Category Archives: review

E3 2015 XBOX One Conference Quick Take Reaction (slack . . . jawed)

Great job summing up the XBOX Microsoft Conference this morning, and what a great conference it was!

 

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A Christian’s View of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Solas
Solas: good, reasonable, rational, mysterious, sometimes annoying, and . . . .

The review below was originally posted (by me) at Christian Entertainment Reviews.  Since that site is up but no longer active, I decided to place an edited version of it here.  Enjoy!  A short review of the dlc is now up, too:  Jaws of Hakkon, DA: Inquisition’s First Expansion, is Beautiful.

If you’re familiar with the Dragon Age franchise (by Bioware), you’ve probably already made the decision to play or not to play these role-playing games.  For some, a game with swearing and “sex” scenes is simply crossed off the list of playing possibilities, and Inquisition (2014; rated M17+) is no different from its predecessors in that arena (except that the “sex” scenes are more “human” than ever before, according to fans).

But with a name out of Catholic history, perhaps you’re curious.  I was, and, having been fairly unfamiliar with the franchise (I didn’t know about the personal relationships aspect), decided to check out the newest installment.  Let’s clarify something up front before we move on, though:  viewing possible “sex” scenes is not part of any quest except voluntary “romancing”—a player can romance certain characters, or not—and avoiding romance has little impact on the rest of the game.  This game is not anything like an “X” rated film–more like an R in parts.  Certain characters who make up your party can be pretty much ignored, too, if desired.  On the other hand, there is no sex shown when romancing the traditional and humble Cullen, who is an example of someone who wants a healthy and permanent relationship.

Continue reading A Christian’s View of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Tales from the Borderlands at Christian Entertainment Reviews

Not all of my video game articles will be at Christian Entertainment Reviews, but when they are, I still want you to know about them here.  Over Christmas break my son and I decided to get the new episodic video game series from Telltale Games, Tales from the Borderlands.  Here’s my review of it – thanks for reading!

Beautiful, and therefore raider-free, town image from Tales from the Borderlands.
Beautiful, and therefore raider-free, town image from Tales from the Borderlands.

Tales from the Borderlands: A New Episodic Graphic Adventure Series

“Please stop shooting me.” Loader Bot

“If you have a pulse and aren’t easily offended, you’ll love it.”  VB|Gamesbeat (96/100 gamescore)

Most Christians may not be all that familiar with the Borderlands series of games, considering that they’re quite violent and gory. I’m not here to review or warn you away from the regular Borderlands video games, but I can tell you about the first episode of the new interactive story series, Tales from the Borderlands. This first installment of the five-part series came out on November 25, 2014, with the next episode (“Atlas Mugged”) planned for release during the last week of January 2015.

. . .  Episodic games are sort-of like a cross between reading a book or watching a show and playing a role playing game (RPG). The player is given choices in dialogue as the story moves along, and these choices define which branch of the storyline tree the player continues to move along. The storyline tree makes for built-in replayabliity.

To read more, please go to Tales from the Borderlands: A New Episodic Graphic Adventure Series.

Garden Warfare Review at Christian Entertainment Reviews

I was recently asked to contribute at Christian Entertainment Reviews, and I gratefully accepted.  Below is the beginning of my first post there with a link to continue reading.  Thanks for checking it out!  You might find other reviews to tickle your fancy there too.

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What’s the Best Shooter Ever? Garden Warfare (PvZ)

Ok, so saying that the childish-looking Plants vs Zombies game, Garden Warfare, is the “best shooter ever” might be a bit subjective, but I’m not the only one adult with that line of thinking.  Sprinkled all over the internet are almost apologetic expressions of this same sentiment from experienced gamers–that is, by older teens or adults.  But Game reviewers are less shy in praising Garden Warfare:

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare’s bright colors, cartoon graphics and humorous approach are the antithesis of most . . . shooters.  But don’t be fooled.  It’s as good as any out there – and very likely an awful lot more fun.  (Jaz Rignall at USGamer.net)

William Schwartz at AttackoftheFanboy.com also approves:

Garden Warfare is more deliberate, and involves more strategy than you would think, considering its cartoon exterior.  Digging into the different characters and the different special abilities for each, there’s a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay.

What exactly is Garden Warfare (PvZ)? 

Alien Flower, available from Legends of the Lawn downloadable content (free).
Alien Flower, available from Legends of the Lawn downloadable content (free).

Garden Warfare, rated “E” (everyone), is a third-person shooter—meaning that you see the back of your character as you blast away (a possible down-side being that the right-of-center site makes aiming less intuitive).  It’s populated by cute, weird, and . . .  [continue reading]

A Destiny Black Garden Photo Album

[Note:  For those searching for the religious, or any possible biblical, aspect of Destiny, please see Destiny’s Story: The Nature of Evil and It’s Corrupting Influence.]

Some photos taken while in the Black Garden.  If by chance you want to use any, you may as long as you include the url of this page.  If you want to know more about the game, you can see Destiny, A New Kind of Online Multi-Player Video Game and Destiny’s Notebook.  Thanks!

A crazy, multi-frame shot from right before battling the Vex and Sol Progeny.
A crazy, multi-frame shot from right before battling the Vex and Sol Progeny.

Continue reading A Destiny Black Garden Photo Album

Destiny’s Notebook

[Note:  For those searching for the religious, or any possible biblical, aspect of Destiny, please see Destiny’s Story: The Nature of Evil and It’s Corrupting Influence.]

This is the ongoing notebook, or journal, of a guardian in Destiny.  It contains information on gameplay, game characters, and the storyline.    . . . last updated on 10-7-14.  For the my “likes and don’t-likes” of the game, see the second part (especially) of Destiny, A New Kind of Online Multiplayer Video Game .

Second Birthday

Well, this is awkward.  And sad . . . that is, I’m sad.  The reason:  one moment I’m battling some earth invaders, the next I’m talking with this little floating angular thing which appears to be staring at me with one bright bright eye, and he – yes, he – is saying how I was dead for a long time but I’m alive now . . . by some unstated, unexplained voodoo . . . and how he’s my “ghost.”  Then run run run.

So, what year is it?  2726?*  Did my family leave any descendents that are now alive?  The Traveler I know of, but all this is new.  Or, I guess, the result of what was beginning when I was killed so many years ago.  So, now there are these “ghosts” The Traveler made before it went into a sort-of hibernation, and I draw power (“light”) from my ghost, or is it The Traveler?  This power is awesome, so don’t think I’m complaining.  Just confused, so far.  Hmmm.  I am a powerful Titan now, but with much to learn . . . and of my past, much to forget.  Even my name, apparently, since it is Amenta but my ghost only calls me Guardian.

