsters", but due to its limited theatrical release and equally limited presence at Blockbuster and Redbox thereafter, I wasn't able to see it... until now.
"Monsters" is an independent film made with only two real actors, the rest being locals who the actors improvised with to get a natural response/performance. The budget for the movie is estimated at between $15,000 and $800,000, which is amazing considering what was accomplished.
The story centers on a photographer who is ordered by his newspaper to escort the head honcho's daughter home to America from Mexico. The catch is that giant alien life forms came to earth 6 years ago, and much of Mexico is part of a quarantine zone in which the massive creatures roam free and sometimes attack humans.
What makes this movie especially unique is its equal blend of romantic drama and alien horror. You might find it listed under "horror" or "sci-fi" on Amazon or Netflicks, but much of the movie is about two characters thrown together who begin to develop a romantic relationship amid challenging circumstances. The aliens are creepy and there are a couple of great suspense scenes, but there is virtually no blood or even much violence. If you're expecting the pacing of your average alien horror flick, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a romantic drama involving exotic world travel, you'll be freaked out. It's not fully either of those, but a 50/50 blend of both. The pacing might be just a tiny bit slow near the middle, and things might seem a bit too "quiet" at times since the score is so sparse, but otherwise everything moves along nicely. This is the movie to ease your girlfriend/wife into sci-fi/horror flicks with.
Performances by the two leads are very good, though not fantastic. Especially impressive are some of the supporting characters. They don't have any of those "actor-vibes" that seasoned screen actors give off and that we take for granted. They are just real people. At first, I thought it was some amazing casting that brought to light some of the best talent available in Mexican cinema. It wasn't until watching the included documentary that I learned these people weren't actors, just cleverly directed/edited locals. (Wow!)
The special effects are also very solid and on par with anything a big budget flick would normally churn out. Many of the best effects might go unnoticed, unless you remember that Mexico has NOT been ravaged by giant alien attacks. Decimated buildings and the giant wreckage of vehicles pepper the scenery with fantastic realism. There may not be as much quantity in alien visual effects shots, but the quality is certainly there.
Although I don't think the movie is likely to inspire much worthwhile discussion, the subject of fidelity is one that could be put on the table. Both of the lead characters demonstrate a lack of commitment in relationships while moving closer to each other as the movie progresses. He is willing to have a one night stand with a random woman when the female lead doesn't respond to his advances, and she seems unwilling or unable to talk to her fiancee(an off-screen character we never see) about the obvious reluctance she has to move forward with their wedding.
"Monsters" may find it's audience more with those who appreciate the unique pacing and genre-blending possible in independent film. If you pepare your expectations a little, this is one movie that is really worth seeing.
Rated R for language.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Getting out of church yesterday (a blast of hot Arizona wind welcoming us to the parking lot), my wife and I were reminded that summer is on its way, if not already here. And I'm REALLY looking forward to it!
Not only are there a TON of cool looking movies I want to see, but we've got some cool summer events going on at Spirit Blade Productions, including two big sales (one of which will be mentioned to newsletter subscribers only!) and of course, The Summer Of Free, 2011!
For those who don't know, The Summer Of Free is an annual, summer long event on my personal blog and The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast, in which I highlight, with your help, some cool options for free geek entertainment that enable us to be more responsible with the financial resources God has given us. (I'll be the first to admit how easy it is to recklessly blow cash on a bunch of nerdy stuff.)
This summer, I even plan to create a page (probably on the forums) dedicated to websites and entertainment options featured in the Summer Of Free, both past and present, so that we can all be reminded of the cool free stuff there is to do out there, even during the bitter cold of winter! My primary focus this summer will be on video games. There are some great, free, 100% legal video game options available out there, and I'm planning to spend some time each week checking them out. And you're invited to join me! I'll have more info about how you can help me make a list of the best free games out there in the coming weeks.
Lastly, I REALLY can't wait for summer because it means that I will have about 3 solid months where I can build creative momentum on development for Spirit Blade 3, without being interrupted by my substitute teaching side-gig. My hope is to have the script finished by the end of the summer so I can start developing songs in early fall and begin recording in late 2011 or early 2012. I just have a few more things to do before I can give my full attention to scripting, but it won't be long before I'm writing dialogue for Merikk, Raan and Vincent for the very last time!
Friday, April 15, 2011
At this point all of your suggestions for online hosting of the Spirit Blade Audio Book seem to be in, and I'm beginning the submission process. I'm hoping the book will be available for free in multiple places online for an official launch announcement sometime in the next two weeks.
