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Science-Fiction Weekly – The Best Comics, Stellaris, And More Star Wars Leaks

Before diving into the comic book series you should read each month, I'd like to introduce a new component of Science-Fiction Weekly: The Golden Grok, an award given to the best new video game release. The word “grok” comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land; a Martian verb meaning “to drink” or “to understand” or “to experience enjoyment,” among other things.

This week’s Golden Grok goes to Paradox Development Studios for Stellaris. Set in the year 2200, Stellaris is as much an engaging "4X" strategy game as it is a fascinating exploration of the universe. Diplomacy and war erupt among the stars, but the big pull that keeps me coming back for more is the element of discovery and the fear and anticipation of exploring the unknown. This gameplay hook unfolds in numerous ways, such as traveling to different stars to see what kind of life or resources are there, or investing in technology to better my species' capabilities in ways I couldn't even begin to fathom from the outset of play. Politics, trade arrangements, and mineral collecting all come into play in Stellaris – an excess of micromanaging that can be daunting at times – but Paradox did a fantastic job of streamlining the experience and making the pressing matters the central focus. Fans of Star Control and Master of Orion shouldn't hesitate in diving into this alien-infested universe. For a more detailed breakdown of Stellaris' gameplay and lasting appeal, check out Ben Reeves’ review.

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Stellaris pays homage to many of the tropes that has shaped science fiction throughout the yeras. It's fun universe to explore, but it's a familiar one, especially if you consume a healthy dose of science fiction each year. To see the universe expand in ways you wouldn't expect, I highly recommend you read Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ brilliant monthly comic book series. Vaughn says the series is inspired by Star Wars, but outside of it being flush with aliens and a kick-ass bounty hunter, I don't see the connection. To me, Saga’s story is more Shakespearean in design, focusing intimately on two core characters, two lovers, Alana and Marko, who are engaged in a forbidden love much like Romeo and Juliet. Marko and Alana are from different worlds, and their people have long been at war with each other. Alana is from Landfall, a huge and prosperous planet, and Marko is from Wreath, Landfall’s only satellite, and a world governed by magic.

That's all you should know of Saga prior to reading it. Go in as blindly as you can. Through the series’ 30-plus issues, I continually find myself thinking “I’ve never read anything like this before,” or “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Just knowing the setup and key plot points can strip the wonder from this beautifully penned tale. Saga isn't just one of the best science-fiction comics out there, it’s one of the best comic books period. From what Vaughan has been saying, this story is still young, and will change through the years, but as it is now, it's one of the all-time greats for the medium. I put it up there with Transmetropolitan, Preacher, The Dark Knight Returns, and Y: The Last Man (another of Vaughan's books). One final word about Saga: It explores adult themes and imagery. Keep the kids away from it.

Writer Rick Remender, who was recently celebrated as one of the best writers of Marvel’s X-Men books, is currently at the top of his game with two different stories he’s penning for Image Comics. The best of the bunch is Low, a look at life in a distant future when the sun expands to a red giant and Earth’s surface is no longer habitable. Man now presides in the sea. The art by Greg Tocchini is abstract, stunning, and the perfect vehicle for this captivating story. Be warned: Like Saga, Low is loaded with adult themes and nudity. I know this is a weird thing to keep calling out, but hey, I'm a dad.

I’m also enjoying the hell out of Remender’s Tokyo Ghost. If you’re wondering what a society addicted to entertainment and social media would be like, this book gives us a fun and surprisingly violent look at that world, set in the year 2089. You’ll also see the Atari 2600 and NES controllers used in a clever way in the first issue. Sean Murphy’s framing of the action (and gore) is another selling point for each issue.

If you enjoy both of these books, Remender’s Black Science is also worth a look, especially if you are intrigued by the odd mashup of Lost in Space meets Sliders meets Lost. Even if you have no interest in this book, do yourself a favor and check out the wild cover art adorning each issue (you can see one in the gallery below).

One of my favorite writers, Jeff Lemire, who I plan on cursing for all of eternity for leaving Animal Man behind at DC, is currently writing Descender. I’m not crazy about the art in this book, but the story of a young android boy fighting for life in a hostile society has been wonderful so far. It reminds me of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, but with intimacy and heart. I know I’m giving Image a ton of love here, but the publisher deserves it. Even Brian K. Vaughan’s strange We Stand on Guard is fantastic. He's somehow made Canadians look heroic. In this story, Canada is invaded by a robot army led by the United States of America. I know, it sounds dumb, but give it two issues before you make up your mind. Vaughan is clearly having fun with this one.