A Later Day

I have learned much but haven’t been in any mood to write.  I have done what I ought to, have been going through the motions since my second birth, and now am beginning to get used to my very unexpected new life; all that I knew, all the people I liked and loved, gone . . .  in a flash . . . and yet everyone wants to dance.

Here’s a pic of me.  Not very good, taken before sunrise at The Tower.  But it’ll have to do for now.  I will return later with some of my experiences, but know one thing – it is as annoying as you have imagined having to take a potty break.  Oh, and know a second thing.  With all the incredible tech that goes into the armor, weapons, ships, teleportation, etc., they still can’t get me a helmet with night vision . . .  How crazy is that??

Me, Amenta, at The Tower (yes, I have legendary blue armor on - a bright thing in my new life).
Me, Amenta, at The Tower (yes, I have legendary blue armor on – a bright thing in my new life).

The Sword of Crota – Oh Happy Day!

I had the most fun today.  Patrols can be fun and relaxing, and the missions – well, they can be fun, but those thick-skinned bosses can be a bit tedious as well!  But then I get this mission to find the “Sword of Crota,” some old super powerful sword.  Sounds like a legend that turns out to be, if anything, just an old cool looking piece of steel.  But no, I found the Sword of Crota and it was all that it was touted to be.  Wielding that thing against enemies was like playing an aerobics version of whack-a-mole.  Yes, you actually whack the ground with a sword!  You can slash around with it, too, and slicing up the annoying Hive lackeys was quite satisfying.  Of course, I defeated the three powerful Swarm Princes that guarded it.  They’re not very good guardians if they can’t stand up to their own weapon.  But then again, look who was wielding it.  😉

(I wonder when I’m going to find a blade I can wield against enemies.  That Crota Sword was just so much fun, but I find there is some force that doesn’t allow me to pick up any Hive swords I find laying around.  Hmph.)

How is ANYONE Alive Anymore?

I have been through many battles now on the planets we had settled in our Solar System.  Besides the heart-wrench I feel when seeing all things abandoned and destroyed, especially on wild and beautiful Venus, there are all the enemies.  The Traveler has so many enemies – why?  The Darkness is The Traveler’s foe, but why does The Darkness have so many apparent minions that fight each other?  How can these “civilizations” go on, fighting and killing so much?  Well, THIS guardian is helping to relieve them of their miserable existence, but, there are just so many.  It’s like they breed and grow to adulthood daily . . .

In any case, there are four different enemies:  Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal.  The Fallen; I expected a race having the name “Fallen” to be human, at least, but these things have four arms.  So, the Fallen are insectoid humans?  They are piratical with no real home, apparently feeling most comfortable with their military “houses”–one is called “Devils,” another “Exile,” again making me wonder about a possible human past.  I’ve been told that the weird purple spew that I see when they die is their souls coming out, but I’m going to ask around about that more; I wonder if The Speaker knows?

The ancient, undead Hive are moon-based, but invade Earth too, fighting us and the Fallen.  Their moon settlements are vast and amazing, even though their floors, chambers, halls, outdoor grounds, bathrooms (no doubt), and anywhere a Hive member has walked, are littered with human bones.  I don’t know that humans are their enemies so much, more like their meal source.

The Vex; how I hate the Vex.  They occupy Venus, and they are biological-mechanical hybrids (abominations that, to all appearances, have traded in their biological bodies for mechanical ones) with no desire whatsoever to communicate – exterminating us is their only desire.

I wonder if the Cabal are just imperialistic opportunists who don’t care about The Darkness or The Light, but only go forth and conquer in the name of power and money?  Whatever their motives, they fight any Vex they see on Mars (a VERY GOOD thing), but they also attack Guardians, so . . . another day, another enemy.

Mom, Where do Servitors Come from?

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One of Aksor’s servitors.

Went on this strike mission on Venus, at Ishtar’s Sink, and ran into an Archon Priest.  What a bear and a bug it was to take him down!  He was an amusing foe, though, with his wicked laugh and his presumed curses at us.  His name was Aksor, and he was of the Fallen House of Kings.  Besides noting my team’s victory, I wanted to record something else odd and amusing the Archon did.  Servitors are everywhere and I don’t know how they all come into being, but Aksor makes servitors appear to assist him in an odd way.  Maybe he doesn’t do this all the time (or didn’t, I should say), but as I was standing in front of him at one point, he squatted – yes, squatted – and emitted purple energy all around him.  Then pops out a servitor.  OK.  So, was Aksor really female and she births those things, or is Aksor going to the bathroom, or is Aksor a male that drops a ball now and again?  No matter which might be correct, all methods would imply either a limited number of drops or a necessary regeneration time.   At least it didn’t smell.

New Friends

Banshee-44 and Phil
Banshee-44 and Phil

So I’ve been around for a while and have made some new friends.  I took a pic of two of them together – aren’t they cool?  One is the gunsmith at The Tower, Banshee-44–he’s on the left in the photo.  The other is Phil, a strapping Exo Warlock; he’s good to have by your side on strikes.  He has those exotic Sunbreaker gauntlets, which are just so awesome (and I lent him some coin for their purchase . . . . he owes me  ^_^  )!

Banshee-44 and Phil are both Exos and get along great.  I don’t mind just listening to them talk, especially since Banshee-44 is just so funny.  When they first met Banshee dryly said to Phil, regarding his face paint, “Are those bite marks?  Nasty . . . “.

When I first met Banshee, he said, “Have we met?  I know that gun.”  One time when I approached him it was early, and he said, “Nothing like a new gun in the morning.”  “Indeed, indeed,” I said to him, and “If I purchase a new firearm from you, perhaps all three of us could go have some coffee and danish together.”  I didn’t end up buying a gun that day, but next time I do I need to be there in the morning so we can get our Danish!

The Queen’s Wrath

The Awoken Queen said she expected me to answer her calls for assistance after she helped me gain access to the Black Garden, and she has wasted little time in calling!  But as the Queen is rewarding diligence handsomely for doing her bidding, I am pretty much at her beck and call.  She has two new shades to color armor, which I would love! – but, one of them requires that I do A LOT of her quests.  I will see if I can accommodate her while her emissary is with us at The Tower (she is only with us for about two weeks, though I’m pretty sure she’ll be back again).  It IS pleasant seeing her ship docked out past the large tower gate courtyard, with its huge streamers flapping in the breeze.  Her bounties can be fairly easy, but her missions . . . that is another thing altogether.

