For Honor Season 2

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Fog hangs low in Times Square, New York City

It is day 4 in my trip to New York City with my wife. While she goes to work, I remain alone, most of the time in our hotel room, where I spend most of my hours typing furiously into finishing the Red Whale. We’ll be here until next week, where we will move to an apartment space, thanks to Airbnb, and after a few more days we’ll be jumping on board a plane and fly back home.

Anyhow, once again my friends of Ubisoft has sent me a press release, again about “For Honor” and despite not having played the game yet, all the new content sounds really intriguing. I do hope to get a PlayStation 4 soon to catch up with all these blockbuster games.

Press release follows.

FOR HONOR SEASON TWO, SHADOW AND MIGHT, COMING MAY 16

Ubisoft announced that “For Honor” Season Two, Shadow and Might, will launch simultaneously across all platforms on May 16. Shadow and Might will bring new content to “For Honor” including two additional heroes, two extra maps, new customization items and gameplay updates. Maps and gameplay updates will be free for all players at the start of Season Two. New heroes, the lethal Shinobi and the fierce Centurion, will be available for free immediately for Season Pass holders on May 16, while all other players will be able to unlock them with their in-game Steel on May 23.

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In the war between the three deadly factions, Knights, Vikings and Samurai, two new Heroes enter the battlefield:

  • Shinobi (Samurai Assassin)
    – The Shinobi are silent warriors able to move with a dancer’s grace and kill with precision thanks to a lifetime of disciplined training. They wield the traditional Japanese Kusarigama.
  • Centurion (Knight Hybrid)
    – The Centurion sees the battlefield like a chessboard. Equipped with the reliable standard issue gladius, Centurions can bypass enemy defenses through strategic close-quarters combat.

The two new maps, Forge and Temple Garden, will expand upon the selection of multiplayer battlefields. Additionally, Season Two will introduce a new level of gear rarity – Epic gear – that will increase the maximum gear score along with a balancing overhaul for the entire gear stats system.

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Coinciding with the end of Season One, a new title update (Update 1.06) was released on Windows PC to improve network stability while introducing new gameplay changes and hero balancing. The update is planned to release on consoles very shortly. For Honor will continue to be supported post-launch with additional content and consistent gameplay balancing updates.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal in collaboration with other Ubisoft studios,* For Honor offers an engaging campaign and thrilling multiplayer modes. Players embody warriors of the three Great Factions, the bold Knights, the brutal Vikings and the deadly Samurai, fighting to the death on intense and believable melee battlefields. The Art of Battle, the game’s innovative combat system that puts players in total control of their warriors, allows them to utilize the unique skills and combat style of each hero to vanquish all enemies who stand in their way.

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Sapphire shows off Pulse graphics cards

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Sapphire has recently announced a bunch of new graphics cards – Sapphire Pulse. According to Sapphire, Pulse is a combination of performance, durability and great value. Factory overclocked, nice cooling and stylish design are the signature of this new series. The announcement coincides with the launch of Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 550, a modern cost- and energy-efficient ITX card.

RX 580: The beating heart of a gamer’s PC

Sapphire Pulse is all about providing PC users with choice and great value for money. Starting with the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580, this factory-overclocked model is dedicated to customers who seek a powerful, future-proof card that plays modern titles at maximum fidelity in 1440p @ 60 FPS. The card features a Polaris GPU with 2304 4th generation of Graphics Core Next stream processors, boost-clocked at 1366 MHz, and 8 GB of VRAM (also available in a 4GB version). The industry proven SAPPHIRE Dual-X system serves as the cooling solution, with dual ball-bearing fans and the SAPPHIRE Quick Connect feature for easy cleaning and replacement.

RX 570: Pulse of gaming in standard and small-form-factors

If the RX 580 is a little steep in price, you can instead, check out the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 570. Smooth 1080p gaming in high details @ 60 FPS. This model is powered by 2048 GCN stream processors that run at a 1284 MHz boost clock. The card is cooled using the quiet Dual-X two-fan solution, with an easy fan swap Quick Connect system in place as well.

