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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Retro Review: Torchlight + Anthem Revisited

I have at last bowed to the inevitable and installed the Epic Games Store. It joins Steam, Uplay, Origin, and Battle.Net as other game launchers that I have installed just at this moment.

My character in TorchlightThis madness must end.

Like most people, I was drawn to the EGS by its promise of free games. The first I picked up was ARPG Torchlight. I’ve nursed a mild curiosity about the Torchlight franchise for a while, recently intensified by the buzz around the upcoming Torchlight MMO, Frontiers.

Torchlight is a very, very traditional ARPG in pretty much every possible respect. I could describe to you its gameplay or its story, but honestly whatever you’re picturing in your mind is probably accurate.

This is both Torchlight’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

On the one hand, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Torchlight works — it plays well, and it has no major design flaws.

However, it does feel incredibly samey. There’s very little here you haven’t seen in any number of other ARPGs. Torchlight doesn’t even do much to shake up its formula relative to itself. Boss mechanics aren’t really a thing, and if you’ve played one level of Torchlight, you’ve played them all.

I found this sense of repetition grew increasingly oppressive as the game went on. The early levels feel plenty fun, but after a while it just turns into pure grinding. The story is too paper thin to add any texture to the later levels.

Combat in TorchlightThere are a few little things about this game I appreciated. The most notable is that Torchlight is the first game I’ve ever played that offers a choice of death penalties. When you die, you can resurrect at your body for a loss of XP, at the start of the current floor for a small fee of gold, or in town for free. Clever — I like it.

Torchlight’s one nod towards setting itself from the pack seems to be that every class gets a pet that can help it fight, carry loot, and go back to town to sell stuff. Truthfully I found this impacted my experience of the game very little, but I do feel the need to point out that the pet I chose was a ferret with steampunk goggles, and that is definitely The Best.

I also did like how my class — vanquisher — played with positioning. A lot of her abilities can pierce enemies and ricochet off walls, which raises some interesting tactical options. It’s hard to aim, but being able to get the perfect ricochet off and tear through a whole cohort of enemies is pretty satisfying.

Torchlight was a decent ride early on, but by the end I was glad to be done with it. I’m still kind of curious to check out the sequel at some point, but I hope it improves on the first.

Overall rating: 6/10

A return to Antium:

A sign of things to come...In other news, the beginning of Cataclysm pre-events has caused me to start playing Anthem again, albeit on a pretty casual basis.

I’m glad I took a break to prevent burnout, but I’m also glad to be back. This game remains as fun as I remember it, and while the new content is very minimal right now, the lead up to Cataclysm does nonetheless provide some extra spice.

The main feature right now is a number of new free play events, but alongside those are subtler changes to the world. Strange crystal formations have begun to appear all over, and sometimes you can literally see a storm forming on the horizon.

As much as the game definitely needs a big new content update, I kind of like this slow rollout. It makes the world feel very alive. There’s some special about flying around free play and suddenly bumping into new enemy types without any fanfare at all.

The howls those new lightning wolves make are horrifying.

This also gave me the opportunity to check out the new stronghold, The Sunken Cell.

The bad news is I had a hell of a time trying to get a group for it. I did some reading and discovered Sunken Cell is considered an inefficient place to farm due to its puzzles, so I’ll try not to assume anything dire about the game’s population based on this (free play, for the record, is still hopping).

The Sunken Cell stronghold in AnthemThe good news is Sunken Cell is my favourite stronghold so far. It has a very twisted ambiance that I really like, the final boss arena is spectacular, and the story is intriguing, if inconclusive.

Here’s hoping Cataclysm proper keeps up this momentum.