For those of you who are podcasters, or who know a podcaster who might be interested, I'm offering a free download of Spirit Blade: Special Edition to any podcaster who plays all 12 parts of the Spirit Blade Audio Book on their podcast. This is a standing offer with no expiration date.
It's also a great way for podcasters to take a break from podcasting (as some do over the summer) while still keeping their feed alive with new content! So consider suggesting The Spirit Blade Audio Book to your favorite podcasters! Interested podcasters can e-mail me to request the audio book at: paeter(at)spiritblade(dot)net
Stay tuned for more very soon!
For years I've watched a number of RPGs come out on the Nintendo DS without having the cash on hand to justify the purchase of the hand held gaming console. And with the financially conservative approach that we take on Christmas and Birthday gifts, it was never something I would end up getting that way either. Besides, in most cases I've had enough games to play on standard gaming consoles.
But as the years have passed and the DS RPG catalog has grown with games I've had to force myself not to think about, my interest in the system has continued to swell, even up to now, when the console is in its twilight years.
Suddenly, after my recent birthday, I found myself with a rare combination of "cash-in-card" and gift card gifts that made the purchase of a DS possible! So I'm extremely stoked to be getting a used (but "Like New") DS sent my way via Amazon next week!
Since placing my order, I've been ravenously consuming online video reviews of various RPGS from various franchises such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Golden Sun. Where to begin! So many to play. So much turn-based goodness! And these games are so cheap!
I think... yep. I just peed myself a little bit.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I've got one of these, too. It's called my "Agenda Items" doc. Not everything on there stays on there. The order of priority can get switched around. Some items are canceled or replaced by new ideas that come out of the old ones. But it's the checklist of things on my agenda and it might just give you a sneak peak at what is to come!
SBP AGENDA ITEMS
Release Audio Book to 10 sites.
Create task schedule for Blade Runners.
Create Blade Runners Page and Description and announce. (Create incentive/contest/”mission” that will get five reviews on top five online digital retailers for SB:SE and Pilgrim's Progress.)
Re-write “Getting involved” page to include Newsletter, Blade Runners, and Alliance.
Produce “The Silver Dance” for podcast.
Market announce Brent Weeks interview in as many places as appropriate and give mission to Blade Runners. Look into facebook ad for interview.
Read Untold script and get back to Nathan.
Submit blog article or original article to Captain radio. See 2/15 email.
Troubleshoot more mixer involvement. Mixer training program? Phone time with Paeter? Brainstorm this, maybe with other mixers involved.
Develop Audio Book Services
Contact Mesa Tribune Movie Reviewer. Use ChristianCinema.com (and Clash) as publisher(s) and see how to get into screenings.
Contact Wally about a publicist
Work through links at http://www.the-cosmic-forces.net/
Continue working through contacts for http://www.audiotheater.com/atwho.html You're at the Ds now.
I'm going to keep this review fairly brief because frankly, I really don't want to spend any more time thinking about "Your Highness" than I have to.
What could have been a comedic love letter to fantasy movies of the 80's turned out to be a picture of the genre with poop smeared all over it.
"Your Higness" stars Danny McBride as the disgruntled, jealous brother of beloved and heroic first-born prince Fabious (James Franco). The solid cast, which also includes Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman, can't save this movie from continual, out of context, heavy handed and childishly crude sexual humor. The script reads like a strange blend of ancient high fantasy and modern 8th grade locker room. I'm not one for crude sexual humor to begin with, but it seems to me they could have gotten more laughs if their jokes had been more subtle, accomplished through innuendo while staying in a more consistent high fantasy tone. As it is, the jokes invade the movie over and over again like Chris Farley in a china shop. Hmm. Bad comparison. Chris Farley in a china shop would actually be funny.
McBride, who wrote the script, said jokingly in an interview recently that the humor of film might be enhanced by the use of drugs. I would imagine he's right and that a drug induced haze may be the only way to make these jokes seem the least bit clever.
There are two scenes that showcase some cool, slightly nostalgic looking spell-casting visual effects. These were a lot of fun to watch. And the creepy witch "mothers" in service to the evil wizard add some unsettling weirdness that I welcomed. But the heavy handed gags and a few minutes of brief "on and off" nudity that served no purpose except to objectify actresses ended up being just too much.
As you can imagine, I think you'd have to work insanely hard to have anything worthwhile to talk about after this movie. I'm really wishing I'd never seen it. But if I can steer anyone else from it, I guess that's something.
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Paul has been teaching that the Christian’s right standing with God (justification) and eventual transformation by God into an eternal, perfect being (glorification) is a done deal. Once we choose to place ourselves in God’s care through the saving work of Jesus, there is no chance of us losing the future promised to us by God.