The Black Garden

What a time I had at The Black Garden.  I made it there, and I made it out alive; I fought the Vex and the Sol Progeny, alone, and have lived to tell of it.  Or rather, I would live to tell of the beauty of that garden.  If I can find a way back to the garden, I will go and maybe be able to get an image of it, an image worthy of its beauty and remembrance.  The images I have seen of it come out so green, and no doubt that is the spiritual essence of the place – or so it was.

The walkway in the center, which is part stairway and travels downward, is beautiful in itself; but from it you can see the utter vastness of the garden.  Its huge, depthless chasms, its field of black flowers that release red petals that float, float up, up; it’s so odd, and it inspires awe.  Before you get to that area there is an interior sort of winding garden area with pools of water.  I mention this because they, too, release something that floats–water coated gas bubbles emerge from the water, travel upwards, and dissipate.  I want very much to return.

I want to mention a curious thing related to the enemy that “lived” in that timeless, placeless place.  What is called The Black Heart was there, a disturbing, roiling mass of what looked like black oil.  It had called the Sol Progeny to fight me, and these three Sol Progeny had been–to all appearances–lifeless statues.  The Progeny were brought to life and emanated dark energy.

The thing I find curious is that I too was lifeless, and I was brought to life and draw on the power of the one who reanimated me, The Traveler.  His energy is light, though.  Just something that occurred to me.  There are powers in this universe that control life and death, that can channel their own power through a living thing.  I wonder if it’s someone’s unchangeable “destiny” to belong to a power that is dark or a power that is light.  I’m glad I’m with the light, but for those with the dark, do they ever wish they weren’t?  Do they ever think of “changing sides,” but cannot?  Or once your being flows with whichever energy, is it even possible to think of being different?  I’m thinking of it objectively now, but I am not tempted to change.

Who Am I, Really?

I have memories of battle, sort-of, and I knew how to use a high powered weapon right after my reawakening . . . it all seemed right and seemed to fit.  But, I don’t know if all my “memories” are really my own.  I mean, it dawned on me that I was found by my ghost amongst a ton of cars that were obviously in a jam, no doubt a jam that was headed outside the city; I wasn’t found at a battleground.  All were dead, and I had seen more than one skeleton.  All the dead there were very dead for a very long time.  Yet, somehow, I was reanimated, flesh and all.  Since The Traveler has the power to do that, He no doubt has the power to make me “know” things, like how to handle a weapon or two . . . and make it seem like my own memory.  Or maybe I happened to be a Guardian (soldier) who happened to be running away . . . yeah.

I wonder if any Warlock has figured this out yet, but is simply holding out on us.

Black Garden Memories

I asked my ghost, and he was able to provide me some images from The Black Garden!  It’s exciting, even though they are not very good.  My ghost is more than amazing, but images simply can’t capture the all-encompassing beauty of The Black Garden.  Here are just a couple, but I’ll be putting more together in a little photo album.

Me and my ghost at the Black Garden, just before the battle to destroy the Black Heart begins.
Me and my ghost at the Black Garden, just before the battle to destroy the Black Heart begins.

 

Me sitting at an interior garden area.  It was so peaceful . . . after I eliminated my attackers.
Me sitting at an interior garden area. It was so peaceful . . . after I eliminated my attackers.

As Days Go By

The Queen’s Emissary will depart soon, but I’m confident I’ll at least be able to buy a couple of weapons (and the “class armor” item, which for me, is just a fancy butt banner) before she’s gone.  I was able to win her favor to a degree and obtain the Queen’s Emblem and a new shade of color for my armor–they are both very nice.  But I will not have done enough by the time she leaves to have earned the special armor shade or the exclusive emblem.  I’m a good guardian, but I not the best–at least for her purposes.

Destiny, on Venus, fun in purpleI know guardians who like fighting it out in the Crucible and who have guardian friends who can accompany them on the hardest missions.  Those kinds of things are needed to win the highest favor of the The Lady of the Reef.  I do some “strikes” with others, even the hardest Vanguard strikes, but the very hardest things, no, I’m not qualified yet to do them.  My friend Phil, whom I mentioned earlier (and he’s in that great photo!), he’s very good but he’s still not able to do the hardest missions yet.  He and I–we do many missions, even hard ones–by ourselves; still, the social guardians are the most highly rewarded.

PS:  It took many tries at The Lady’s “Kill Order,” but I finally won the Queen’s Armor (the “chest plate”).  I have it on in the two photos here.

Me with my new helmet (Helm of Saint-14) and Queens Guard Plate armor, on Venus.
Me with my new helmet (Helm of Saint-14) and the Queen’s Guard Plate armor, on Venus.

 

More Guardian Training, Fewer Missions

Now that the Queen’s emissary is gone, someone else has set up shop in our tower:  Lord Saladin.  He’s from the Iron Banner and has some nice things for sale for those who prove themselves in the Crucible.  I’m not very interested in training against guardians in the Crucible (I much prefer targeting real enemies), but he’s offering special bounties and missions there; Phil already made a reputation with Lord Saladin in his first day of doing his quests!  Anyway, the machine gun he offers is just  . . . awesome.  It’s practical looking but in a clean, stylish way, with just the right amount of embellishments.  It’s called “Jolder’s Hammer.”  So, maybe I’ll be persuaded to do Saladin’s wishes!  Or if Phil is nice, he may buy me one of those pretty machine guns.  🙂

The Queen had given guardians missions to do in the worlds, but no so with Saladin.  So, I’ll just be going around, doing some strikes and such, and collecting Relic Iron from Mars and gathering all the other collectable things a guardian can to improve armor and weapons, and to bring to the guilds for trade.  I’ll have enough this week to buy the last weapon that I want that is actually purchasable right now.  After that, I’ll have less to do.   I think it will be time to catch up on some reading!  I might as well add these photos I took, too.  I wish they could really capture the beauty or other aspect of the place that I see when I’m there.

This area is so beautiful - this photo is only part of the whole.  There's a little pond at the bottom of the waterfall, and I often see a rainbow there.  So very peaceful compared to much of . . . everywhere.
This area is so beautiful – this photo is only part of the whole. There’s a little pond at the bottom of the waterfall, and I often see a rainbow there. So very peaceful compared to much of . . . everywhere.
Venus is so beautiful, but it has its creepier and drearier aspects.  Red water, decrepit buildings, bizarre clouds.
Venus is so beautiful, but it has its creepier and drearier aspects. Red water, decrepit buildings, bizarre clouds.
Venus, how beautiful it was; the manmade there didn't take over and overwhelm the natural.  But Venus' nature can't be tamed.  White-blue "lava" can be seen behind the buildings as "comets" fly through the air.  I call this my Venus at night postcard.
Venus, how beautiful it was; the manmade there didn’t take over and overwhelm the natural. But Venus’ nature can’t be tamed. White-blue “lava” can be seen behind the buildings as “comets” fly through the air. I call this my Venus at night postcard.

