Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as our favorite obscure RPGs, game music, and more.
Tyrion Lannister has been shown to be many things over the course of Game of Thrones: a world-class drunk, a top-shelf lover, and a survivor. He is not, apparently, a great general.
His campaign to take Westeros has thus far been... interesting. Since retaking Dragonstone—a generous gift on the part of his rather distracted sister—the Tyrion/Khaleesi megateam have run into one setback after another. Last week, their Ironborn fleet was captured and burned by the piratical Euron Greyjoy, who received a makeover during the offseason and is now a cross between Ramsay Bolton and Johnny Depp (and the show's worst character to boot).
This week, Tyrion managed to get half of Daenerys' army trapped at strategically non-essential Casterly Rock. He also opened the way for yet another key ally to be captured and killed. As The Ringer remarked this morning, Tyrion has thus far made Cersei look like Scipio.
As someone who has been known to enjoy the odd grand strategy game, I found myself wrinkling my nose at Tyrion's initial decision to split his forces. It's a greedy move by an amateur strategist—one that makes it easy for Cersei to divide and conquer his forces in relatively short order. He makes it sound like he's executing a grand pincer movement, but really he's just pursuing non-essential objectives for the sake of his own personal gratification. He wants to take Casterly Rock so he can rub it in his sister's face.
As the late, great Olenna reminds Daenerys at the beginning of the season: It's a mistake to take a clever man's advice at face value. "I've known a great many clever men," she tells Daenarys. "I've outlived them all."
Watching Tyrion flail makes me think of some of the basic rules of prosecuting a successful campaign in a game like Civilization or Hearts of Iron: Don't get greedy and push too far lest you get cut off from your base. Don't pursue too many objectives at once. Know your enemy (maybe ask Olenna if, you know, Casterly Rock is actually worth taking in light of its gold mines being empty).
Tyrion has thus far botched every single move, losing both his army and his navy while completely handing the initiative to Cersei. If Season 7 were Civilization, I would have reloaded by now.
Based on his success at the Battle of Blackwater Bay all the way back in Season 2, you'd think Tyrion would have the chops to lead an army. But as it turns out, he's much a better tactician than he is a strategist.
Or put another way: Tyrion would be a lot better at StarCraft than Civilization.
To be sure, he's had some bad luck. Euron is basically using cheat codes at this point, what with his ability to conjure a fleet out of nothing and launch perfect ambush after perfect ambush. But then again, even that can be potentially chalked up to carelessness on Tyrion's part.
Some have speculated that a spy has infiltrated Daenerys' camp. There's even a whole prophecy that alludes to her being betrayed in some way. If that's the case, then Tyrion forgot another rule: Put a spy in your capital city to keep other powers in the dark. I mean, Varys is right there.
I have no doubt that Tyrion and company will right the proverbial ship before the season is over. Indeed, it would have been boring if Dany had simply hopped on her dragons and torched the Westerosi army with the Unsullied at her back. And it's kind of fun to watch Cersei outmaneuver her foes left and right. I even remarked that it would be the most Game of Thrones thing ever for Cersei to ultimately conquer her enemies and win, only to be destroyed by the oncoming tide of White Walkers.
In any case, we'll see what happens. In the meantime, here's a personal plea to Tyrion: Send a raven to Sid Meier. It's pretty obvious that you could use the help.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: M Bison's Theme (Street Fighter II)
My celebration of the soundtracks starring on the SNES Classic Edition endures! This week, I shall talk about one of my all-time favorite fighting game tracks: M Bison's theme from Street Fighter II.
Bison's theme, like most of the music for Street Fighter II, is composed by the venerable Yoko Shimomura. Shimomura has contributed to some of the best soundtracks in the industry, including Super Mario RPG and Xenoblade Chronicles. She has a real knack for nailing an environment's mood, and her talent shines through in the stage music for Street Fighter II's king bad guy, M Bison (Vega, if you're in the eastern lands). I still get a rush out of watching M Bison cast off his cape to the accompaniment of those tolling bells. That simple bit of animation combined with the ominous audio cues let you know straight-up that you're in for the fight of your life, son.
Incidentally, M Bison is a nasty man, but I think it's kind of swell of him to provide a show for his followers (cultists? Prisoners?) in Thailand. Those dudes in the background really eat up the fight. The high-resolution sprites in the HD remake of Super Street Fighter II Turbo reveals one of the spectators is a woman holding a baby. Well, the kid's gotta learn about bloodsport sooner or later, I guess.
Mike's Media Minute
This week is already magical. Over in the film world, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk held off the Emoji Movie, taking #1 with an estimated $28 million. For a moment, I was going to weep for filmgoers worldwide. Atomic Blonde, which is more of a straight up spy film than the John Wick-style action film marketing portrays it as, came in at $18.5 million. That's a few million below expectations, but if the legs hold up, it should be enough for a sequel.
Speaking of legs, Wonder Woman is still performing at the box office. It's currently sitting at $395 million domestic. Around $8 million more puts it ahead of the original Spider-Man to become the highest-grossing superhero origin film of all-time. Going on domestic revenue alone, Wonder Woman is #8 in the Top 10 of all-time. It's been a great run for Warner Bros' DC Extended Universe, after the critical disappointments of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. (Both films made money.)