The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 570 also comes in the ITX format for users who want to power their HTPC or small-form-factor gaming PCs. Boost-clocked at 1244 MHz and using only a single 6-pin power connector as well as single fan for cooling, the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 570 ITX is a showcase of Polaris’ power efficiency.

RX 550: Pumping new blood in entry level

And finally, if you are still looking for something that fits more in your wallet, then look no further, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 550 – an entry-tier model perfect for online games like League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League or Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Based on a modern Polaris architecture and sporting 512 GCN stream processors boost-clocked at 1206 MHz, the RX 550 is up to 5x faster than an Intel Integrated Graphics (HD 530) and up to 2x faster than the previous generation Radeon R7 250 card. The modern GPU also means better support for the latest display and video technologies, such as DirectX 12, FreeSync or H.265 4K encoding. The card is available with 4 GB and 2 GB memory variants. With a TDP of only 75W, a single quiet fan is used for cooling.

Red Sister

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You put a noose around a child’s neck and wait for the command to pull that lever. There must be something evil thriving within, for this child, no more than nine-years-old, to be sent to prison and sentenced to death. Cause no child is capable of committing actual crimes worth being sent to the good ole gallows, right? No? Oh bleed me, how ignorant of you. Obviously, author Mark Lawrence doesn’t give a shit. He likes to write about children and pre-teens doing bad stuff, the kind of stuff you wish your assault bunny could do to your enemies.

The first “Book of the Ancestor: Red Sister” doesn’t stagger or choke. It glides, toes brushing the surface of the lake, cutting the water into gentle waves. It’s beautiful to look, and in terms with the book, once you start, it’s damn near impossible to put it down. I ended up gorging through the pages, chapter after chapter, thinking, “Just one more.” It was like binge-watching “Game of Thrones” where you promise to stop after the next episode and you end up finishing the entire season.

I didn’t find the prose as lyrical or florid as you might find in other books. The words were put together to be straightforward, sharp with urgency, as the pace does throttle, and stops only for a moment to let you admire the world where the story takes place in. And frankly, there isn’t much to see. You’re stuck in a single location for the most part of the book, though the characters leave to go to other places once in a while, most of the exploration comes from the stories the characters tell each other.

“Red Sister” is the introduction of a large world where a thousand stories can take place in. And within the confines of that one location where the characters often huddle together after a long day’s worth of training, mentally and physically, they tell stories, rumors, and what’s up about their families. Together, all these micro-stories weaves into a larger and stronger narrative.

Mark Lawrence is being tricky here. Worldbuilding without actually going anywhere too much. That’s clever. And there are a lot of things in the book that tells us that this isn’t your typical fantasy world. It soars all the way up to the stars and these are the best bits to pick out while reading the book.

And all throughout, “Red Sister” is about building bridges with other people. It’s a story about relationships, about how characters cope with their struggles, how they become enemies to friends – (frenemies in some cases) – and eventually, into a family. Make no mistake, all the characters in this book are different, each with their own little backgrounds and personalities, and almost all of them, are extremely likable. Even the ones that, on paper, appear to be annoying.

But that one thing about this book that really nudged me, were the ninja nuns. Yes, this book is filled with ninja nuns. They throw shurikens and shit. Though while many of the characters remain badass, they are without their flaws, and they get their own asses kicked once in a while.

What’s frustrating here is that, Mark Lawrence had already declared that the remaining two books: “Grey Sister” and “Holy Sister” are already completed. And respectively, will be released in 2018 and 2019. That’s a damn long wait. There’s some serious shit going on by the end of “Red Sister” and it demands to be read immediately. And I’m not speaking about cliffhanger endings, oh no, no. Mark Lawrence puts you in a catapult and launches you thousands of feet into the air, without solace, without anything to hold on to, without letting you breathe.

It’s just fucking good! There’s no other way in how to say it.

Hard Times

This hardly requires a silly blog post but I did lose my mind for moment when I saw that Paramore was trending on Twitter. My first thought was, “Holy shit, new album!”