 

Going All Out Against The Hive

Since Eris Morn came to the Tower, I’ve been sent off to kill off more Hive enemies.  This is OK by me, but I haven’t gone after Crota himself yet . . .   Eris is interesting and I’d like to know more about her, but she’s pretty tight-lipped.  Or, maybe, she doesn’t really know enough about herself–what happened to her–to even tell me.  I know she’s a former Guardian who is the only survivor of a group that hunted Crota, but how the Hive took away her light, and how she ended up having darkness and Hive elements while still remaining with The Light, is a mystery.  At least to me.  Why does she hold that orb of dark light with a shard of something floating in it?  Since the Hive had used a shard of the Traveler to weaken it, maybe Eris is doing the same thing to The Darkness.  I hope we can find out more about her.  Maybe she’ll open up at the Tower pub??

________

* The game is  set 700 years in the future, but from “near” our present time, when – as you can see in the opening of the game – humans had landed on Mars.  So, I made up a “we landed on Mars” future date and added 700.  This is the date for my character’s rebirth, not an official date from Bungie.

For a recent review, or impression, of Destiny after its first DLC was released, see Don’t Buy Destiny . . . Unless (honestly, if you like shooters and that’s what you’re after, Garden Warfare might be a better choice).

Review: “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”

Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover
Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover

by Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press 2009)


“This straw-targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is to say, among those who would not allow a first-year student to get away with the vulgar caricatures in which they themselves indulge with such insouciance”
(p 52).

Terry Eagleton’s invective against anti-theist’s claims about religion, and Christianity in particular, is one of wit, humor, and sauce.  One hopes that those that are curious about the popular anti-God rhetoric, but who are basically outsiders—neither informed and faithful Christians or card-carrying anti-theists—will be the prime readers and beneficiaries of this “lecture series” book.  Not that there isn’t a good deal that those in the other groups can get out of it.  Indeed, as the Booklist review asserted, “serious Christians may be [Eagleton’s] most appreciative readers.”  But on the opposite side Eagleton himself opined that there was not a “hope in hell” that Ditchkins, that is Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, would read his work or be moved by it.

Eagleton, who is a professor both of English literature and culture theory, and who also writes philosophically (in fact, this book has been rated as important in philosophy), presents how the various arguments against religion that Dawkins and Hitchens vehemently espouse are very seriously misinformed and flawed.  “. . . the relations between these domains [poetry and other language types] and historical fact in Scripture are exceedingly complex, and that on this score as on many another, Hitchens is hair-raisingly ignorant of generations of modern biblical scholarship” (p 54).  He shows how Dawkins’ views, which reflect Victorian era progressivism, are simply unreasonable and unrealistic.

“We have it, then, from the mouth of Mr. Public Science himself that aside from a few local hiccups like ecological disaster, ethnic wars, and potential nuclear catastrophe, History is perpetually on the up.  Not even beaming, tambourine-banging Evangelicals are quite so pathologically bullish.  What is this but an example of blind faith?  What rational soul would sign up to such a secular myth?” (pp 87-88).

Regarding Ditchkins and science, Eagleton discusses how “Dawkins falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science” (p 6), and that “His God-hating is by no means the view of a dispassionate scientist commendably cleansed of prejudice.  There is no such animal in any case” (pp 65-66).  “[Scientists] are peddlers of a noxious ideology known as objectivity, a notion which simply tarts up their ideological prejudices in acceptably disinterested guise” (p 132), and Dawkins, for example, “castigates the Inquisition . . . but not Hiroshima” (p 133).  While anyone is welcome to criticize superstition, the current culture has sunk into scientism, which refuses to take anything seriously that “cannot be poked and prodded in the laboratory” (p 72).  “Ditchkins does not exactly fall over himself to point out how many major scientific hypotheses confidently cobbled together by our ancestors have crumbled to dust, and how probable it is that the same fate will befall many of the most cherished scientific doctrines of the present” (p 125).

In chapter 1, Eagleton presents basic Christian beliefs not only to show that Ditchkins does not have an understanding of them, but to also promote them as quite respectable.  Of course, throughout his book Eagleton gives little quarter to “fundamentalists;” he praises Jesus and his radicalness, and those who actually follow His teachings to help the poor and seek justice.  He also contrasts this Christian mandate to love socially to the liberal humanist (of which Ditchkins is an example) legacy of love being kept private.  Yet another significant difference between Christianity (and for persons like Eagleton who hold a more socialist view) and the liberal humanism of Ditchkins is the matter of sin and redemption.  To Ditchkins, there is nothing to redeem.  Humanity is steadily progressing, even if catastrophes like World War II have happened.

“In my view,” Eagleton writes,  “[scriptural and orthodox Christianity] is a lot more realistic about humanity than the likes of Dawkins.  It takes the full measure of human depravity and perversity, in contrast to . . . the extraordinarily Pollyannaish view of human progress of [Dawkins’] The God Delusion” (p. 47).  Christianity believes that there are “flaws and contradictions built into the structure of the human species itself,” and so violence in history is not just due to historical influences; and Christianity is hopeful.  It is “outrageously more hopeful than liberal rationalism, with its apparently unhinged belief that not only is the salvation of the human species possible but that, contrary to all we read in the newspapers, it has in principle already taken place.  Not even the most rose-tinted Trotskyist believes that” (pp 48-49).

There are all kinds of fun passages like those already quoted in Eagleton’s book.  It can be very useful to Christians who want to be able to cite a seemingly non-Christian critique to the anti-theist crowd.  Conservatives be warned, however, that Eagleton presents and is supportive of Liberation Theology (he is a Marxist who aligns himself with “tragic humanism”), and is very critical of modern capitalism and western foreign policy.  He has good, though general, arguments for the atheism of capitalism and the disconnect between the West’s religious rhetoric and its actual practices (which, interestingly, he often places on liberal humanism).   Indeed, Christianity’s lack of following its leader has brought much criticism upon itself, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive” (p 55).

Eagleton points out the good that historic Christianity has done, which Ditchkins refuses to acknowledge, while pointing out hypocrisies of some liberals.  Some examples:

“The values of the Enlightenment, many of them Judeo-Christian in origin, should be defended against the pretentious follies of post-modernism, and protected, by all legitimate force if necessary, from those high-minded zealots who seek to blow the heads off small children in the name of Allah.  Some on the political left, scandalously, have muted their criticism of such atrocities in their eagerness to point the finger of blame at their own rulers, and should be brought to book for this hypocrisy” (p 68).  