God already went so far as to give up his Son to a life of difficulty and pain, which ended in humiliating torture. Jesus is not God’s son in the same way that we are the children of our parents, but God uses terms like Father and Son to describe his Trinitarian nature in ways we can partially understand. So imagine for a moment what it would be like for a parent to willingly give their child over and watch them be tortured for someone who doesn’t even know or like them. Or someone who even hates them.
Paul points out that if God is willing to do THIS, he won’t hesitate to follow through and give us everything else he has created, which has infinitely less value than the Son he has already given up for our sake. (v.32)
If any person, whether human, angel or demon, were to pronounce judgment on us, claiming that we belong in hell, they’d be wasting their time and breath. God, the judge of all, has already justified believers. This means that he has already declared them “not guilty”. Not because they are such good people, but because Christ offered the gift of payment for their sins through his death, proving he had the right and power to do this by rising from the dead.
Christians are “justified” because they accept this gift and trust in it. Jesus is in the highest position of authority next to God the Father (“at the right hand of God”) and uses that authority to make our case. So God is both the advocate and the judge of believers, and in both roles he declares them “not guilty”! (v.33-34)
Paul argues that no person, thing, force or event can separate believers from the “agape” (charitable, selfless love) of God. Suffering from disease or natural cause does not mean God has abandoned us. When we suffer financial difficulty and run short on necessities like food and clothes, God hasn’t stopped caring for us in the least. When we find ourselves in dangerous circumstances, or facing martyrdom, God is no less present and lovingly involved in our lives than before. (v.36)
Paul quotes Psalm 44, which acknowledges God’s power to bring about both victory and defeat or difficulty in our lives. Although God may not directly bring about pain in our lives, various instances of suffering are factors in a grand cosmic equation that God is in control of and uses to bring about his purposes.
Let’s jump back for a second to verse 28 of this chapter:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)
It’s because God is in control and using everything (even evil and suffering) to bring about the ultimate good for believers that Paul can say we are victorious even now in the middle of the pain and difficulty that life brings us. We are the victors in this conflict because of what Jesus has done for us out of love, and because of the eternal future that is already guaranteed to us no matter what we may experience now in this dot on the line of eternity we call a lifetime. (v.37)
As believers, nothing we experience or are influenced by in life, whether right now or in the unknown future, can separate us from God’s love for us, which was revealed through the life, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (v.38-39)
Next- How Do Jews Factor Into Christianity?
Coffee House Question- Do you ever have moments, periods or even seasons where you doubt that Jesus has really declared you “not guilty” and that your eternal future is guaranteed? What triggers your doubts?
Friday, April 8, 2011
Everyone who is signed up for the newsletter by April 10th (this Sunday!) will receive FREE download links for the Spirit Blade Enhanced Audio Book (AKA, "Archive Disc Vol. 2", featuring 6 1/2 hours of audio content, including a 56 minute commentary!), and the Spirit Blade: Special Edition Song Bundle!
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After about 28 hours of game play, I've finished my first play through of Dragon Age 2 on the Xbox 360. The thoughts I expressed in my "first impressions post" still hold true when all is said and done, though I feel like I can add some more that may be helpful to someone considering this title for future purchase.
In short, Dragon Age 2 is the result of Bioware trying to fix a bunch of things about Dragon Age: Origins that weren't broken. Inventory management is present virtually in name only, removing a significant strategic element of game play. The stakes are incredibly low when compared to the events of Dragon Age: Origins and the story has very little motivating it or tying quests together. Combat has been streamlined, resulting in less interesting or powerful-looking spell animations and the constant need to hammer on "A" to keep combat moving makes it impossible to move the camera around and enjoy what cool animations are present.
Although Flemeth makes an intriguing appearance early on and once more a few hours in, she is never heard from after that. No sign or hint of Morrigan, either. At the end of the game, a larger story is implied to be at work, making me wish the end of Dragon Age 2 was only the halfway point of a single, complete game. The experience ends up feeling more like a boatload of DLC or the opening 1/4th of a single game rather than the main content of a complete RPG or the first part of a trilogy.
An additional bug in the game prevented me from ever recruiting one of the main companions featured in the trailers for this game: Isabella. Bummer, since she was one of the few ties to the first game, something this story needed more of.
I think Bioware would have done well to make some of their significant changes optional. For example, instead of only allowing me to adjust the armor for my main character, put an "auto-equip" option in the game instead of assuming that process doesn't interest me. And instead of making me repeatedly hammer on "A" to continue attacking, give me the option to select "auto-attack", as I understand is possible on the PC version.