I searched and instead, found a new single, and I was like, “Holy shit, new single!”

It’s everything what you can expect from a Paramore song. Different. Fun. Catchy. There are some fangs hidden here and there, and if you dig deep enough, no doubt you’d find them. Some of the scenes brought flashes of some Lady Gaga aesthetics, only in a more brighter and saner style. Also the final part of the song with that sick beat felt so much like a modern day take on Daft Punk. It’s such an excellent, fun song. Love it in every way.

Hayley looks good in the video. Though I find the makeup a little too thick, making her look a little older than how old she really is (she’s 28, last I counted). I kind of miss her punk-rock years, and nothing beats her weird Tim Burton-styled looks and her getup during Wango Tango in 2014.

This song is definitely going down to my playlist while writing.

There’s a lot of crazy shit happening in the world right now. If you tune in to various media outlets and witness the fall of society through social media, it’s almost as if everyone is going through some sort of existential meltdown. Paramore is right with this song though, these are indeed Hard Times.

No doubt you’ve seen the video by now, but hey, I’m still going to post it here.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ goes into orbit

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For this article, images of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ are used.

With a lot of love and support from people all over the world, I was loaned Samsung’s newest flagship phones: The Galaxy S8 and S8+. And impressions over it have far exceeded than what we had expected.

After the entire Galaxy Note 7 disaster, Samsung comes back strong and hitting hard with the Galaxy S8 and the S8+. During their Unpack event, which was held in March 29 at New York, Samsung executives spoke at length about the new screen.

They call it: The Infinity Display. It sounds like Samsung is cashing in on Marvel’s next year’s almost-guaranteed hit “The Avengers: Infinity War.” In reality, the Infinity Display is just a fancy name for an improved dual-curved, pseudo-bezel-less screen. It’s OLED, meaning the pixels popping out of that screen emit their own light, which, in paper and in the ears, sounds cool. And honestly, it is.

You can even configure the screen into three different settings: 720p (HD+), 1080p (FHD+), and 1440p (UHD). Samsung even warns you that tuning up the screen into UHD with increased brightness will drain battery life faster. Well, no shit Sherlock. That’s among the reasons for giving us fast charging and fast wireless charging, right?

Part of what makes up the Infinity Display is the absence of a physical home button. This allowed Samsung to design the new Galaxy S phones with a much larger screen without bloating them up to incredulous levels. The home button is not missed as much as I thought I would, as the basic home, back, and menu buttons appear on screen already. If you think about it, a physical home button that does the same thing as the one on screen is a bit of a redundancy, right?

In the right side of the screen is a virtual drawer that you can slide out and bring out some Edge features, like People Edge and Apps Edge, which acts as shortcuts. It’s something that I personally never found useful, as there are simpler and faster ways to reach your favorite contacts list, and apps shortcuts can be sorted out anyway. Suffice to say, the People and Apps Edge only gives you a nice-looking, more organized way of navigation.

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I am a huge fan of stock Android. Just plain, bland, boring vanilla Android, for reasons that should really be obvious if you know your tech. And it finally seems Samsung has started listening to people. The Galaxy S8’s UX is all Samsung. And yet it looks so much like stock Android, simple and clean, it makes it hard to let go.

You can bring out all your apps by swiping up or down, which is really damn nice. Again, everything feels so clean and simple, navigation has never been this smoother on a phone. Also, it’s nice to point out that Galaxy S8 has 3D touch features. Tap and hold on to the app to bring out a pop-up menu that allows you to do choose a couple of things. Though, there is still a lot of room for further developments here.

My major complaint about the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and this is something I’m not alone, is the placement of the fingerprint sensor. Look, Samsung, we understand you have your own thing here, and you refuse to join the club of putting fingerprint sensors at the back of the phone, right beneath the camera, so instead, you put your sensor on the right side of the camera. It’s rather brilliant really. Actually – it isn’t. It’s annoying. I’m a left-handed person and it takes my hand a bit of a stretch to reach the fingerprint sensor. This is an even bigger concern for people using the Galaxy S8+, which is a bigger phone. However, when using my right hand, I didn’t find any problem with using the sensor, at all. So I suppose Samsung expects you to meet them halfway, eh?

