iZombie’s Final Season Provides a Satisfying Conclusion… Eventually

iZombie has become one of my favourite shows over the past few years, and as much as the thought of it ending is bittersweet, I was glad to see the series ending on its own terms, rather than being cut short without a proper conclusion as far too many genre shows are.

An official promo image for iZombieSeason four was absolutely brilliant, so I went into the fifth and final season with very high expectations… only to experience no small amount of disappointment.

I have a lot of faith in the writers, so I kept the hope alive throughout, but most of the season was slow, scattered, and just not all that compelling. They spent too much time on the formulaic weekly murder cases while spreading themselves thin over multiple major ongoing arcs. There’s a pretty gripping plot about the virus beginning to spread beyond Seattle, but it never really amounts to anything.

The biggest flaw, however, is the introduction of a new antagonist.

Looking back, iZombie’s biggest problem throughout the series is that it hasn’t done its villains justice. Blaine is a fantastic villain with a great actor behind him, but after season one, he just fell by the wayside and was never really utilized to his full potential. It made sense to move the focus off him for a while to prevent over-using the character, but eventually he should have taken centre stage again. But he never did.

In season four, Brother Love proved to also be a charismatic and frightening villain, but he was in the end unceremoniously killed off, and the show was once again left without a compelling central antagonist to hang the story off of.

Season five would have been the perfect time to bring Blaine back in a big way, but instead they introduced a new villain who serves pretty much the same role Blaine did — shady weirdo who started the outbreak — but it’s out of nowhere, and there’s just not the time to develop him into a memorable character.

Making matters worse, he ultimately gets pushed aside to make way for someone even duller to take up the mantle of Big Bad. The new character’s entire arc was a complete waste of time, and it takes up half the season.

Ravi Chakrabarti in iZombieWhat should have happened is that Blaine should have taken up the remnants of Brother Love’s movement and set himself as the leader of radical zombies. He could have reclaimed his role as the series’ main villain, and they wouldn’t have had to waste time developing new characters.

The other major issue — no pun intended — is Major. Man, the writers just don’t seem to know what to do with that character. Last season, he’d gone full evil, and a character I’d once loved become one I longed to see brought to a bloody end. In season five, all that’s pretty much ignored, and Major is back to being the white knight.

I’m especially bothered by the fact the show just kind of writes off the fact that last season Major rufied Liv and brainwashed her to be his wife. That’s really not the sort of thing that should just be laughed off.

Now, I think the mistake was making Major go bad in the first place. They should have just kept his and Liv’s relationship strong throughout rather than going to increasingly desperate lengths to add drama. From that perspective, his sudden redemption in the final season could be viewed as writing a wrong, but it’s still hard to swallow.

However, in the end my faith did pay off. It takes until the last two episodes, but the final season does eventually find its footing, and the ending is very nearly perfect. It wraps up every character’s story in a pretty satisfying way while providing the mix of humour, drama, and excitement that we all love about iZombie.

It’s just a shame it was such a rocky road to get there.

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Walking the Path of Exile

A few months back, I wrote a post about how I would probably never play Path of Exile. From that point on you had to know it was inevitable that I would.

The character select screen in Path of ExileI did not, for the record, end up trying PoE because my view of it had changed. Instead, it was due to my job with Massively Overpowered. MJ provides most of our PoE coverage, but since ARPGs are one of the main genres covered by my column, I feel I should have at least some minimal experience with the big names in the genre, including PoE. And since it’s free to play, there’s not much to lose by trying.

Path of Exile is not entirely what I expected, though it is pretty close.

Given its popularity with the “uphill in the snow both ways” crowd, I was expecting this game to have some quality of life issues, but I was not prepared for just how bad it would be. What stands out for me about Path of Exile more than anything else is just what an absolute nightmare inventory management is in this game.

Maybe it gets better later on, but at least to start, inventory space is severely limited. Making matters worse is that there’s no gold in this game; it’s all barter. Yes, really. So your “currency” also takes up inventory space.

The barter rates aren’t exactly generous, either. Town portal scrolls, for example, are actually fairly pricey, at least from the perspective of a low level character. I quickly realized the optimal way to play was to just not pick up the large majority of loot. It doesn’t sell for enough to justify the cost of taking a portal back to town to sell it.

For a loot-grinder game, this feels downright bizarre.

My witch in Path of ExileOh, yeah, and unlike any other game made in the last twenty years, you can’t double click or right click to sell things, either. You have to click and drag each item over to the sell window — which is entirely separate from the buy window, because screw you, that’s why — which itself has limited space.

On the subject of items, I do want to note how irritating it is to have your skills tied to socketed gems. Nothing like not being able to equip an item that’s an upgrade because its sockets are the wrong colour.

I also quickly realized that there isn’t actually much depth to PoE’s massive and much-applauded skill web. The large majority of the passives are very simple, and it’s not hard at all to figure out a build. It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that if I’m playing a class focused on magic and pets I should take the passives that buff magic and pets.

The only thing that makes it challenging is the fact that the damn thing is so huge and is not exactly laid out in the most logical fashion.

The really funny thing is that the actual gameplay — at least at low levels — is really easy. Right now I don’t even have to push buttons on most fights. My zombies can just mow down everything for me.

Near as I can tell Path of Exile’s vaunted challenge is based almost entirely on bad UI design. Clear up some of the QoL issues and you’re left with a relatively simple and pretty easy game.

Combat in Path of ExileNot that I’m really surprised. The kind of people who speak most loudly about games being too casual these days are generally not the upper tiers of players. They’re people who want gatekeeping so they can feel elite regardless of their actual skills.

All that said, there is one thing that impressed me about PoE: The world-building actually seems really good. The setting seems quite deep and fairly original, and I found a lot of interesting lore snippets out in the world. Each is narrated by some surprisingly strong voice acting, and as in Diablo III you can keep moving and fighting while you listen to the narration. It’s great.

Based on its reputation, I had not expected PoE to be a game that puts any effort into story at all, but instead the story seems to have had quite a lot of love poured into it.

This is a world I would like to spend more time in. I am more than a little tempted to keep playing based on the strength of the story alone. I’m just not sure it’s worth fighting with the gods-awful UI and inventory issues.