Finally, give me a story that is more far-reaching in consequence. I'd rather have a cookie cutter "save the world" story with strong character subplots than a small scale main plot with only peripheral epic consequence. And how about a game that lasts at LEAST 30 hours. I got 20 hours of game play from one play through of the EXPANSION for Dragon Age: Origins, and only 28 hours out of Dragon Age 2. I'm sure missing Isabella had some effect on my playtime, but I took on every quest I could otherwise and still only logged 28 hours. (Both of my play-throughs on DA:O were close to 70 hours with all DLC, though the total time added by DLC was certainly no more than 10 hours.
As I said before, there are certainly many elements that make this game addictive and enjoyable. But unlike so many of Bioware's RPGs, I can't think of a reason I'd want to play through this one again or spend any money on DLC that isn't dirt cheap.
Last night, after finishing Dragon Age 2, without skipping a beat (well I did play the awesome demo for "Torchlight") I started up a game of "Dragon Age: Origins, Awakening" for my second play through. I'd recommend that most Dragon Age fans do the same and wait to see if a future version of Dragon Age 2, which includes all DLC, will be a more compelling buy.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
In verses 16 and 23 of this chapter, Paul teaches that the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is the assurance of the reality of our right standing with God (justification) and our future transformation into God's perfected children (glorification).
Paul continues by saying that just as his presence assures us of the truth of scripture, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we pray. For various reasons, such as selfishness or ignorance, we don't really know how to pray and what to pray for. Some of what we pray for is in line with God's will, but much of the time, without even realizing it, we pray for things that aren't lined up with God's will for us and those we're praying for. The Holy Spirit is God himself, and so can "translate" our prayers into expressions that are more profound and fitting than any clumsy expressions that human words could formulate. (v.26)
It's been comforting to me to know that when I don't have the words, or when I know I'm not in a good mindset to pray, I can sigh and say, "Holy Spirit, I need you to pray for me, because I just don't have it in me right now. Put my mind and motives in line with God's agenda and bring his will about, whatever it is, in my life and in the lives of the people I'm thinking about."
Because the Holy Spirit is God, his expressions to God the Father on our behalf are completely in line with God's will. This is another way in which believers are "credited" with being completely in line with God's will. (v.27)
Grace (God's "undeserved favor") sets biblical Christianity apart from every other religion and philosophy. Where all other theistic religions rely on personal performance for divine approval, the Bible teaches that God credits us with his own perfect moral performance record. He doesn't rely on our efforts for our ultimate transformation. He has "stacked the deck" in our favor in enormous ways. In fact, every detail of existence is strategically positioned and used by God for the ultimate good of those who choose to love God, those who have been called by God to fulfill his purposes. In other words, those who genuinely place their trust in Jesus. (v.28)
The amazing future for believers is a gift, from start to finish, with zero dependence on our abilities or willpower. Although human choice is real and we are held responsible for our choices, God "simultaneously" knows his future children in advance, choosing them for this incredible future. He predestines them to become more and more like Jesus, ultimately becoming a flawless copy of his goodness. God's plan in sending Jesus into our world was not simply to give us an example and "show us how it's done". In God's agenda for the universe, Jesus is just the first of many siblings in God's eternal family who, like him, will reflect the love, goodness and perfection of God.(v.29)
Unlike the flaws in our man-made social programs, God's "no child left behind" program is perfect. Everyone God chooses in advance to be his child is also justified(made right with God) and everyone God justifies is also ultimately glorified(made perfect in both body and character). No exceptions. We aren't "cut from the list" if we have a bad day or a bad decade. God finishes what he starts and never gives up on those he has chosen to be his children, no matter what. (Philippians 1:6)
In light of this knowledge, Paul reacts by saying, "if God, who does all these things for us, is our biggest supporter, who can possibly be against us that is even worth mentioning?" Even Satan and his allies, who CAN derail us temporarily, have no power to take this amazing future from us no matter how hard they try.
I realize that I haven't gone into detail about the compatibility of human free will and God's power over the universe. The reason for that is because it isn't dealt with exhaustively here and isn't the focus of Paul's writing here, either. If that is a topic that you'd be interested in me going over, please let me know and I'll be happy to carve out some time for it in the future. My position is that both God's sovereignty (his ultimate control over everything) and our free will are completely compatible. (I wouldn't describe my view as Arminian or Calvanist.) In the meantime, I'd highly recommend "Beyond The Cosmos" by Hugh Ross, for a compelling, scriptural look at the topic and what multi-dimensional theory might be able to reveal about this hotly debated issue.
Next- The unbreakable bond between God and his children
Coffee House Question- How do you think this assurance of a Christian's future should effect the way we view and live out our lives now?