August Update: What I’ve Been Playing, Reading, and Watching

As the summer season starts to wind down, many of us have been trying to make the most of it by getting away for a bit or meeting up with loved ones we haven’t seen in a while. Despite the past few months being a bit busier for me than it has been in a long time, I’ve been keeping up with some of my usual hobbies when I’m home. Here’s a look at what I have been spending my time on.

Video Games

Tomb Raider

[Credit: Square Enix]

The 2013 video game from developer Crystal Dynamics has been one of many games sitting in my backlog for the longest time. After completing Cyberpunk 2077 and GRIS I was looking to see what other games I could take up next. Seemed like a good time as any to finally go through Tomb Raider and add it to my completion list. Since spending part of my weekends playing it I couldn’t put it down.

The origin story of how Lara Croft becomes the fearless adventurer we know her to be, even if you never played the older games like I haven’t, is a gripping tale of survival and believing in your capabilities to save yourself and others from a murderous and lunatic cult known as the Solarii Brotherhood.

I’m pretty close to the end of the game, but have been spending some of my game time exploring the optional tombs and collecting any relics and letters I find along the way. Tomb Raider is so much fun and now I understand why this 2013 game received a lot of high marks when it was first released.

Neo: The World Ends With You

[Credit: Square Enix]

For the weeknights I can’t continue with Tomb Raider, the recently released Neo: The World Ends With You is another game that has been hard to put down but good to play in short bursts. The sequel to the 2007 Nintendo DS game The World Ends With You, Neo takes players back into the Reapers’ Game with a whole new cast of characters fighting their way out of this deadly competition.

The updates to the gameplay, graphics, and opening up the area of Shibuya even more to encourage exploration of this real life district in Tokyo has been one of the best parts of this new game. The main protagonist Rindo is a departure from the anti-social loner Neku of the first game, but they do share some similarities, such as Rindo keeping people at a distance despite having his good friend Fret participating with him in the Reapers’ Game.

I’m excited to see how this sequel ties into the first game and I’m anticipating the teased return of Neku later in the story.

Graphic Novel

Xena Warrior Princess Volume 1: Penance

A lot of the reading I’ve been doing in the past few months, in addition to reading a few other books on my list, have been graphic novels I’ve purchased or received as gifts. Just like my video game backlog, they have largely been stacked in a corner for quite some time. Luckily, I have been whittling down this stack and I’m nearly done reading them all. The latest graphic novel I have been reading is Xena Warrior Princess Volume 1: Penance.

I’ve been a fan of the Lucy Lawless led TV show from the 90s when it spun off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. When the show ended in 2001 I haven’t followed the comic books that ultimately continued or reimagined Xena’s story. I picked up Xena Warrior Princess Volume 1: Penance as a final comic book purchase when a local comics shop in New York City, St. Mark’s Comics, was having a going out of business sale. I used to visit that comics shop in my teen and college years, and I wanted a sort of memento from a place I loved visiting when I was in the neighborhood.

Penance is a bit of a retelling of Xena’s journey for redemption which differs a lot from the original TV show. However, it has been a nice nostalgia trip to read about characters who I loved as a kid, and have been drawn in the likeness of the actors who played them.

TV Show/Movie

Loki

[Credit: Disney & Marvel]

Disney has been on a roll with creating shows dedicated to the supporting characters of the MCU who aren’t always in the spotlight, like Wanda Maximoff and Vision in WandaVision and Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now, the god of mischief himself recently got his own show in Loki.

Loki starts off by answering a question that has long plagued fans since Avengers: Endgame, where did Loki go after stealing the Tesseract? The answer introduces us to the world of the Time Variant Authority (TVA) and lots of variant Lokis across different alternate universes.

Similar to WandaVision, Loki leans heavily on the weird and unusual while also alluding to Marvel’s Phase 4 which looks to involve the multiverse. Tom Hiddleston is in top form as Loki, and the show continues the interesting character arc that started in 2011’s Thor. Loki has been many things in the MCU, but his potential to be more than a god consumed by “glorious purpose” is at the center of the Disney+ show, which gives him an emotional depth and vulnerability we haven’t fully seen.

With Season 2 of Loki now confirmed, and the only Marvel show to get another season on Disney+ so far, I’m glad we haven’t seen the last of our favorite trickster.

Black Widow

[Credit: Disney & Marvel]

As the uncertainty continues with the pandemic, I personally haven’t felt comfortable going to a movie theater just yet. This means I’ll be missing out on the huge movie releases I would have watched on the big screen, like Black Widow. However, being a Disney+ subscriber means I can watch these films on the streaming service if I decide to pay an extra $30 to unlock a movie with premiere access. Usually I’m content with waiting until the movie is no longer locked behind a paywall, but because members of my family really wanted to watch Black Widow, and aren’t ready to go to the movies yet either, I made the rare exception with this one.

The long overdue standalone movie, featuring Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow gives us a deeper look into her backstory and how she ultimately became the heroic Avenger we all know and love.

While some feel the movie is too little, too late when we already know the tragic fate that befell Natasha in Avengers: Endgame, my family and I still enjoyed watching Black Widow. From the at times comical interactions with Natasha’s faux family and the stunning action sequences Marvel is known for, my family and I were thoroughly entertained for the two-hour runtime. Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova really stands out in Black Widow, and her scenes with Scarlett are among the best parts about the movie. Black Widow may be gone but with the introduction of Yelena, hopefully we will be seeing more of her in the MCU, if the end credit scene is any indication.

What have you been playing, reading, or watching lately?


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