Marvel Comics’ science-fiction books are often overshadowed by the superhero and mutant titles, but the current runs in some of the various Guardians of the Galaxy titles are worth a look, especially if you like the movie (yes, it reminds me more of the movie than the previous comic book series). The flagship title Guardians of the Galaxy (led by the great Brian Michael Bendis) is off to a hell of a start, and you should still be able to find the first issue at your comic shops, if you read the physical versions. Do I think Thing, Venom, and Kitty Pride are odd additions to the team? I did initially, but I like how Bendis handles each character. Pride's relationship with Star-Lord is the beating heart of the book so far. The ancillary Star-Lord, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon & Groot series accompany the main series remarkably well, and are vehicles for backstories and character building. I sadly cannot say the same about Drax, Guardians of Infinity, and Venom: Space Knight. Avoid those three series.

Game Informer’s Matt Miller also reads a few Marvel series that I don’t have the time or dollar for, and says that Silver Surfer and The Ultimates are both worth your time. While Guardians of the Galaxy continues its excellent run of harebrained, edge-of-your-seat action, The Ultimates is the more cerebral sci-fi book in Marvel’s universe, which sees a particularly diverse group of scientists and superheroes pushing against the boundaries of the universe and knowledge.

As much as I love DC Comics – my go-to for superhero books – I recommend avoiding all of the publisher’s titles until June, when Rebirth begins. Rebirth is a soft universe reboot in a sense, offering a new jumping on point for readers with most series starting at number one. Of the sci-fi titles in Rebirth, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps is the highest on my anticipation list (mostly for the Ethan Van Sciver art), and Justice League is also piquing my interest with the promise of a cosmos-spanning story about a dead world.

Speaking of avoiding things, do yourself a favor and steer clear of Marvel’s Star Wars titles as well. I know people love them, but they often make me cringe. Most of the writers on these books go well out of their way to make the universe as small as possible, often pitting famed characters against each other in battle. The only Star Wars title that I even remotely enjoy is Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin. It brings back the fun vibe of The Clone Wars, which I'm surprised I missed. The other licensed comic that has been consistently fun is IDW's Transformers. After bouncing around with a wide variety of different takes on Transformers' lore, the publisher has settled into a groove with the latest stories.

And that's going to do it for the comic talk in this week's edition. I'd love to hear your thoughts (and picks) in the comments section below. From here on in I'm diving into big Star Wars SPOILERS and leaks. Read on at your own risk. If you don't want to know anything about Star Wars: Episode VIII's potential plot, you should stop reading now.

As Star Wars: Episode VIII's filming continues at Ireland's Malin Head and England's Pinewood Studios, people have spied a couple of interesting developments, including what appears to be scenes involving the mysterious Knights of Ren. The Knights were shown briefly in Rey's Force-powered vision, and were mentioned briefly by Snoke, but Disney has gone out of its way to avoid discussing or showing these characters again. Are the Knights still running with Kylo Ren? We'll have to wait to see. The report from Making Star Wars sheds some light on the Knights' actions for this one scene, and it sounds like all hell is breaking loose. Some fans even speculate that Rey's vision wasn't a flashback, but a look into the future. I don't know if I believe Disney set this scene up as something we'd see in the next movie, but it is odd that the Knights aren't in any of the merchandise from Force Awakens. Those toys would sell like mad, and almost everyone in the film has been turned into one by now.

One of the sets at Pinewood prominently features a dead tree, which may seem like ordinary set dressing at first glance, but fans believe it's the same tree from Marvel's Star Wars: Shattered Empire comic book. In this story, Luke is searching for the remains of a tree that once grew in the Jedi temple on Coruscant. The Force flowed through this tree and held great meaning, but we don't yet know the reasons why. Luke eventually located what he was looking for – two saplings born of the original tree. Luke kept one of the saplings. He handed the second to Shara Bey and Kes Dameron. They planted their tree on Yavin 4. Luke took his to an undisclosed location. It'll be interesting to see if the tree pictured in the set leaks is the one Luke took.