“Such is Richard Dawkins’s unruffled impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has ever flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false . . . . and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry” (p 97). 

Speaking of empiricism and truth, I found chapter 3 more interesting the second time I read it.   It’s really a pleasant read and borders on the mystical in places.  Eagleton writes lucidly on how we understand truth and what is reasonable and rational.  A set of examples about what is reasonable and rational, relative to what is true, is (1) that of humans previously thinking that the sun circled the earth – since it certainly looked that way it was rational to think – and (2) what we know of certain nuclear particles in our present time.  These particles are said to go through two different spaces at one time.  This is not rational or reasonable, yet we think that it is true.  He continues with a discussion that promotes the concept of “love” being a precondition of understanding, concluding that “The rationalist tends to mistake the tenacity of faith (other people’s faith, anyway) for irrational stubbornness rather than for the sign of a certain interior depth, one which encompasses reason but also transcends it” (p 139).

“Yet the Apocalypse, if it ever happens, is far more likely to be the upshot of technology than the work of the Almighty. . . .  This, surely, should be a source of pride to cheerleaders for the human species like Ditchkins.  Who needs an angry God to burn up the planet when as mature, self-sufficient human beings we are perfectly capable of doing the job ourselves?” (p 134).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (previously posted by author at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

“God’s Battalions”: A Corrective to Revisionist Crusades History

Crosses carved by pilgrims into a wall of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.  (Yair Talmor, Wikimedia Commons).
Crosses carved by pilgrims into a wall of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (Yair Talmor, Wikimedia Commons).

“God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades” by Rodney Stark

“Muslims were [not] more brutal or less tolerant than were Christians or Jews, for it was a brutal and intolerant age. It is to say that efforts to portray Muslims as enlightened supporters of multiculturalism are at best ignorant.” (p 29)

In this reader-accessible but academic book, Professor Stark provides a very much needed corrective to the still accepted myths about the crusades into the Holy Land. Besides addressing the fallacies repeated as fact today (a few are given below), Stark presents a centuries-long history leading up to the crusades. Despite the reputation the Catholic Church earned over its handling of its Inquisition, at this earlier time violence was considered sinful. Even the killing of a criminal by a knight was deemed a bad thing. This may explain why Catholics didn’t respond sooner to centuries of mass murders and church destruction by Muslims in Palestine (see Moshe Gil, History of Palestine, 634-1099).

Fallacy 1: Crusaders were motivated by greed.

Fidelity 1: Piety and freeing the Holy Land, Jerusalem, were the crusaders’ motives. It must be understood that for some time Catholics believed that atonement for sins was gained through a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for this is what their confessors told them. Obviously, this was spiritually very important to them and had nothing to do with wealth (in fact, pilgrimage was incredibly time-consuming, expensive, and dangerous). So when Pope Urban II announced that regaining Jerusalem would cleanse the liberators, it wasn’t an entirely new concept (becoming sin-free through violence was, however).

Fallacy 2: Muslims were tolerant and allowed conquered people to maintain their faith.

Fidelity 2: Depending on the time and area, conquered peoples were either (1) given the choice to convert to Islam or face death or enslavement, or (2) forced to pay heavy taxes, cease church or synagogue building, and never read scripture or pray aloud (even in their own homes).

More specifically relevant to the impetus for the crusades, and a definite show of Muslim intolerance, are the actions of the Turkish commander Atsiz. Sieging Jerusalem in 1071 or 1073, he promised the inhabitants safety if they relented. But when the city gates opened, “the Turkish troops were released to slaughter and pillage, and thousands died. Next, Atsiz’s troops murdered the populations of Ramla and Gaza, then Tyre and Jaffa” (p 97).

Fallacy 3: The crude European crusaders ruined the higher level culture of the Arab Muslims.

Fidelity 3: There are two related components of this fallacy that have been disproven but still remain in our culture. The first is that the Europeans were brutish children of the “Dark Ages.” As early as 1981 Encyclopedia Britannica refuted the long-held academic view that Europe even experienced a “Dark Ages.” On the contrary, this time period saw both the rise of agricultural

innovations that led to the biggest and strongest population ever, and many technological innovations that made the crusades possible.

Secondly, if you consider legitimate the claiming of conquered peoples’ knowledge as one’s own, then Islam “attained” high levels of it. Consider these very few examples: (1) “Arabic numerals” are Hindu; (2) Avicenna, considered the greatest of the Muslim philosopher-scientists, was Persian (this is true of many others, too); (3) Medical knowledge was from the Nestorian Christians. As conquerors, the Arabs made Arab names necessary and the Arab language mandatory for the intelligentsia.

Garden Warfare (PvZ) Gameplay: Hosting, False Flowers, and that Bomb Carrying Gnome

My customized Metal Petal.  Just a little creepy.
My customized Metal Petal. Just a little creepy.

Update 10-8-2014:  Yet another significant DLC came out on for Garden Warfare on 9-30-2014, called “Legends of the Lawn.”  Much of what this content added to the game is integrated into the article.  I also did some editing article and added a paragraph on game-playing balance.  Thanks for reading!  (For anyone who’s visited this page before, all the previous “updates” have been moved to the bottom of this article.)

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So how do you like my creepy flower?   I’ve been having fun playing PvZ Garden Warfare after introducing it at its debut in a previous post (Garden Warfare: The game for Christians (and others) who prefer bloodless mayhem).  In that post I shared that I didn’t like third person shooters but I’d give this game a go, and so I did.  It’s an addicting game (like any good game, unfortunately), though I’m not as good at the Multiplayer Modes as my son is.

The scenery in the maps is detailed, always fun, and I simply enjoy being in these environments; quirky humor can be found throughout, like with the billboard that advertizes “El Bano Taco.”  I don’t like all maps equally when it comes to actual game play, and players will discover on their own which maps present the best or worst situations for their style of vanquishing, team play (which garden might be best for Craazy! level), etc.

Gameplay Modes

There are two basically different ways of playing Garden Warfare: Garden Ops and Multiplayer (up to 24 players using dedicated servers), and there is no story or separate solo offline gameplay.  The XBOX One version has split screen capability, but not so with the XBOX 360.  The Zomboss Down DLC added a new “mute all” button option for XBOX  One.  When the PC version came out on June 24, it contained a new map, Jewel Junction; this map was added for XBOX versions on July 1 with the Tactical Taco Party Pack DLC.  This map is used in Garden Ops and Team Vanquish.  The “Crash Course” map was added in August.