In a bit of odd news, The Hollywood Reporter says that wrestler John Cena has been signed as a lead role in the upcoming Bumblebee spin-off from the Transformers franchise. The film will be set in 1987, with young actress Hailee Steinfeld as the primary character who finds Bumblebee in a junkyard.
For Paramount, Bumblebee needs to be a success after the performance of Transformers: The Last Knight. The film took in a mere $128 million in the United States, with a worldwide total of just $568 million. That's still enough to make money, but it's the lowest in the franchise by a large margin, with the original making $709 million worldwide. Paramount has an entire slate of sequels and spinoffs for Transformers planned, so it needs to do better than Last Knight did.
Caty’s AltGame Corner
When I first played Lovely Planet in 2014, I didn't think it would end up becoming a trilogy. It was a pastel-colored, frenetic speed shooter that was sweeter than any other of its ilk. It was low-poly to the utmost degree, with a delightful soundtrack scored by composer Calum Bowen (also known by bo en). I wasted hours in it, with its floaty leaps of faith as I shot down bullets headed my direction. Lovely Planet was, well, lovely. Its sequel (Lovely Planet Arcade) last year was too, another first-person shooter with the same aesthetics that relied more on slower, more calculated approaches to combat. The third game in the Lovely Planet series veers completely off course from its predecessors: it's not a shooter at all.
Instead, Super Lovely Planet is a platformer. You're just a yellow bouncy ball, with no gun attached. The game's also in third-person for a change, a vast difference from both its prior installments. Super Lovely Planet has you navigating the same saccharine world, only with far more necessary precision and agility than ever before. If you were a fan of either of the prior games, it's an essential addition to your Steam library. The cherry on top of an unlikely trilogy. Super Lovely Planet is available for PC and Mac for $9.99.
Matt’s Monday Mornings
I went into Atomic Blonde aware of some of the story criticisms leveled against the film, but I figured as long as the action sequences were on par with John Wick I'd be fine. Well, the good news is that the fight choreography is definitely on par with director David Leitch's previous output. Unfortunately, the story is a real snooze until the last third of the film, and while it doesn't take away from the film per se, it acts as an inconvenient buffer in-between the fight scenes we all desperately wanted to see.
Atomic Blonde is stylish enough and Charlize Theron and James McAvoy are great as Cold War spies, but the film had some pacing issues. Plus, the twists and turns were largely forgettable. I still recommend the film if you're a fan of the John Wick movies, or even if you're a fan of movies that take place in the 80s (because the movie doesn't skimp on the period-details). Unfortunately, Atomic Blonde just feels slower than it needs to be.
This Week's News and Notes
- Arriving this week: A brand new USgamer podcast! We recorded a test episode a couple weeks ago, and we've hopefully worked out some of the kinks. Watch your podcast feeds on Wednesday for when the episode drops!
- And in case you missed it, we're streaming a lot more now! This week, Matt and Mike will be nerding out over Batman: Enemy Within and comics, and Nadia and I will be tackling the Final Fantasy XV Multiplayer Beta! Join us every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am PT/1pm ET for the USgamer Lunch Hour.
- After many years in Early Access, The Long Dark is finally primed for a full release this week, and it's bringing with it the first in a five-part story. To be honest, I've never had much time for survival games—I find the act of gathering materials dreadfully repetitive and boring. But The Long Dark's atmosphere is such that I kind of want to play it. I'm kind of a sucker for snow games. Caty will be writing about it Thursday for her Field Notes column, so make sure to keep an eye out.
- Also coming this week: The Final Fantasy XV multiplayer beta! Square Enix's fixation on turning Final Fantasy XV into a platform is poorly conceived, but we might as well enjoy the ride as we run around in gas station coveralls fighting knights and monsters.
- Capcom is preparing more games for the Switch, which means that we'll probably be getting some of the ports we've been pining for. On the other hand, Capcom is apparently in a sad, sorry state right now. Maybe a new Monster Hunter for the Switch will be the shot in the arm they need?
- Aside from watching Game of Thrones and ranting about Tyrion's tactics, I mostly spent last weekend playing the NHL 18 Beta. My verdict so far: It's decent. Most of my issues from last year's release still remain. I'll have some more thoughts on Wednesday, but I'd be lying if I said that I'm super excited about it right now.
- Dragon Quest fans mercifully won't have to wait in suspense for word on Dragon Quest XI's release in North America. Now to begin the countdown to the reveal of the Switch version.
- In case you missed it, Nadia is in the process of reviewing every single game on the Super NES Classic. Watch for her reviews on Tuesdays and Thursdays!
- Axe of the Blood God: This week's Axe of the Blood God celebrates the 10th anniversary of The World Ends With You, one of the best Square Enix RPGs to come out in the past 15 years. We also talk Miitopia, which Caty sadly didn't end up enjoying, and Pyre, which she did. Make sure to listen and subscribe!
Yuji Horii, famed game designer of the Dragon Quest series, makes an appearance with a swarm of Slimes in tow to share some exciting news! pic.twitter.com/ytHpJyozkd— Dragon Quest (@DragonQuest) July 28, 2017