There are even concerns that before people will be able to hit the fingerprint sensor, they would end up smudging their camera with prints. This wasn’t the case on the unit lent to me. I squeezed out the grease between the microscopic creases of my fingers and rubbed them all over the camera and it didn’t affect the picture quality.

However, the unit, black, or whatever bullshit shade Samsung has decided to call their version of black, is a fingerprint muncher. Only mere moments of admiring the phone, running my fingers along its glass finish, it was smeared with prints all over. It’s quite a nasty thing to look at, which is a shame, cause when cleaned, the Galaxy S8 and the S8+ look fucking good.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0.

Thus far I have not encountered issues with the fingerprint sensor, unlike my experiences on other devices, where it takes repeated tries for the phone to unlock. This is based on a single 24-hour experience with the phone. Nonetheless, I found the fingerprint sensor to be the most effective and convenient layer of security. I dislike the facial recognition and the iris scanner tech that Samsung is so proud of, simply because it makes you look like you’re taking a selfie. It might be Samsung’s way of gamification of things, but I just don’t like it. I’m not into selfies and it bugs me that Samsung is actually encouraging me to.

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Oh, speaking of selfies, picture-taking, whatnot, Samsung has integrated their own Snapchat-ish features onto their camera, both in the 12MP dual-pixel rear camera and the 8MP front camera. We don’t know why can’t you just use the other apps that does the exact same feature. In the light of things, I suppose it’s because Samsung is trying to save you time, effort, and memory space by providing something on the get-go instead of downloading them first in the Google Play Store.

It’s amazing to note that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are the first phones to integrate Bluetooth 5.0. This means a lot of things for the future. This means your paired devices can have a much farther range from each other. It also means fast wireless transfer speeds. But the best of them lot, is having enough bandwidth to allow two of the same device to pair to the phone. For instance, you can pair two Bluetooth headphones on a single Galaxy S8 unit. No need to share earpieces with your significant other. You can also pair two different speakers. It’s a technology geared toward the bubbling developments of the Internet-of-Things.

One of my least explored features of the phone is Samsung’s own digital assistant, Bixby. It functions the same way as Google Assistant and supposed to be better than Apple’s Siri, and something to go head-to-head against Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. Bixby is like the old S Voice that everyone hoped would just die and Samsung buried it long before that happened, hoping no one would even remember it. But Bixby is different. So Samsung says. Considering Bixby is Samsung’s own design, the AI is designed to do a lot more in in your phone such as change settings. In the Samsung website, it listed Bixby as “It’s constantly learning your ways so it can get better and better.” That’s so vague and scary at the same time.

In the left side of the phone below the volume rockers is a Bixby button. For Samsung to go this far as to put a physical button to summon the AI, we get the sense that Samsung has the intention to blow minds here. I get the sense that Samsung here intends to create a smart hub, integrating all Samsung electronics: TVs, refrigerators, washers, etc… into your mobile phone, with Bixby at its heart. My concern with Bixby is, do we really need it? Anyone who might want to connect their Samsung appliances to their phones, maybe. But for other people? I doubt everyone will want to use Bixby, let alone any digital assistants, save for a few bored questions. And in such cases, I wish Samsung had allowed the customization of the Bixby button into another application that you’d rather use most of the time. Going in-depth about Bixby requires an article of its own, so we’ll let this simmer down a little and go back into admiring the phone.

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ packs the best Android hardware you can have. Four gigs of RAM, Snapdragon 835, and 64GB internal storage that can be expanded using microSD card. It’s a flagship device, so of course everything in it was put together to give a full-throttle experience. It’s also IP68, so yup, take that phone with you to the pool.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and the S8+ is a great phone. Our local telcos will be happy to create promos and plans to rip you off when it launches in the country, which isn’t too far now, especially with pre-orders starting real soon. And if you pre-ordered, you can even get a wireless Bluetooth speaker. Give Samsung a clap folks. If the Galaxy Note 7 had damaged Samsung’s reputation, the Galaxies S8 and S8+ will redeem them.