Garden Ops.  Garden Ops is played with up to four players.  When you arrive at the map you will find three gardens to choose from to defend.  Each has its advantages.  With the Suburbination added content, if a “bonus” garden comes up as an option and chosen, the players will be rewarded with loot after each wave (however, it’s gained by whoever grabs the loot–it’s not distributed).  Also added with Suburbination is a new, very detailed map called Crash Course, which can be played in day or night modes (Jewel Junction, added with the Tactical Taco Party pack, has day and night options, too).  Different waves and bosses have been added to Garden Ops with Suburbination as well, including Vase Breaker, Baron von Bats, and the Treasure Yeti.  Baron Von Bats is a difficult opponent, as he moves A LOT and he spawns strong minions.  The Treasure Yeti also moves a lot and his little freezing yeti imps devastatingly come out in groups.

Garden Ops can be played in either invite only mode or public mode (if a game ends and you remain in the list, and the host changes to invite mode, you can remain in the game unless specifically kicked off).  Either way, Garden Ops is hosted by individuals and when you start a session, as opposed to joining someone else’s session, you start alone.  You may remain alone for quite some time, so be ready to go it alone if you start yourself; if you end up finishing yourself there is a 3,000 coin Solo Bonus given.  I have no idea how their system works; when a player searches for a session, they will be added to an active session immediately–but when you start your own session you may never have anyone come on.  To me, this is a head scratcher.

The upside to starting your own session–of you being the host–is that you’re less likely to be kicked out of the game.  Yes, this is a definite problem with Garden Warfare.  I get kicked out of games frequently and have seen others have the same problem–literally all the time.

In Garden Ops, you and the other players defend a garden until the session is over, and there are four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Craaaazy!  This game, while it looks like it could be for small kids, can be very hard.  Neither my son nor I have gotten through the Craaaazy! level yet (my son really wants to since to do so would mean getting our last Garden Warfare Achievement).  My son says that getting through the Craaaazy! level is harder than playing Dark Souls.  That’s saying something.  And for any parent letting their little kids play when a team effort is needed . . . thaaaaanks . . . (waste of the other players’ time).  Which reminds me:  you can mute other players easily enough, and this is done individually on either XBOX version–but with the XBOX One an option to “mute all” will then appear.

While I’m in a complaining mode, I have two other pet peeves when it comes to Garden Ops.  One, if you’re playing public mode then don’t toggle kick people off for no reason.  Very rude and it wastes the time of the players that just got placed on your team by the system.  Go into invite only mode.  Geesh.  Two, flowers are the medics in the game.  They get quite a lot of extra points for healing, both players and the potted plants.  There’s no reason to play in Garden Ops as a flower but then play like a Pea Shooter.  I can’t express how annoying it is to know there’s a flower on your team that aggressively tries to get all the vanquishes while at the same time she doesn’t heal anyone.  To heal, a player only has to hold the left bumper down – no problem at all – you can do it constantly during game play to easily heal anyone around with barely even thinking about it.  Besides not doing something so simple, I’ve even seen flowers get in a spot that others can’t get to easily, so that they happily heal themselves – only.  Multiplayer would be a better option for such players, though it still wouldn’t be of any benefit to the other team players.

And just one more thing (while I’m adjusting my stance on the soapbox), if this is a fun game, why are something like 75% of the players so noninteractive and boring?  Honestly, it’s so much fun when players interact with the many gestures (some quite hilarious), try to jump on and ride the cactus’ garlic drone, break all kinds of things . . . you know, fun stuff.

Multiplayer

  • Welcome Mat (Classic only).  Free-for-all on one map only, for new players.  Only basic characters with no customizations are allowed here, which is what “Classic” means when you see it elsewhere..
  • Team Vanquish (plus Classic).  Free-for-all available on various maps, including Jewel Junction that was added on July 1 (Xboxes).  Whenever a team gets 50 points the session is finished; reviving a downed player takes a point away from the other team.  All characters and customizations allowed, unless you choose to play in Classic mode.  A new variety of Team Vanquish was added on July 1, called Vanquish Confirmed.  In this game your team has to grab the orbs hovering over a dead opponent, or a team player, in order to get the point or take a point from the enemy.
  • Garden & Graveyards (plus Classic).  Fun game of garden defense vs garden takeover.  Plants try to defend a series of small gardens against the zombies, and then a large garden and building at the end.  From what I’ve seen, zombie teams win more often in this game mode and the monetary rewards can be significant.  Can be played in Classic mode.  On April 15, 2014, a free DLC added the new Cactus Canyon map, where the zombies have to get a giant golf ball in a giant hole to win the final round.  Too fun.
  • Mixed Mode.  Either a session of Team Vanquish or Gardens & Graveyards is gone through, then without having to change lobbies, another game is begun.  It may or may not be the other game, however.  Gnome Bomb has not been added to the mix, but perhaps in the future?
  • Boss Mode.  XBOX One only.  You get to be a boss, flying around doing god-like things like airstrikes, and placing healing and spotting stations.  This mode is especially effective at the Cactus Canyon golf course, where zombies are normally grouped together a lot and winning the golf course for the plants is pretty hard.
  • Gnome Bomb.  15 minute crazy-making match.  The Gnome Bomb is sought, taken, and attached in its designated place.  Then the team tries to destroy all

    Gnome Bomb, up close.
    Gnome Bomb, up close.three bases of the opposing team.
  • Suburbination.  This is a three-spot win and defend map mode, commonly referred to as “domination.”
  • Taco Bandits.  Added in September 2014, Taco Bandits is a bit like “capture the flag.”  Instead of capturing a flag, however, plants defend a taco stand while zombies try and steal three tacos (so now we know for sure who the bad guys are!) and reach their Zomboss’ ship with them.  The tacos have to be stolen separately three times within six minutes in order for the Zombies to win.

Characters and Leveling

Currently there are four base characters in each of the plants and zombies groups, and each of these base characters has seven to nine more specialized subcharacters (besides the earliest added content, a cheesy chomper and scientist are now available to everyone; and on September 30 seven or eight new subcharacters were added, depending on your console brand).  For example, instead of using the base Sunflower, you can unlock each of these: Fire Flower, Shadow Flower, Power Flower, Mystic Flower (the way mine is currently outfitted, she’s more like a Psycho Flower!), Metal Petal, Sun Pharaoh, and Alien Flower.  All plants can use potted plants as well, like the Doom Shroom and Bonk Choy, and these are made available by buying Sticker Packs.  Zombies likewise have zombie assistants they can call upon in the same way.  After the DLCs that have come out, there is actually a large number of these fun helpers available.

