Review: Dark Matter, “Wish I Could Believe You”

I think the radio has been playing the Revivalists too much, because I keep wanting to type “Wish I Could Believe You When I Was Young.”

Anyway.

A promotional image for Dark Matter season threeAfter hoodwinking us all into thinking Six was gone, this episode is pretty much all Six, all the time. After a ruthless chemical attack by Ferrous, Six is the only survivor, and while he makes it off the planet in one piece, he’s far from out of the woods.

Things start to get weird as he experiences flashbacks to his previous life — before the Raza, before the memory wipe — triggered by exposure to the neurotoxin.

To be honest, I was able to see where this was going pretty early on. I’ll avoid spoiling it, but if you’ve watched enough sci-fi, you probably will, too.

So it’s a very predictable episode, but otherwise it’s not bad. A focus on Six is always welcome, especially after we thought we were losing him, and he gets to turn the tables on the bad guys in some spectacular fashion.

On the downside, there’s little room left for meaningful development of the other cast members, but that’s really only noticeable because Dark Matter usually goes above and beyond to give everyone something to do. One episode where that’s not the case isn’t the end of the world.

My one real complaint is not so much about this episode as it is the rest of the season up until now. If Six was never going anywhere, why fake us out like that? What was the point of that whole tangent? I suppose we’ve now made Ferrous into an even scarier threat than they already were, but did it need to take so much time?

Five (Jodelle Ferland) and Six (Roger Cross) in Dark MatterWe’re seven episodes in, and it feels like the season is just getting started. It feels overdue for us to get some serious development with the corporate war and the conflict with Ryo.

And I don’t think the next episode will solve that, either. It looks like Sarah’s story is going to take centre stage (bringing back the dead never has a happy ending — a good nerd like Five should know that). And I think that will be interesting, and I’m looking forward to it, but again, when do we return to the main story?

But hey, at least Six is back.

Overall rating: 7/10

The Mustering of Azeroth: Is Trouble Brewing?

Three down, nine to go.

Completing the monk class campaign in World of WarcraftI’ve now completed the monk class story in World of Warcraft. So far, every class story has been a bit inconsistent, to varying degrees, but this is much truer of the monk campaign than the rogue or warlock stories.

The monk story starts well. It’s intense, and it gives a clear and personal reason to hate the Legion right of the gate.

The problem is that after a while it stops being a monk story and becomes simply a brewmaster story. Even as a brewmaster main, this is a bit hard to get behind. Brewmaster is fun to play, but it’s far too silly a concept to carry a full story arc. To put it mildly, I have trouble taking the game seriously when it starts borrowing philosophy from Homer Simpson.

“Brew: The cause of, and solution to, all of Azeroth’s problems.”

This is a problem Blizzard often runs into. I like WoW’s sense of humour, but when the jokes become the meat of the story, they stop being funny pretty fast.

The ending of the base storyline is short and severely underwhelming in terms of both plot and gameplay, but on the upside, the 7.2 continuation provides a much more satisfying conclusion (the same was true for warlocks). The story’s still awfully brew-centric, but there’s some clever gameplay. At one point you imbibe a particularly potent batch of Storm Brew and are able to devastate an entire cohort of demons while moving at super speed (represented by the entire game around you moving in slow motion).

My monk surveys her grim handiwork in World of WarcraftThe real charm of the monk campaign is found not in the meat of its story but in the peripheral features. Fu Zan and Sheilun both have excellent acquisition quests and really fascinating lore. Seriously, if you haven’t read the lore book on Sheilun yet, go do that. Just… wow.

The frequent opportunities to revisit Pandaria are also welcome, and in many ways the monk campaign does feel like a good epilogue to Mists of Pandaria, which was one of the best expansions for story, despite whatever other flaws it may have had. After all the damage we did to Pandaria, it feels good to now be standing as one of its protectors.

The monk story also brings back a number of memorable characters from Pandaria. The Monkey King, of course, is always welcome to join me when I go grookin’.

But my favourite part was being able to recruit Taran Zhu. I know Zhu bruised a lot of people’s egos, but I’ve always felt him to be a very compelling and well-written character. After all of his distrust of us, his anger, all that he lost, to have him willing to follow my banner was an incredibly gratifying moment and, to me, the perfect coda to Mists of Pandaria.

I only wish the new characters could have been as compelling. Blizzard seemed to want to add some racial diversity to the monk followers, which is understandable, but the fact they’ve never really bothered to create non-Pandaren monk characters before now meant I got saddled with a bunch of nobodies I don’t care about.

Still better than Li-Li, I guess.

My monk strikes a pose in World of WarcraftThe monk campaign is so all over the map it’s hard to rate. At times, it’s thrilling or profoundly powerful. At others, it’s deeply disappointing. Overall, this won’t go down as my favourite class story, but I can’t say it didn’t have its moments.