Ghost Recon Wildlands: Narco Road DLC

I’ve been pals with a few Ubisoft employees since 2015 and they’ve been kind enough to send me Ubisoft-related news materials for the broadsheet I write for, along with the gaming website I’ve cofounder. Figured it won’t cause any harm to post the press release here as well. 

I’ve never played “Ghost Recon: Wildlands” yet, but a friend of mine had claimed it was pretty good. She gave it an 8/10 out of her personal rating chart and that’s good enough for me.

Press release follows:

GO UNDERCOVER IN TOM CLANCY’S GHOST RECON WILDLANDS FIRST EXPANSION, NARCO ROAD, COMING APRIL 18 

Ubisoft announced that the first Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands expansion, Narco Road, will be available to season pass owners simultaneously across all platforms on April 18. Season pass owners will have access to Narco Road one week before it releases as a stand-alone expansion on April 25.

Narco Road tasks players with infiltrating three gangs of smugglers led by the elusive El Invisible. Players will have to work their way up the ranks and earn the trust of the mysterious leader if they have any hope of bringing him to justice. Reaching El Invisible will require gaining the trust of three new charismatic bosses:

– Eddie Escovado: The self-proclaimed social media star and adrenaline-addicted leader of the Kamikazes gang.

– Arturo Rey: The mysterious leader of the Death Riders, a gang of riders who worship Santa Muerte.

– Tonio Mateos: The arrogant leader of the Jinetes Locos, a gang specializing in racing muscle cars.

To earn the respect of these bosses, players will complete more than 15 fast-paced campaign missions. In addition to these new story missions, four new types of side missions and racing challenges offer adrenaline-fueled action. Completing these activities will earn players fame and followers. The more followers a player acquires, the more interest they will get from the gang bosses, and the closer they will come to bringing down El Invisible.

Narco Road also features four exclusive outfits, nine new weapons and four new vehicle types. Traverse the massive Bolivian map in huge monster trucks, nitro-boosted muscle cars, powerful motorcycles and aerobatic planes. 

Additionally, all players will gain access to a new game update launching April 12 on consoles and April 14 on Windows PC. The update will introduce weekly live seasons challenges in the form of solo, co-op and community tasks starting April 18. Players who complete these challenges will be rewarded with up to three unique rewards per week. Challenges will be available through multiple seasons, each of them lasting six weeks and featuring a specific theme. In the first season, The Rise and Fall of Unidad, players gather intel on Unidad’s operations and combat the threat to the country.

In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, players discover a fictionalized future Bolivia, a few years from now, in which players must take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel by any means necessary. Behind enemy lines, they hunt down targets and discover intel, using any of the more than 60 vehicles available, including cars, motorcycles and even helicopters that they can commandeer. To topple the cartel, players have to fight their way to El Sueño, Santa Blanca’s ruthless leader, by breaking down the Santa Blanca drug cartel’s operation piece by piece as they sever alliances between the drug lords and the corrupted government. A second expansion for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, Fallen Ghosts, will be available soon, as well as an all-new PvP mode in the coming months.

Patch 1.0

Locked in 43,000 words, I feel I have overwritten things for the Red Whale. 

I know it’s said to finish the draft first before applying rewrites, but, it’s just not working for me. So I stopped writing forward and moved back a bit, all the way to the second chapter actually, and started making a few tiny fixes. 

These include:

– Shortening chapters. 

– Tightening sentences.

– Removed characters.

– Added new characters.

– Deleted entire chapters.

– Toned down the dark by two shades.

– Included new sub-stories for new characters.

– Deleted sub-story arcs. These were intended for future use.

– Picked up the pace.

With all of that I ended up with 38,000 words. I still feel there’s a lot to do here but for now I’m content and I’ll start working on new material.

In other news, spent an hour and a half playing “Super Mario Maker” and learned how to Shell Jump, P-Switch Jump, and Spring Jump. So far, Shell Jumps are the most difficult to do.