Each flower, just like each other character, has a different way of shooting and it may have other unique attributes.  The Fire Flower may be the best in the game since its fire damage lingers over time.  The Metal Petal has fifty percent more health (150 instead of 100) than the others, but moves more slowly.  Since it also has more ammo it is a definite contender for the best flower in the game.  The Shadow Flower is also powerful, with its plentiful and more powerful cool blue goopy ammo.  And the Psycho, er, Mystic Flower shoots completely differently – instead of being like the other flowers’ automatic “weapon,” it shoots individual rounds that are more powerful, and it can build up a hugely powerful shot as a special ability.  It’s more like a cactus, and most like the Future Cactus.  You can feel and hear the difference while shooting, just as with other “shooter” type games.  The Ice Pea even makes a “tinkling” sound whenever it shoots, while snowflakes burst around.

A player gains levels (and concurrently, Game Rank) by finishing mini-challenges, or, by using Skip Challenge Cards to make it the same as if you did the challenge.  The cards are pretty much a necessity for those players (like me) who don’t do well in multi-player modes, since some challenges relate only to those modes and are quite hard in any case.  These cards are won in the Sticker Packs.  Every time you level up, up to level 10, you get a free sticker pack that is related to that character; after level 10 you get 10,000 coins at each level-up.  Also when a base character reaches level 10, the last subcharacter becomes available to unlock.

A note on balance.  Many critics say the game play is pretty well balanced, but I think this may be deceptive.  As it stands now, the Zombies as a whole seem more powerful.  The scientist is the healer in the game, but he has more abilities and a stronger weapon than the plant’s healer (the flower).  The Zombie aids are far more damaging or difficult to deal with than the plants’ aids.  For instance, a potted plant of course just sits there, and no matter how strong its attack, it is very easily destroyed from a distance.  This is not the case with the Zombie aids.  They move and some are armored with a very high health level, making them hard and time consuming to kill.  As you might imagine, if many of these are walking around, they really detract from hitting the Zombie team.  It amazes me that the plants ever win matches at all!

Customizations

You customize your characters by using items unlocked from the Sticker Packs, which are just like trading card packs (though virtual), purchased with the coins you collect from playing (you can also purchase game coins now and buy packs that way, if desired).  Just like with trading cards, the “stickers” are rated by rarity.

One odd thing about the game is that while you can see if your sticker is common or rare at the time of your purchase, this rating doesn’t show up in the sticker book where you can see stats, stickers, etc.  Gestures, of which there are many, are unlocked this way too.  The April 15 DLC made hundreds more characterizations available.  With the Suburbination DLC, the “Amazing Bling Pack”–with its crazy diamond encrusted and gold plated and bejeweled items–became available.  Now there are even MORE customization with the Legends of the Lawn DLC, including SETS.  Yes, sets, like the Panda set I’m looking forward to for my flower.  ^_^

(A word of warning about the bling pack:  It is relatively expensive, which might be expected, but it doesn’t always have the diamond encrusted items.  If you use real cash to buy packs, you might end up disappointed.  Individually, it would cost $1.99 for one pack, and when buying the most amount of coins a player can at one time for $10, you’d be able to by six packs and have change.  Considering how many characters there are, combined with the amazing amount of customizations available [which these bling are modifications of], the chances of getting a really cool item for your favorite character is low.)

With the flowers, you can add a hat, an accessory (like glasses), an organic (different “hands”), and a “tatoo”–with flowers it’s something on their face, but with cacti, it may cover their whole body.    The image at the top of this post shows a Metal Petal with a Sun Mask (combined hat and accessory), Razor Teeth Tatoo, and Happy Hands.  Plunger Hands, Purple Crystals, and Satellite Dishes are some of the few fun hands available for the flower.  The Cactus characters have the best customizations, in my view.  The Cactus has the biggest canvas–that is, it’s body has the most space to showcase designs–and its arms are also significant and obvious.  You can really have lots of fun customizing your Cactus, like with puppet or owl arms.  We have a lot of fun with this alone in the game, and with seeing how others have “done-up” their spike-shooting eccentric cacti.

Ending Notes

Lastly, coming from a Christian blog, you might want to know if I noticed anything Christian or Anti-Christian about the game.  I have found neither,* so it seems to me that the game makers are dedicated to presenting a fun game that doesn’t seek to promote or offend any faiths or lifestyles (I suppose pacifists may find it offensive).  There ARE some funny gestures that some people may take offense at, possibly–the cactus has a hilarious one that made me laugh out loud for a while, where he swivels his “hips” and says “Oooh la la,” and there’s another he does that seems to clearly mean “kiss my a$$.”  The cactus is quite the character.

*I did find a cross, seen in the picture below, which is from the scene in the character customizations window.  Even though it’s pretty big, it’s in the far distance and I

The arrow points to a cross in the background (no, it's not the house antenna).  I inserted the chocolate bunny  as sort-of my own Easter time "easter egg."
The arrow points to a cross in the background (no, it’s not the house antenna). I inserted the chocolate bunny as sort-of my own Easter time “easter egg.”

didn’t even notice it for some time.  I think my mind just thought of it as a telephone pole, until I started editing the images.

To sum up my thoughts on the game:  FUN; cuuuuute; quirky, certainly not just for kids; Garden Ops hosting is annoying; great AI; addicting; and, . . . it’s like playing in your favorite cartoon.  As the flower sometimes says, “Ahhhh, Boogie boogie boogie, Boogie boogie boogie!

OLDER UPDATES

Update, 08/15/14:  One large DLC, Suburbination, was released a few days ago (the article has been updated to include the additions), and new characters will be available from August 19 – September 26 via a special offer.  To receive the special characters, a new chomper and a new scientist, buy specially marked Cheetos at Target within the time frame given.  The Cheetos packs will also have a code for a free Craaazy sticker pack and for entering a contest to win either a customized Xbox One, Playstation 4, or customized controller.  If you don’t like Cheetos, then more for us – watch out, Target!  [Post-update info:  the contest didn’t work out too well, since many Target stores never received the Cheetos packs; shame on Cheetos!!  In response, however, EA made the new characters available to everyone in-game.]

Update, 06/30/14:  A new dlc will be available tomorrow for the Xboxes, and on the 8th for PC.  Tactical Taco Party Pack will  add significant content, AND it makes changes to the multiplayer party joining system.

Update, 04/26/14:  Microtransactions to purchase in-game sticker packs will begin next week.  This will only make content available sooner, not offer exclusive content to buyers.

