Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movies to Game By: Review of Outlander

Like many people, I'm a fan of movies.  I like a lot of different genres of movies, but I'm as biased as the next person so I have some big dislikes as well.  But unlike the general movie-going audience, I'm a gamer, and chances are if you're reading this, you're likely a gamer too.  I can appreciate a movie in many ways, and sometimes one of those ways is 'as a gamer'.  There are times I've seen a movie and thought 'I want to game this" or "that would make an awesome army to build".  So a new feature here will be reviews of movies that I have this reaction to: Movies to Game By.

In Movies to Game By, I'll give my review of a movie, both for it's appeal as a movie in general as well as it's inspiration value for gaming. I'll try to refrain from any spoilers.  Every review needs a review system, and rather than steal from the D6Generation's d6 system (which I was tempted to do) I'll instead steal from classic Dungeons & Dragons.  The armor class system was from unarmored AC10 down to Plate Mail AC2, and below for even better or magical armor. The higher the number, the less armor- and in the case of the movie reviews, the higher the number, the easier it is to have a 'hit' & less resistance to adapting it for gaming.

Or simpler: 10 very good.  0 very bad.

On to the Review:

Outlander, from 2008.

Late arrival to the US it seems, and released in Europe for several years.
Starring James Caviezel, John Hurt, Sophia Myles, and Ron Pearlman.

This movie scratches the itch of two of my favorite genres: Sci-fi & Historical-ish.
A soldier of an intergalactic conflict crashes in Norway of the early 8th century. But he's not alone: one of the big bad nasty aliens is lose as well.  There are a lot of interesting interactions between what is essentially 'man of the future' and Iron Age Vikings. Without any of his technological advantages, it brings about the 'great equalizer' that a person is just a person, and it's his cunning and creativity that is what will save him (and others) or not.

Some details are a bit historically off the mark, the main hall looked too big... but did look very cool, and a few times people fired arrows in an incorrect manner, but overall it had a pretty decent level of authentic feeling to it.  The Norse people were not presented as bloodthirsty barbarians, but as people in a dangerous world, who were accustomed to it, but also references were made to the far flung trade relations they had.  Unlike many 'Action histori-fantasy/sci-fi' movies, the world and culture of the people did not feel as 'thin & false' as is typical for these genres.

The action was good and tension was appropriately thick in the right places.  It had a good amount of character insight moments and humorous moments so characters didn't feel completely two dimensional.  And there wasn't nearly the amount of "unfathomably stupid" actions so typical to action & horror movies.
The photography is beautiful.  There are some really nice scenes in the wilderness, that if it wasn't for the hulking hunting alien, it'd be nice to spend some time there.

This movie is high in the gaming factors.  It'd be very easy to adapt the ideas to the gaming table.  Skirmish games like SAGA, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, Songs of Blades & Heroes, and others could easily be used, just add your favorite large alien beast. Really, the sci-fi elements are very low here.  It's an interesting background for the movie, but doesn't have a lot of effect on the gaming table: you're not going to equip your vikings with ray guns for example.  But if you watch the movie you can see how you might give some better weapons to some characters in some scenarios or in a designated turn.  In an RPG game it could be a great challenge to a fantasy setting world to have an alien creature that is not susceptible to the standard weapons and tricks the party is accustomed to. It could also be interesting to have a 'future world' human, stranded on their world as one of the Player Characters.

I give this movie an Armor Class of 8 (out of 10) for both enjoy-ability and for inspiration for the table top.
An easy hit and not much resistance to making for good gaming material. 


Dan said...

yeah, this was a pretty god movie, good review.

The Angry Lurker said...

It was good but maybe a 6 or 7, I didn't like the main actor.

Anonymous said...

Never watched the movie sadly, however if we know anything about movie games by now they generally suck. Although I admire Angry Joe's supreme optimism every time he reviews them (like Thor...) and hopes for a good movie game.

ColKillgore said...

I really liked the movie. I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago on SyFy channel. I think the makers of the films did a much better job of crossing the Sci-fi to Historical jump without time travel and on a smaller budget.


Joshua said...

I remember seeing this back when it was new, and whallop, was that something fun.

Paul of the Man Cave said...

Just watched this with Reilly on your recommendation - had us reaching for our Viking figures!!! Thanks for the top tip mate

Laughing Ferret said...

Thanks all :)

Glad you two enjoyed it Paul!

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