I sadly don't have any new Rogue One: A Star Wars Story news to report, but someone did dig up an image of the first Lego sets that will hit later this year.

And that concludes week two of Science-Fiction Weekly. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below, but refrain from Star Wars spoiler talk if possible. See you in seven days!

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Netflix Adding Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, And Marvel Movies Through Exclusive Deal This Fall

Netflix has announced that it will become the "the exclusive US pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar" this fall. That means that fans of Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the countless classics from Disney and Pixar can look forward to getting more bang for their buck with their Netflix subscriptions this fall.

While the blog post doesn't detail exactly what titles are coming to the streaming service, the fact that Netflix is now the exclusive partner of Disney for this brand of streaming would lead you to believe that the roster of films will be robust. The only hint of what content subscribers might be able to look forward to could be the word "latest," which could mean more recent titles – or it could just be marketing lingo.

Either way, this September should see a healthy addition to its library of popular movies this fall. In addition, Netflix announced that films such as the Jurassic Park trilogy, The Big Short, Back to the Future, and The Fast & the Furious would be coming to the service throughout the summer months.

[Source: Netflix]

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Get To Know Poe In New Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Character Trailer

Poe Dameron is one of the best pilots in the whole Resistance – or at least that's what everyone keeps saying in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You'll get a chance to put his skills to the test in the Lego adaptation of the film, as you can see in a new trailer for the game.

The clip shows some space combat, as well as a few lines of new dialogue recorded by actor Oscar Isaac. He's just one of the cast members who have lent their talents to the game. It's an interesting split from TT Games' past Lego titles, which have relied on pantomime, lines pulled straight from the source, or new recordings from soundalikes to tell their stories.

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Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is coming June 28.

For more information on Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, visit our cover hub. It's filled with exclusive information and video interviews and features from the game's creators.

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Enormous Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Leak Reveals Characters, New Vehicles

This is your first of many warnings. There are enormous spoilers in the images in the gallery below. If you don’t want to know anything about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, turn back now.

OK, this is warning number two. Nine page spreads from the upcoming Official Visual Story Guide for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story popped up today via publisher Edelweiss. The images contain extensive character details, information on new ships, and other tidbits we’re pretty sure Disney and LucasFilm weren’t ready to reveal.

And here it is. This is your final warning. Don’t scroll down or click on the images below if you want to maintain any element of surprise. 

The images below tell us what we can expect from the Rebellion and Imperial fleets. They also name the characters and give us some back story and motivation. Note that the images are marked "not final," so some of the elements might change. We suspect that the big beats aren't likely to undergo significant alteration, though.

If you want to wait for this to hit store shelves, you can look for it on January 24, 2017. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be in theaters on December 16.

[Source: Edelweiss via Making Star Wars]

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Science-Fiction Weekly – The Best Movies, Games, And New Star Wars: Episode VIII Updates

I’ve had a love affair with science fiction since my father took me to see Star Wars: A New Hope. I was three- or four-years-old at the time; far too young to watch Darth Vader choke the life out of his coworkers, and incinerate Luke Skywalker’s family. Vader initially imprinted on my young mind poorly, but the nightmares he gave me eventually led to a lifelong appreciation obsession of George Lucas’ Galaxy Far, Far Away. Star Wars gave way to science fiction becoming my favorite form of entertainment. Yes, I love it more than video games.

Thankfully there’s a lot of crossover between science fiction and video games; an inordinate amount, more than I could ever keep up with. The column you are reading (and will hopefully be returning to each week) is an exploration of all things in this sector. From the latest developments in video games to the most random factoids in Star Wars’ lore, these editorials should be crammed to capacity with a wealth of science fiction news and opinions.

This first post is a bit of a primer for what you can expect, format and all. I know many of you are probably wondering what my favorite science-fiction movie, book, game, and television show are, so let’s get all of that out of the way in this first post.

My favorite movie (science fiction or otherwise) is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Equally as thought provoking as it is exciting, no film has captured my imagination as much as this dark and brilliantly penned second chapter in the Star Wars saga. Even the rubbery Yoda still holds up surprisingly well today.

And speaking of puppets, the TV show I recommend everyone watch is Farscape, a criminally underappreciated gem that was cut way too short. Farscape takes a few episodes to get cooking, but quickly settles in with big laughs, awesome conflicts, puppets farting, spaceships getting pregnant and giving birth to baby spaceships (yes, you read that correctly), and the craziest theme song of any TV show.

My favorite science-fiction-flavored video game shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. While I have fond memories of the Wing Commanders, and Star Controls, System Shocks, Half-Lifes, Halos, Portals, Star Warses, and Dead Spaces, no interactive universe has hit me as hard as Mass Effect. Taking control of Commander Shepard’s conscience to arrange a galactic chess board across three massive games is as good as games get. Seriously. Why don’t all companies make continuations like this? And yes, I even loved Mass Effect 3’s original ending. That send off is as science fiction as science fiction gets.

When it comes to books, well, I’m going to leave my all-time favorite a mystery for now, as we’ll have plenty to discuss in the weeks ahead. You can get a small taste of what I enjoy by reading my 10 Science-Fiction Stories Reimagined As Games editorial. I also wrote a book of my own.

If my lede didn’t show my hand enough, my current obsession in life is Star Wars, and with three different films in active development (Episode VIII, Rogue One, and the untitled Han Solo movie),  rumors and news hit almost daily. The latest scuttlebutt centers on Episode VIII. Before I dive into the news, here's your obligatory SPOILER warning. Much like Daniel Craig's cameo as a helmeted First Order storm trooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Daily Express is reporting Tom Hardy has accepted a similar role to play a storm trooper in Episode VIII. Daily Express says Hardy's storm trooper recognizes Finn (who was once storm trooper FN-2187).

John Boyega, the actor playing Finn, told Variety that Episode VIII is a "different take, darker, bigger. Someone will say: 'How do you get bigger than Force Awakens?' But it’s crazy." He also revealed that Rey and Finn were just friends in The Force Awakens, but it could be a central plot point in the sequel. "The romance thing is something that’s going to be interesting in the
next installment," Boyega says. "It’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to
go."

Episode VIII filming is currently underway in Ireland. Most of the sets we've seen are scenic with green hills surrounded by the ocean. The latest development at Malin Head is no different. The Millennium Falcon is a part of this set, and fans have spied Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) getting ready for a shot. Costume details from the set reveal that Rey and Luke wear familiar garb to The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi. You can see what they supposedly look like here.

Lucasfilm announced Gareth Edwards (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's director) and Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm's president) are kicking off this year's Star Wars Celebration held in London’s ExCeL Centre from July 15-17 with a talk about Rogue One. If this presentation is anything like last year's for The Force Awakens, we'll likely get a second Rogue One trailer on July 15. If you want to know more about the film – such as character names and who the big bad is – check out this enormous leak that hit earlier today from a book publisher working on the Official Visual Story Guide for the film. Be warned, few leaks reveal a mountain of info like this one does.

And in other book news, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced the winners of the 2015 Nebula Awards over the weekend. The winners include Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker, and Updraft by Fran Wilde.

That's going to do it for my first entry of Science-Fiction Weekly. Expect plenty more Star Wars talk in the weeks and months ahead, but also plenty of science-fiction game, movie, comic book, and action figure news when it hits. Next week's focus is the science-fiction comics you should be reading.

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Footage Of Alleged, Likely Canceled, Star Wars RTS Emerges

UpdateThe video has now been removed from Vimeo, but a YouTube version has popped up (see below). It might not be live for long, though.

According to Eurogamer, the game was called Star Wars: Outpost and was in development for PC and mobile devices. The publication reports that Outpost was cut along with Star Wars: 1313 in the Disney buyout.

Original Story (May 11, 2016 @ 1:31 p.m. Central) :

Footage of what appears to be a likely canceled Star Wars RTS has surfaced today. The video hits all the Lucas high notes, with X-Wings, TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, The Millennium Falcon, and even a saber-swinging Luke.

The short clip appeared on a Vimeo channel belonging to a user named Elise Baldwin. The description indicates she was the audio director on the game, which was in development for more than a year and went through a number of engine changes.

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A search for Baldwin reveals a LinkedIn account with the same name that appears to be the same person. That individual worked for EA from 2003 to 2015 and has an unannounced game on her resume that she worked on from 2014 to 2015.

No platforms are listed, and because of the nature of Vimeo accounts, we are unable to confirm that these people are one and the same. However, a number of other videos listed on the Vimeo account are connected to The Sims games listed on the LinkedIn profile.

You can see the video for yourself here. We’ve reached out to EA for comment and will update should we receive a response.

[Source: Elise Baldwin on Vimeo via NerdLeaks on Twitter]

 

Our Take
Assuming this is real, there are a lot of questions. Is this a mobile game? Which studio was working on it? Why can’t I play it? Can I please play it?

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Star Wars Battlefront Outer Rim DLC Free To Try This Weekend

If you’re sitting on a copy of Star Wars Battlefront and haven’t yet purchased the Outer Rim DLC, EA is giving you the chance to check it out this weekend. The DLC maps and heroes will be free to try this weekend.

There are four maps split across Sullust and Tatooine. You’ll also have access to the Extraction mode and heroes Nien Nunb and Greedo.

You can start playing on May 13. The free trial period wraps on May 15.

For more on Star Wars Battlefront, check out our review

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Overwatch Beta Draws More Players Than Star Wars Battlefront, The Division Tests

Much to the chagrin of many a player (including some around the Game Informer office), the Overwatch open beta is over. Blizzard has shared some stats that reveal a great deal of player interest.

More than 9.7 million players over seven days took the shooter for a test drive on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. That’s more than three of this generation’s big title beta tests. 

Star Wars Battlefront brought in a reported 9.5 million players over five days. The Division open beta was sampled by 6.4 million players over four days. Destiny welcomed 4.64 million players to the Tower over nine days on PlayStation and five days on Xbox.

You’ll be able to get back into the fight on May 24 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

Our Take
Blizzard has to be feeling pretty good about those numbers. While they won’t all translate into sales, people seem to like what they’ve played. 

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Footage Of Alleged, Likely Canceled, Star Wars RTS Emerges

Footage of what appears to be a likely canceled Star Wars RTS has surfaced today. The video hits all the Lucas high notes, with X-Wings, TIE Fighters, AT-ATs, The Millennium Falcon, and even a saber-swinging Luke.

The short clip appeared on a Vimeo channel belonging to a user named Elise Baldwin. The description indicates she was the audio director on the game, which was in development for more than a year and went through a number of engine changes.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

A search for Baldwin reveals a LinkedIn account with the same name that appears to be the same the person. That individual worked for EA from 2003 to 2015 and has an unannounced game on her resume that she worked on from 2014 to 2015.

No platforms are listed, and because of the nature of Vimeo accounts, we are unable to confirm that these people are one and the same. However, a number of other videos listed on the Vimeo account are connected to The Sims games listed on the LinkedIn profile.

You can see the video for yourself here. We’ve reached out to EA for comment and will update should we receive a response.

[Source: Elise Baldwin on Vimeo via NerdLeaks on Twitter]

 

Our Take
Assuming this is real, there are a lot of questions. Is this a mobile game? Which studio was working on it? Why can’t I play it? Can I please play it?

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Next Star Wars Battlefront Confirmed For 2017, Includes Newer Movies

On its earnings call today, EA confirmed that it is looking at an annual cadence for Star Wars games. While there isn’t anything on the docket for this fall (Battlefront DLC is still in play), you can expect something new in 2017.[

EA chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen confirmed that 2017 will see another Star Wars Battlefront game. Visceral’s game will likely be the title that drops in 2018, though the language around fiscal and calendar years makes that a bit unclear.

"We’ll most likely have one Star Wars title a year for the next three to four years," Jorgensen said. "Next year we’ll see Star Wars battlefront back with bigger and better worlds, because we now have the new movies to work off of, not just the historical movies that we used before. We also are working on a Star Wars action game that part of the Motive team is working on as well as part of the Visceral team and that’s most likely the following year."

Additionally, EA and Respawn just announced that they are working on a game in the Star Wars universe. While EA is shooting for one game per year, that doesn’t preclude the publisher from doubling down depending on what Disney does with the franchise in other media.

 

Our Take
This is a surprise announcement, though not entirely unexpected given EA's history. EA could be looking to alternate Battlefield and Battlefront with DLC bridging the gaps. The question is whether the next Battlefront will address content and campaign issues present in the first game.

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