Update:  A free DLC with significant new game content came out on April 15, 2014.  This article has been updated to reflect the new content.

This post was edited on 4/13/14 and again updated, adding new DLC information, on 4/15/14 and 4/20/14.  Images below are just for fun and will be rotated occasionally.  It was again updated June30/July 1 2014 with the release of the free DLC.  This content was updated regarding the new Suburbination added content on 8/15/14; some general updating and editing were also done.

Hot Rod Chomper with Band Punk hat, High Tide mouth, Garlic Cloves organics, and Squiggles tatoo (skin).
Hot Rod Chomper with Band Punk hat, High Tide mouth, Garlic Cloves organics, and Squiggles tatoo (skin).
Camo Cactus with 1969 Decor tatoo (skin), antlers, and Exceptional Puppets.  This cactus is exceptional!
Camo Cactus with 1969 Decor tatoo (skin), antlers, and Exceptional Puppets. This cactus is exceptional!
Shadow Flower with squid hat, spy glasses, future organics, and razor teeth.
Shadow Flower with squid hat, spy glasses, future organics, and razor teeth.

Garden Warfare: The game for Christians (and others) who prefer bloodless mayhem

A shooter even your mother could love.

Update:  While this article is still relevant, I have a newer article that is more game-descriptive and where I will continue to add new material as new game additions come out.  There were major additions in July and August, and there will be yet more in August.  Please see that article for details.  Garden Warfare (PvZ):  Hosting, False Flowers, and that Bomb Carrying Gnome

Update:  A free DLC with significant new game content came out on April 15, 2014.  The article linked below contains new content information.

Update: If you to want to find out more about Garden Warfare after reading this little post, you can take a look at my newer, detailed article.  I wrote it after having played it a good deal and investigating it some more: Garden Warfare (PvZ):  Hosting, False Flowers, and that Bomb Carrying Gnome

Update:  Free DLC (via automatic download) will be available March 18, 2014.  It adds a new map, new game mode, and lots of extras for the characters.

The wildly colorful and chaotic, as well as constantly delightful, Garden Warfare is now out!  This new everyone-rated third person shooter is based on the fun and popular “casual” game, Plants vs Zombies, and isn’t shy about comparing itself to Modern Warfare It is currently available for XBOX 360 and XBOX One, and comes out for PC on June 30th.  (It is published by EA–and there is a note about this company at the end of this post–and was made by subsidiary PopCap.)

A popular reviewer summed the game up:  “Garden Warfare is a surprisingly good third-person multiplayer/cooperative shooter. A refreshing light-hearted twist on class-based multiplayer games, with the depth and polish that you would expect from usual suspects in this genre.”  (Visit the linked page for his excellent review.)

My son, who plays third-person shooters but is getting a bit tired of them (he’s already regretting buying COD Ghosts), was more than happy to try this game out, however, and he loves it.  I like colorful things done well, and odd humor, so I love it as well.  I don’t like playing third-person and I’ve never been into “shooter” games, but still, this is fun.  The characters move in cute ways, have gestures, make fun noises, and have a surprising number of unlockables to change appearance.  When someone vanquishes you you get to see a slow-mo of them seconds afterwards, which helps to see all the different characters and their diverse and often hilarious get-ups.

There is no blood, gore, sex, or cursing–and muting fellow players is easy–so it’s all just extreme “duck-shooting” chaos, “gardening,” explosions, avoiding tunneling zombie-eating plants (Chompers) or flower power death rays, shooting yourself out of a cannon to get to the last part of a map, and so-on.  The three levels of game play, as well as the variety of characters and their numerous options, makes for continually complex and fresh gaming fun.  (A note on bugginess–we have played it on the 360 and haven’t noticed the bugginess, at least so far, reported by players on XBOX One.)

It’s technically possible for you to play by yourself in Garden Ops mode, but unless you’re really good, you won’t get far nor get as many rewards as you could playing with others; the game is made to play with with a small group (and this can be in private with friends only), in Garden Ops, or a large group, in public multiplayer mode.  Of course, you need XBOX live to play the game.

There are many maps (I love the first one that includes a very bright and homey trailer park) and types of game play, such as just shooting it out, defending your garden, or defending multiple bases, etc., and oodles of unlockables.  Just one example of the fun-being-a-kid aspect of this game is the manner in which customizations are had: you buy packs of “stickers” to open the surprise inside.  These look like packs of real-life game cards, like for Pokemon, that you buy at the store.

Besides customizing the eight basic classes of characters, there are powerful variants to each character that can be purchased via sticker-pack too, as well as items like spawnable plants and zombies.  Who can’t but love an “outhouse zombie,” the zipping “garlic drone,” the goofy yet impressive “robotic zombie head,” or the giant corn cannon that releases explosive popcorn?  So if you’re looking for a “clean” game that easily rivals, if not improves upon, the popular shooters out there, I don’t think it could hurt to give Garden Warfare a try.  Enjoy a sampling of game images, below (these official images actually don’t do the game justice, and I will add screen shots from a video feed when I have them).

Chomper ready to chomp.  http://www.ea.com/garden-warfare/images
Chomper ready to chomp. http://www.ea.com/garden-warfare/images
Disco zombie with deadly disco ball move.  bit.ly/1cFDFS1
Disco zombie with deadly disco ball move. http://bit.ly/1cFDFS1
A mad scientist, apparently having teleported.  http://bit.ly/MXQZok
A mad scientist, apparently having teleported. http://bit.ly/MXQZok

A note to Christian readers (and those who try to only buy products from reputable companies):  For anyone who’s come here looking for something satanic to avoid, this might be a tough choice; I was loathe to buy an EA game myself.  I get views to my blog daily from readers looking for something satanic, and in this case, Garden Warfare’s publisher EA (Electronic Arts) might be considered evil.  However, Garden Warfare was developed by PopCap, the makers of the Plants vs Zombies series for some time now.

I haven’t done a ton of research on PopCap, but from what I know, they seemed like a good company prior to their purchase by EA.  This happened in 2012, after which “EA and PopCap” fired 50 employees.  Besides that wonderful move, EA has a bad reputation among many gamers for these reasons (it was voted the worse company in America two years in a row), and others on this page–do scroll down to the lawsuits and such.  April 26, 2014 update:  I missed a good article on this subject earlier, but better late than never; EA is the Worst Company in America, Now What?

[This post was updated and expanded on March 11, 2013]

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Another great review (besides Fanboy’s, above):  Review – Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare will have you surrendering to the silliness

At the time of this writing, the Garden Warfare wikia page was up but many subpages were not:  Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare