Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Science-Fiction Weekly – Jurassic World 2, Star Citizen, Reborn, Loading Human

Star Wars: The Force Awakens dominated 2015's domestic box office with $ 936,662,225 earned, the highest since Avatar in 2009. We expected Star Wars to be embraced in a big way, but I think it's safe to assume few people believed Jurassic World would be a juggernaut, let alone the fourth highest grossing movie of all time with $ 652,270,625 in theater receipts. The buzz coming off of the trailers wasn't great, but like a raptor sneaking through the grass, it was the surprise blockbuster of the year.

That enormous success has led to the announcement of Jurassic World turning into a trilogy. Work on the second film is well under way with Juan Antonio Bayona taking Colin Trevorrow's place in the director's seat. We are now learning that the sequel, set to release on June 22, 2018, will be more terrifying than its predecessor. This news comes from an interview with Bayona, conducted by a Spanish publication called Noticiasrcn (and translated by Scified). "It will be darker and scarier then the previous film," Bayona said. "Obviously when you have Chris Pratt it will also be very
funny. But it will be darker. It is a second step in a trilogy, and the
second step is always dark as in [Star Wars] The Empire Strikes Back or [Star Trek] The Wrath
of Khan
which are the examples you always get. We are
going to places where the saga has never been before, and at the same
time we are paying tribute to the franchise. We will take it a step
further. There
are things that will happen that people are not expecting and they
really are shocking."

That sounds pretty damn great, but I hope the series truly embraces the "world" in its title to show us what happens when dinosaurs become a threat to society. The rumors of the military using dinosaurs on the battlefield scares the life out of me, and I hope the darker tone implies more jump scares and dinosaurs hunting in populated cities than a gritty war scenario. I know the film will have to start at the theme park, at least to get the ball rolling, but enough with the vacation setting; bring it closer to home.

Star Citizen is another thing that needs to get closer, but if the news coming out of last week's CitizenCon is any indication, release plans are still nowhere close. The buzz after the Con's two-hour keynote (which you can watch in its entirety below) was a mixture of frustration and anger. Not only did Roberts Space Industries drop the bombshell that Star Citizen's single-player game, Squadron 42, would be delayed out of 2016, it wasn't even shown at the con. Star Citizen has been in development for four years, and although backers have been fed tiny morsels along the way, it would nice to see something big release. Squadron 42 needs to hit soon.

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Let's stick to the negative vibe for just one more second: Independence Day: Resurgence is out today on Blu-ray, DVD, and UHD. It's a terrible film. An abomination, really. In my review, I say that "the writing walks a fine line between cheesy and
downright awful. It even stoops to two different urination jokes, a
middle finger being flashed to invading aliens, and Brent Spiner's
old-man butt."

If you would like to see any of that stuff, by all means watch it, but just know that it doesn't hold a candle to the original film, or most science fiction that graces the silver screen.

One thing you should put on your radar (and read immediately) is Mark Millar and Greg Capullo's incredible first issue of Reborn, published by Image Comics. With HBO's Westworld and this comic in my life, I am a happy camper right now. Part of what makes Reborn fun is uncovering what is happening, so I won't go into the plot too much, but I will say it deals with death in an interesting way. Also, the art is by Capullo – you can't beat that. Don't even dwell on the art pictured below for too long; just run out and buy this book!

If you've been dying to use virtual reality to shave a beard on an alien world, you may want to take a look at Maximum Games' Loading Human, the first entry in a new episodic adventure series for PlayStation VR (and soon on Rift and Vive). Only venture into this first episode for strange interactions like this, and not for the story or an immersive VR experience. Loading Human puts you into the shoes (and fully viewable body) of Prometheus, the son of a man who is called "the most important scientist in history." We learn that Prometheus has traveled across the galaxy to find an energy source that will save his father's life. It turns out his father is trapped in a device he created to achieve immortality. The Quintessence should free him.

To make this story unfold, Prometheus must solve item and environment-based based puzzles to open doors, activate machines, and basically make the plot move forward. The PlayStation 4's Move controllers are used in interesting ways to generate free movement in each environment. Think of Prometheus like a car. Hitting the X button makes him walk in the direction you are facing, much like stepping on the gas in a car. Rather than turning your head to alter trajectory, pointing the Move controller in a desired direction and clicking a different button makes an immediate shift in direction – an act that can be incredibly jarring at times. I wanted to move my head more than the game demanded, but the controls eventually gelled with me, and I found myself freely moving about the large spaces. The game is loaded with interactive elements, and Prometheus often reflects on items that end up in his hands.

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The story, which moves at a snail's pace, is made worse by Prometheus' stiff dialogue delivery. The puzzles don't make you think much, and are more about tinkering and discovery. This is just the first of three parts, so hopefully the gameplay and story become more interesting in the next installment, but you should probably hold off until we know more. Loading Human is off to a rough start, and it didn't conclude with a revelation that makes me want to see what happens next.

The final bit of game news I have for you this week is of the highest order: Star Control is coming back! Stardock just announced a new entry today, called Star Control: Origins. As the name implies, this game is taking us back to mankind's first steps into space. You play the role of a captain aboard Earth's first deep-space starship. Sounds cool!

And that's it for this week. Before you leave, use the comments section below to let me know what you think of the news (especially the potential direction for Jurassic World 2). See you in seven days! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Gears Of War 4, Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Power Rangers

If you didn’t fork out the extra dough for Gears of War 4’s ultimate edition, which allowed you to start playing it last Friday, the game is officially out today, and it’s well worth your time – even if you just want to see cool science-fiction technology in play. In my review, I called Gears of War 4 a continual delight, dazzling with exceptional multiplayer, and the best campaign since the series’ inaugural release.

What my review didn’t touch on too much is the unique science-fiction vision that The Coalition used throughout almost every environment. This series’ art direction has always been relatable, with architecture inspired by Britain’s 1800s Regency era, and weapons modeled after the Vietnam War. The Locust forces were the only thing that truly looked alien, and it was a nice contrast to have, as the player felt a connection with the world.

Gears of War 4’s world delivers that “We’re not in Kansas anymore” sensation, even in some of the human-controlled cities. Early in the game, we get an intimate look at one of the Coalition of Ordered Governments’ newest establishments, but it doesn’t look like it is designed for humans. It feels cold, and bleak – and the only signs of life within it are giant yellow construction robots that are feverishly assembling new buildings and technology. For anyone that’s seen a Transformers cartoon or movie before, you can’t help but think Bumblebee is making a cameo in this game. This particular robot design is incredibly close to the Autobots' favorite little guy, but oddly, it doesn’t feel out of place in this sterile world. The city is also protected by robot forces called DeeBees, which are surprisingly agile and intelligent, but still approach threats with a menacing slow march forward, making them look like a bit like archaic technology in these instances. The coolest touch in this city is a giant, rotating wall that slides along the periphery to protect it from harsh storms. The wall is intimidating to look at, but also something to marvel at from a technology standpoint. It shows just how far this society (and technology) has come since E-Day.

As the game progresses, the world, which ranges from countrysides to rundown factories, is infested with sprawling orange veins, almost looking like an alien hive has claimed these territories. These veins are often joined by large, pulsating eggs that almost look like they glow. The veins are a telltale sign that the Swarm, the game’ new adversary, is here. Although many of the environments hold qualities of the Gears of War titles of old, the Swarm infestation makes them look decidedly alien. It’s a cool touch that pays off handsomely for the gameplay – as the eggs hold new kinds of horrors.

I highly recommend you give Gears of War 4 a whirl, even if you haven’t completed the previous three games in the series. The first act of the game is a primer that details enough of the series’ lore to bring newcomers up to speed. My recommendation carries more weight if you appreciate cooperative play and competitive multiplayer. Both avenues of play are immensely entertaining in this new installment. You can check out the COG city of note in the video below:

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After you take a look at that, three trailers demand your attention. The first is for the upcoming Power Rangers film. Rather than giving fans what they want (kids in powered armor beating the snot out of aliens), this teaser trailer spends its time solely on character development, and I hope the film follows suit and doesn't rush into the action. I want to see the Power Rangers kicking butt as much as anyone, but I also think the film will be better off if they fully embrace the human element. The Marvel films are perfect examples of how developing interesting characters behind the masks is just as important as showing off their super powers. Those characters make more of an impact on us, because we can relate to them and legitimately like who they are.

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Even if you aren't a fan of Doctor Who, you may want to keep the show's upcoming Christmas Special on your radar, as it blends the Doctor's typically wacky science fiction with superheroes. Yes, the Doctor is teaming up with a Superman-like being in New York. This can only be great. Here's the official synopsis for this episode: "This Christmas on BBC One, the Doctor joins forces with a comic-book
superhero in New York for a heroic special written by Steven Moffat,
titled ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio.’ The family favorite will return
on Christmas day as the Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, joins forces
with an investigative journalist, played by Charity Wakefield (Wolf
Hall, The Player
) and a superhero to save New York from a deadly alien
threat." The trailer below gives you a brief look at the episode and the hero of note:

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Netflix's excellent Black Mirror is returning for a third season, and the trailer makes it looks absolutely nuts (in all of the best/most disturbing ways). If you haven't watched this show yet, go into it expecting a dark, character-driven Twilight Zone, and just let the fun unfold. DO NOT look at any story synopses for it online. Also, don't watch the trailer below unless you are caught up!

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Before I leave you, I have two quick notes to address: 1) HBO's Westworld is ridiculously good. That second episode is even better than the first. I won't discuss it here, but would love to talk about it in the comments section below. 2) Star Wars rocks! Did you really think I would finish a Science-Fiction Weekly without mentioning it? The gallery below is loaded with images of upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story toys. See you again in seven days! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Everspace, XCOM 2 On Console, Rogue One

In an attempt to save as much money as I can to buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story toys on Force Friday, my lunches have consisted mostly of peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the last two weeks. This self-inflicted punishment has saved me roughly $ 90 that I can use to buy the Black Series versions of Jyn Erso and K-2SO. My remaining money will either go to the U-Wing, which I just learned features awesome transforming wing positions, and a few of the 3 3/4 inch figures for my collection. All of these collectibles and many more release in just four days (which is a good 75 days before Rogue One hits theaters on December 16).

As excited as I am to go shopping (I'll be at a handful of stores at midnight!), the wait hasn't been that excruciating, thanks in large to two new science-ficton games hitting this week. The first is the console port of XCOM 2. When developer Firaxis Games announced XCOM 2 last summer, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One editions were not in the cards. In an interview with IGN, Jake Solomon, Firaxis' creative director, said that to make a more dynamic sequel with procedural generation the team had to shift gears to a PC-only focus. “To do that, we
had to use all of our studio expertise, and our expertise here is PC," he said.
"That's our home, and that's where we're really comfortable." Firaxis wouldn't rule out a console version at the time, but it didn't sound likely, and for a year, it appeared it would remain a PC and Mac exclusive.

Enter The Workshop, a developer that has helped other studios bring their games to console. Through a collaborative development effort with Firaxis and Blind Squirrel Entertainment, XCOM 2 is now on console, and it's a damn fine port. I'm just at the beginning of my campaign, which is set 20 years after the events of XCOM: Enemy Within and tells the story of the aliens seizing control of the world, and I'm having an absolute blast. Firaxis clearly had fun designing a world in which humanity is on the verge of extinction. While many of the enemy types from the first game return, they've evolved and showcase terrifying new abilities, such as a sectoid's ability to reanimate fallen soldiers.

If you haven't played XCOM before but have always wanted to, you don't need to go back to the previous console generation to play the first entry. This sequel stands well on its own, and the tutorial at the beginning is brilliantly devised, giving you all of the tools and knowledge you need to dive deep into the turn-based action. Just know this: death matters. If your troops are slain, they aren't coming back….unless you turn off permadeath, but don't be that person. XCOM is best experienced when a loss of life means something. You'll grow attached to your troops, more so than you would think. When you get a few hours into the game, you'll hate seeing them take on damage.

I'm playing through the Xbox One version, and the controls work remarkably well on the controller, as well as its predecessor did in the previous generation. On the visual end, I have experienced a few hitches in the character animations, and a slight dip in framerate when an abundance of effects (like fire) are on screen. The game also periodically freezes for a few seconds between player or enemy turns, creating a moment of uncertainty as to what is happening. These are minor (atom-sized) complaints in an otherwise excellent game. Again, I'm still early into the action, but I don't foresee any other problems occurring in the campaign. With that said, I still haven't explored the multiplayer landscape. You can check out a playthrough of a mission in the video below.

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Are there any Colony Wars fans out there? If so, you may want to keep your eyes on Everspace, a roguelike space shooter developed by Rockfish Games for PC, and Xbox One. You can play it right now through Early Access, but I have some concerns about that. First, let me begin by saying it's a beautiful game.

Stunning even.

So good that almost every screenshot looks like the cover of a science-fiction book.


Okay, I may be overselling the visuals a little bit, but asteroid fields hold a bit of a siren's call for me, and most of the areas in Everspace feature them. They also happen to be one of the game's biggest problems, but more on that in a second.

Since it is a roguelike, expect to die a lot, not from a lack of skill, mind you, but from the difficulty being blistering from the outset of play. The Early Access version doesn't offer a story, (although one is planned for the final release), and at the moment just features a series of level-specific challenges to complete before new stages can be reached. These goals range from earning a specific amount in a run, to downing a specific number of enemy fighters. Again, the game is brutally difficult, and you'll likely die repeatedly before achieving victory.

Although your ship is destroyed, almost everything you earn in a run is stored and can be used to improve the vessel you'll send out on the next run. So theoretically, over time you'll be able to outgun the opposition and make it to the next stage, which will likely turn up the difficulty a notch. Only one ship is controllable, but three will be available in the final game. It's a little slow in movement, but needs to be to a degree. Dogfighting against other ships requires aiming precision and quickly rotating to stay locked on the target. Keep in mind that these battles often unfold in asteroid fields. If it were any faster, you'd likely die more from crashing into rocks than by opponent rockets. Your base vehicle is equipped with lasers to kill shields and a gatling gun that can tear up a hull. It's also outfitted with light missiles that deal significant damage. The combat is rewarding and a true test of skill, but there isn't enough of it in this early version.

Right now, most of my time is dedicated to mining asteroids for materials that I can later use to upgrade my ship. Scavenging is the central focus, and it's execution leaves much to be desired. After blasting asteroids, useful debris must be excavated, a slow, and tiring process that nets the smallest of gains. Some asteroids are gigantic and you'll have to fly inside of them to find what you are looking for. This action is somewhat terrifying and cool (and again reason why the movement is somewhat slow), but ends up being repeated too often in each run.

We'll see where Everspace goes from here, but it isn't too far off of the mark. The combat and flight mechanics are right on the money, and if resource gathering can be lightened, this could be a fun, and unique rogue-like experience. I recommend passing on it for now, but keep it on your radar to see how the full release turns out. Again, here's a quick look at it in action.

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I'm going to conclude this edition of Science-Fiction Weekly with a bit of news that may not seem noteworthy, but it carries a bit of mystery that we should keep an eye on: Alan Dean Foster is writing the novelization to Ridley Scott's upcoming Alien: Covenant film. The point of interest comes from Foster's website where he says he is taking an "unusual approach that's never been tried before in a novelization." What could that mean? We'll have to wait for more details to find out. Until then, have a great week! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – The Movies Of 2017, Osiris: New Dawn

Destiny: Rise of Iron is this week's big science-fiction release. If you are looking for a verdict on it, you'll have to wait a few days; we've just gotten our hands on it, and Matt Miller is currently putting it through its paces for his review. However, if you want to know more about it right now, you can read our extensive cover story content from a couple of months ago, or better yet, watch us play through all of Rise of Iron in a live stream, starting today at 4 p.m. CT.

Rise of Iron delves into the history of the mysterious Iron Lords – the legendary heroes who have been hinted at for the last two years of the game's release – and sets players on the path to inheriting that legacy. Along the way, Guardians can expect to encounter a new raid, quests, and tons weapons, armor, and artifacts to collect, along with new competitive gameplay, ranging from newly available private matches to the arrival of Supremacy mode.

I know Forza Horizon 3 is as far removed from science fiction as can be, but Mass Effect fans are making me feel at home with this review. Here's my newest ride, courtesy of a talented artist who uploaded this N7 decal. The Forza marketplace is already loaded with cool sci-fi rides.

On September 28 (in just eight days) PC players can check out Osiris: New Dawn (in Early Access), a multiplayer-driven colony-building game that I've had my eye on for the last couple of months. The game is set in the year 2046, and through the technology of fold-engine propulsion takes players to the Gliese 581 system, where mankind is trying to establish a new homeworld. The habitable planet of note just happens to be the home of numerous alien species and is subject to meteor showers. Other online players can also attack your colony. This Fenix Fire-developed title can be played in first- or third-person, and looks to have expansive crafting and survival systems. I'll hopefully have more on this title in the weeks ahead.

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Remember Star Citizen? The ambitious player-backed game is still deep in development, thanks to the $ 124 million its earned through various crowdfunding campaigns. We still don't have a release date or window, but we do have new footage of the game's first-person gunplay (which you can see below). Jump to roughly the two-minute mark for a look at the current state of combat.

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Outside of games, the slate of science-fiction films on the horizon looks promising. In December we get Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (there's your one Star Wars mention), and two films that I can't wait to see: A deep-space mystery that unfolds in Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and the human side of space travel in The Space Between Us, featuring Gary Oldman and Asa Butterfield. I love the look of the technology in Passengers (which you can see in the trailer below). The Space Between Us opens on December 16 (the same day as Star Wars), and Passengers is a week later on December 23.

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The year to come also looks great. Pratt returns as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5, 2017. Kurt Russell is joining the cast as Ego the Living Planet, a role that Pratt recommended go to Russell. I wonder if we'll get another Howard the Duck cameo in this one.

The following month welcomes what I believe will be the best comedy of the year: Transformers: The Last Knight. Releasing on June 23, the fifth Transformers film is rumored to connect to Camelot and King Arthur. Apparently, a Transformer crash landed in Arthur's realm with an artifact in hand. That artifact is supposedly Excalibur. Merlin gained his magical powers from it. No, I'm not joking around. Leaked set photos confirm the casting of both Merlin and Arthur. The concept for this story is loosely based on an old Transformers G1 cartoon. I like that they are pulling inspiration from the old show, but that's one episode that should have been left in the vault.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus was a polarizing film. I enjoyed it, but people who expected a solid Alien connection were obviously left with little to chew on. Alien: Covenant appears to bridge the gap between Ridley's work in this series. Prometheus' synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) returns, but is joined by an entirely new crew aboard the colony ship Covenant, which stumbles upon a world filled with eggs, face-huggers, chest-bursters, and xenomorphs.

The year concludes with Blade Runner 2 on October 6, which once again stars Harrison Ford, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, and Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15. Other films that show potential in 2017 are The Dark Tower (February 17), Guardians (February 23), Power Rangers (March 24), war of the Planet of the Apes (July 14), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21). Sci-fi fans are going to be spoiled next year, especially with Mass Effect: Andromeda hitting. More on that exciting game soon!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – ReCore

When I played ReCore at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, I managed to kill two enemies before the game glitched out and sent protagonist Joule plummeting through the world into a vast sea of blackness that eventually transformed into kaleidoscopic work of art as a flurry of textures darted across the screen. I put the controller down on the kiosk and slowly backed away from it. The unfortunate glitch wasn't the only bad taste that ReCore left me with; I wasn't sold on the color-coded combat system, in which the player gains bonus damage from matching the color of the laser to the enemy color.

While Mass Effect fans can appreciate color-coded gameplay design (that's a joke), it seems like such a simple and odd thing to be included into a game that is trying to sell the player on a believable science-fiction setting. When ReCore showed up on my desk on Friday, I looked at it warily, but I was also curious to see how much the final game had changed since my brief (and hilariously bad) encounter with it at E3.

I managed to log roughly four hours into it, and I'm finding it's one of those games that will impress you one minute, then fall apart into the territory of unmitigated disaster the next. It really is impressive how often and wide that pendulum swings in both directions. It almost seems intentional at times. "Wait? You're having a good time? Choke on this long load time followed by a dull fetch quest. Hating it now? Good. Enjoy this awesome platforming sequence and dungeon."

First let's start with the good – and there's plenty of it here. Development houses Armature Studios and Comcept jointly made a fascinating world traverse in Far Eden. The name evokes thoughts of a lush paradise, but Far Eden is a literal junkyard, a desert filled with the remains of huge machines that have been abandoned for decades. It isn't a place you would want to visit, but it does hold an intriguing mystery: What happened here? That question is a big part of the narrative, which is also quite good in the early stages of the game. Joule Adams is a resourceful and intelligent lead for this game; a character of few words, but meaningful ones when she finally speaks up. In the opening moments of the story, she learns through video recordings that her father is sewn into the events at hand, but when were these recordings made? She's been in cryo freeze for the better part of a century. Could he still be alive?

The world, as intentionally ugly as it is, takes many cues from the Zelda and Metroid games, giving players a somewhat sizeable open world to explore. The critical path leads you to your next destination, but you can also veer off of it to search for treasure chests (which are highlighted on the map), and bonus dungeons that deliver significant challenges usually themed around a specific gameplay mechanic. The world isn't densely packed with content, so even if you are searching for treasures, you'll often come across wide expanses that consist of nothing but running and the infrequent chance of an encounter. The fast-travel system, if we can call it that, falls victim to long load times, and other than taking you exactly where you want to go, are frustrating in how much they pull you out of the game. Make sure you have your phone handy to check Twitter or your emails whenever a load screen appears. The game can load for over two minutes in some areas or after Joule dies.

Joule's acrobatic approach to navigating the wreckage scattered across Far Eden is also impressive, and is easily the best part of this experience. When ReCore wants to be a challenging platformer, it's awesome. The combo of a double jump into a dash to cross huge chasms is designed well and feels great. Couple that with the abilities of Joule's robotic companions, and the sparks can fly. One of Joule's robots, Seth, can latch onto elevated rails and slide across them quickly. Joule latches onto Seth in these instances and is then flung a great distance when the track runs out. Again, these gameplay elements are tapped for fun platforming sequences and interesting puzzle-like dungeon sequences.

If ReCore stuck mostly to its platforming, it would have been better off. The combat, which is tapped just as often, is a mess, and it isn't just about the enemies being painted like the rainbow. Rather than giving players the ability to freely run and gun, the game makes use of a quick-snap, lock-on targeting system. It works well when swarms of bugs are flying at you, but becomes a nuisance when bigger targets are onscreen and you want to key in on one specific one. These moments can be frustrating. Variety of enemy types alsos become somewhat of an issue, even after just four hours of playing. I keep taking on the same spider bots and flies, and the encounters aren't growing progressively harder. It's the same pockets of foes over and over again.

I did face off against one boss who was a bullet sponge, but the real challenge came from, surprise surprise, the same pockets of enemies spawning around him. The combat may change as I play, but right now, I love it when I'm jumping, and grow more disenchanted with the experience each time I open fire on a robot.

I will be sticking with ReCore until the end, however. Yes, I am a sucker for mysteries, and I feel like I should see what happens to Joule. I also want to know what went wrong on Far Eden. Those two hooks are more than enough to keep me engaged. When ReCore is firing on all cylinders, it reminds of a mix between Jak & Daxter and Darksiders. Jak & Daxter for the environment navigation, and Darksiders for the open world design.

I am not writing the review of ReCore for Game Informer. That duty is in the hands of the great Jeff Marchiafava, who is playing it as you read this. I have no idea what he thinks of the game at this point, but definitely keep an eye out for his take in the next couple of days.

For those of you who don't think Star Wars is science fiction, I have more Star Wars science-fiction news for you! The third season of Star Wars: Rebels is almost upon us (September 24), and Lucasfilm put together a hell of a teaser for it. Enjoy the trailer. Grand Admiral Thrawn is back! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – The Turing Test, Livelock, The Final Station

If you love Portal, you need to play The Turing Test. I don't often like to compare games to others, but the similarities between Portal and The Turing Test are too much to deny. Almost every Game Informer staffer that entered my office as I was playing The Turing Test, said something along the lines of "this looks like Portal."

At its core, The Turing Test is a first-person experience that follows a female protagonist through testing chambers in which she solves puzzles by either using an energy weapon or moving power cubes, as an A.I. voice provides insight into the world. Yes, that sounds like Portal, but the gameplay is different, and the game's overall message is, well, wow. I was blown away by its twists, turns, and ending. And no, it has nothing to do with cake.

Most of the puzzles revolve around energy redistribution to open doors and make contraptions work. The gun you carry never once causes harm, but is instead used to store energy that can be shot into inactive power supplies. As the game unfolds, different energy colors (which hold different properties) are sewn into the puzzles. A few gameplay twists are tied to the narrative that I won't go into for the sake of spoilers, but they add another satisfying layer of difficulty to the puzzles. Of the 70-plus puzzle rooms in the game, I enjoyed most of them. A few of the solutions are clearly telegraphed, almost acting as tutorials, but most rooms bring a serious challenge, and those moments where you stand still in place just to think through how the energy should be distributed.

The Turing Test's story is also good. It gets a little heavy-handed (and long) in its setup, but once its concept is fully established, it rolls along beautifully and is something that makes you think about the advancements of technology and the dangers they possess. For those not in the know, the Turing Test is a test developed by Alan Turing in 1950 to see if a machine's logic could be believed as human. The game dives deeply into this idea, and applies a nice science-fiction spin to it. Play this game, mostly because it's good, but also because we should have a conversation about its story and conclusion. The video below is the first 30-minutes of The Turing Test.

If you enjoy punching things in video games, you may want to give Livelock a look as well. I've vested a couple of hours into this cooperative top-down action game from Tuque Games, and I'm having a good time punching the scrap out of robots. My character, Vanguard, doesn't have hands. He instead has two giant rounded gauntlets, much like Rumble from Transformers. Waves of enemy robots approach, and they are all smashed to bits. The environment also takes a beating; cars go flying and walls crumble.

Up to three people can play together online, and yes, there are three different classes to create a nice team dynamic. Hex handles long range duties, Catalyst unleashes drone minions, and Vanguard is of course the tank. The action is fast and chaotic, and the levels have a nice flow to them, focusing more on linear pathing than exploring maze-like dungeons. I also like that you don't have to pause the game for upgrades or loot analysis. All of that is handled post level. Livelock is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Just go into it knowing it constantly bangs the drum of a ridiculous story about the end of days, and mankind loading their minds into robots to survive extinction.

All sci-fi video games that released last week are apparently good, and they couldn't be much different from one another. Next up is The Final Station by tinyBuild. This side-scrolling action game gives us a fascinating look at mankind's first contact with aliens…or in this game's case, the second. Seen through the eyes of a train engineer, we learn of a "second visitation," but we're intentionally left in the dark as to who is visiting or why. We learn these things as the train moves from town to town. The pacing in this reveal is deliberately slow, but excellent for world-building and atmosphere. Nothing really happens for over the span of the first half hour, but the intrigue is boiling over, and ends up being a great driving force.

I won't go into what happens (and you should avoid the trailer below if you want to go in with the mystery intact, as I did), but The Final Station is divided into two gameplay experiences: on train and on foot. The train you are driving is in rough shape and needs to be maintained. The passengers are sometimes equally as banged up and need your help. These needs are handled through simple gameplay actions. Keeping the train's engine cool, requires a few knobs to be turned. A hungry passenger simply needs food be brought to him. There isn't a lot of gameplay in this section, but it is still a cool part of the game that is used as a vehicle for storytelling. It also strengthens the on-foot sections, as you'll need to secure the supplies needed to take care of your passengers.

When you're in town, the game takes on a survival quality. Bullets are often in short supply, but things need to be killed in order for you to proceed. You can try to punch your way through the threats, but again, you are best off scouring the environment for supplies and ammo. The towns are also loaded with people to interact with. Some of them become your passengers. Most simply offer more interesting context for the state of the world.

It's a fascinating little game. I'm not in love with the combat so far, but it gets the job done against the threats I'm facing thus far. I mostly want to see where this mystery goes, and if my little train will make it to the end of the track. If you want to check out all three of these titles (and I recommend you do), start with The Turing Test, move to The Final Station next, and end with Livelock (which is the only multiplayer title in the bunch).

Outside of games, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story marketing and merchandise will soon be everywhere you look. I'm hearing stores should start carrying product on September 30 (Force Friday). Hasbro has slowly been revealing its action figure assortments over the last month or two, but Pyramid International just decided to throw all of it stuff into one giant catalog. I highly recommend you flip through it to see a bevy of new art from the film – most of it is awesome. I've included a couple of images below for your viewing pleasure. Gotta love that classic trilogy look!

I should also point out that The Tomorrow Children launched on PlayStation 4 today. I've logged about 45 minutes into this free-to-play town-building title, and couldn't be more confused at this point. After a simplistic tutorial, in which I was asked to use a pick axe to create a passageway leading to gold, I was thrown into a bustling town, and found myself doing various tasks to raise its economy. The cool thing, I wasn't the only player doing this. Other players helped out. I found myself running on a treadmill to produce energy, mounting a cannon to shoot a Godzilla-like beast that was getting too close for comfort, and spent far too long ringing a bell for whatever reason. I like the look of the game, and would love a great town-building experience on console, but again, I have no idea how to get my own town going at this point. I love the vision of the future this game projects (which takes place after a failed experiment in 1960s Russia), but the gameplay I've engaged is making me feel like a drone, and perhaps that's part of the point of The Tomorrow Children.

Regardless, I'll hopefully have more on this bizarre title next Tuesday in another edition of Science-Fiction Weekly. Hope you're all having a fun day! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Snoke’s Identity Revealed?

In the latest canonical Star Wars novel, Life Debt, the unexplored years leading up to the events of The Force Awakens are taking shape. The book gives us more insight into the Knights of Ren, General Hux’s family, Leia’s pull to the Force, and the puzzling character simply known as The Operator, who debuted in the novel Aftermath.

The big takeaway from the new novel, which primarily takes place a few months after the events of Return of the Jedi, is the potential reveal of Supreme Leader Snoke's identity. Yes, Star Wars fans have yet another story to dissect and discuss. J. J. Abrams recently shot down the theory that Darth Plagueis was Snoke, and Rian Johnson poked fun at the ideas people had with a post-it note that simply said, “Your Snoke theory sucks,” but in the months following these denials, Life Debt’s revelations carry significant weight, and many smack of Snoke.

It all begins with The Operator. We learn in events preceding the Battle of Endor that his name is really Gallius Rax, an orphaned boy who was enslaved on Jakku at an early age. Sound familiar? In an attempt to break free from his confines, Rax stows away on a ship called the Imperialis, but his presence was felt by Emperor Palpatine. The Emperor gave Rax a choice: a quick death, or the chance to be a part of something bigger. Rax wisely accepted life and was taken under the Emperor’s wing. We don't know what the Emperor did with Rax, but we do know he was eventually  entrusted as the guardian of an excavation site on Jakku. What could the site hold? That’s another topic worth theorizing about. It’s something the Emperor wants, something likely tied to the Force. “The spot there in the dirt where my droids were operating is precious,” the Emperor says. “Not just to me, but to the galaxy at large. It is significant. It was significant a thousand years ago and it will be significant again."

In the years that followed, a character named Grand Admiral Rae Sloane tried to investigate Rax’s past, but found him to be a ghost under the Emperor’s watch. Rax eventually moves on to join the Imperial military, and becomes a force within it, rising to be one of the key players in the Battle of Jakku. And get this; his star destroyer was the Ravager, the crashed vessel we see on Jakku in one of The Force Awakens’ first shots. Could this battle be where he got his scars? The symbolism of Rey investigating the crashed star destroyer is too good to deny. There's something there.

Rax also forms a secret Imperial Shadow Council with other Imperial leads. We don't gain much insight into it, but we do know that Brendol Hux is a part of it. Brendol is the father of the General Hux we see in The Force Awakens. General Hux runs Snoke's military. Shadow council. Hux. It all adds up.

Some people also point out that Rax’s ideology of what the Empire should be also lines up with the little we hear from Snoke in the film. I think that connection is a little flimsy at this point, but yes, the evil ways of the Empire are carried out in Rax's actions.

These theories could be debunked in 2017’s upcoming book, Empire’s End, but the connective tissue between Rax and Snoke is hard to deny, and Lucasfilm is giving this character an interesting role within the universe. He is featured prominently in the first and last chapters of the book. To be at the side of the Emperor, he has to be someone special. I’d love to hear your theories on this new player in the Star Wars universe, and any additional ones you might have about Snoke in the comments section below.

Now let's get overly crazy with the theories. What if one of Rey's "parents" or "grandparents" was actually Emperor Palpatine? I don't buy this idea, but this video is certainly interesting, most notably in the shared fighting styles of Rey and Palpatine.

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Outside of the Star Wars news, make sure you read my final thoughts on Valley, and Dan Tack's breakdown of Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars. I'll leave you this week with the fantastic trailer for Red Dwarf XI. It's been a busy few weeks, and I haven't had a lot of time for this column, but I'm hoping you find them useful and interesting. Feel free to leave me your two cents, and I can try to cover the stuff you want to see. I'll be back in seven days!

(Please visit the site to view this media) – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – A Liveblog Of No Man’s Sky

As you read this, new planets are being discovered in No Man's Sky. People are setting foot on these worlds to study life, map the terrain, and mine valuable resources. The universe is a blank canvas, and every one of us has the chance to fill it in and put our fingerprint on it. This is an exciting proposition for a game to deliver, and so far, that element of discovery has been a strong driving force.

Don't expect every planet to be a world of wonder filled with aliens to interact with and beasts to marvel at. Most of the planets I've charted have been mostly barren, offering mostly elements I can extract to improve my space ship. An entire solar system (consisting of six planets) was largely void of life – a discovery that took five hours to realize.

Those disappointing worlds are needed however, as they heighten the thrill of a big discovery. Finding a groove in No Man's Sky takes time. The opening minutes (and perhaps hours) can be confusing and a little overwhelming, as inventory management looms large. Just gaining an understanding of what each element can be used for takes time. Don't give up. The limited inventory space is puzzling, but I now know what I need and I feel like I've established a comfortable groove with resource management.

I thought it would be fun to chronicle my journey through the game today. Below is an active journal that I will update throughout the day, hopefully minutes after each discovery. Before we get to that, I know many of you want to know if you should play the game. My answer after spending two days with it is "Yes." If you go into it expecting a somewhat rocky start, and know that you have to stay on top of inventory management at all times, charting the cosmos has been rewarding and unlike anything I've done in game. Yes, there are big lulls in the excitement, and you may find yourself mining rocks for hours on end, but there are also strong hooks of discovery and becoming a more powerful and proficient space explorer. Here's hoping that comes across in the journal. Without further delay, let's get to it…

Starlog 00:01 – The Planet Reiner I

A new Warp Cell in the Hyperdrive leads me to Alnyevoikh-Zuen, a class F2p solar system consisting of four planets. The first planet I see looks promising. Even 450,000ks away, I like the look of it. Most of the planets I see look like dead rocks from afar, this one looks a little like Earth. I can see lush green foliage on the landmasses below the cloud cover. I have a feeling I'll find life here. I quickly name it Reiner I, an act that earns me units (the currency in the game).

00:06 – A Big Discovery
After entering the atmosphere, the first thing I think is it looks like Felucia, a Star Wars planet with giant mushrooms and pitcher plants (there's your Star Wars reference, everyone). After a quick scan of my surroundings, I'm alerted of a Monolith on the planet's surface.

00:08 – Speaking Alien
A land my vessel near the alien structure and walk up its stairs. I learn it's the Gek Monolith: Legacy of Ukkarnes. My character says "The Monolith stands silent on the planet's surface. It does not belong here. Neither do I. There is a shimmer, and then the vision of the red orb returns. The Atlas. It speaks to me again. Again I feel the half-elation, half-terror that I have met my creator. The Atlas offers me guidance, purpose, meaning. Significance in an uncaring galaxy. All I must do is follow its path, and its orders." My character the learns the Gek word "spawn." I learn a couple of other words and leave the Monolith.

00:11 – A World of Riches
I haven't seen any signs of life yet, and that could be from the toxin rain that is falling. I'll have to stay close to my ship, as the rain is hammering away at my suit, and I can only stay out in it for a couple of minutes at a time. My next discovery is a big one: gold, and tons of it. I spend the next half hour mining as much of it as I can carry. This is a rare resource in the galaxy and it should fetch a pretty penny at the space station that I passed to reach Reiner I.

00:37 – A Bid for Power
Inventory space is limited, but new vessels can be purchased. The bigger ships offer more storage. With the gold I'm digging up, I should be able to upgrade soon. After my pockets are filled with as much gold as I can carry, I travel to the station, and sell my fortune. I'm up to 152,000 units. I quickly learn I need roughly a million for a significant ship upgrade. I could settle for something smaller for $ 300,000, but I'm at a planet that is overflowing with riches. I should mine it for all of its worth before traveling further into the universe. This is going to take time, but it will be worth it.

00:45 – Another Discovery
My second trip to Reiner I produces another find: an advanced outpost. After looting its shipping containers, which contain basic elements for my vitals and devices, I come across a pod that contains an upgrade pack that gives me one more inventory space. That will come in handy, especially since I'm here to mine as much gold as I can.

01:12 – Macaroni and Cheese

All of this mining is making me hungry. I take a quick break from my game to nuke a canister of Hormel's delicious macaroni and cheese. I chose this lunch because it only takes four minutes to make. It's also huge. This will feed me most of the day. Back to the gold.

01:37 – A New Friend
With as much gold as I can haul, I return to the space station and cash in. The hanger bay is essentially a used car showroom. Every vessel can be purchased, if you have the funds. One of the sellers is Assistant Fossasy. While I can't understand what he or she says, we communicate well enough to enact a sale for 605,000 units.

01:38 – A New Ride
I'm now the proud owner of the Kizawate S17. It may look small, but it gives me five additional inventory slots. Sadly, the resources I pumped into my previous vessel don't transfer to this one, meaning I lost a warp core.

01:39 – Exploring Again
Since I'm stuck in this system, I might as well check out new planets. My next stop is Onodateyaman-Twe, a little planet on the outskirts of the system.

01:49 – Respectful Naming
Being pleased with my mac and cheese lunch, I decide to name the planet Hormel. – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Everything You Need To Know About No Man’s Sky

The wait is almost over. No Man's Sky launches next week. PlayStation 4 owners can launch their spaceships into the cosmos on Tuesday, and PC players just need to wait an additional three days for the bay doors to open on Friday. No Man's Sky is one of the most anticipated titles I've seen in my 20-plus-year tenure at Game Informer. And it's a different kind of hype than we normally see tied to big sequels like Grand Theft Auto and Fallout. This hype holds an air of mystery, and the promise of exploring the unknown.

In a Twitter poll I recently conduced, the majority of people that responded said reviews and launch-day impressions don't matter; they are buying the game on day one to discover what it is on their own. I recently wrote an editorial that detailed the virtues tied to venturing into games blind. It can be a powerful experience, especially if the game deviates from what you thought it might be. If you are one of the people who has gone on radio silence with No Man's Sky and are counting down the days until its launch, by all means leave this column now and tread carefully on the Internet. One copy of the game leaked last weekend, and the lucky person who got his hands on it posted spoilers all over the place. Like you, I don't want to know any more, and I'm doing everything I can to avoid hearing more about it. I just want to jump into my ship to see what this universe holds, and if it has the hooks to keep me engaged.

For those of you who need a little bit more information about No Man's Sky, I've rounded up a primer that describes the basic premise and gameplay concepts. Yes, this list could spoil the element of discovery to a degree, but keep in mind that no two people's journeys are supposed to be the same. We're all starting at different points in the universe, and the odds of anyone stumbling upon other players or even planets discovered by them are astronomically low. Picture yourself as Charles Darwin on a one-man expedition to discover life, make sense of it, and learn what lies at the center of the universe. That's the experience I'm led to believe No Man's Sky delivers. Here's what you can expect from this game next week:

A Procedurally Generated Universe
No Man Sky's universe is listed as "infinite" in the marketing materials, but developer Hello Games says the universe is in fact finite, consisting of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets. That's eighteen
quintillion, four hundred forty-six quadrillion, seven hundred forty-four
trillion, seventy-three billion, seven hundred nine million, five
hundred fifty-one thousand, six hundred and sixteen planets.
If you aim to be a completionist who visits each one for just one second, you can accomplish this feat in 585 billion years. You traverse this sprawling universe using a one-person spacecraft equipped with hyperlight travel. If you enter a galaxy, you can reach all destinations quickly, and that's where the real fun begins.

You Can Visit Everything
Whether you're looking at a dim star in space or a mountain on a planet's surface, you can visit it. Everything in the game can be traversed and interacted with. All of this content is procedurally generated at the moment you arrive. If a planet is closer to the sun, it will likely be barren of life (but could still provide resources you need). If the planet is further away, it will be colder and will likely contain different resources.

No Story to Follow
You aren't looking for a relative that was abducted by aliens, and I suspect the odds of running into a procedurally generated Darth Vader are low. Hello Games isn't offering a defined narrative, and instead hopes people latch onto their own journey as the story. The only thing you know is you are trying to reach the center of the universe. What awaits you there? That hook alone is enough to make me want to keep playing.

Your Ship Matters
Your ship is your lifeline in the universe, and you need to take care of it. Deep space exploration requires hyper-drive fuel, which can be mined on planets or purchased from other intelligent life you come across. You can also upgrade your ship to extend the jump drive range, or enhance its speed, maneuverability, and weapon systems.

You Are Not Alone
Other intelligent life are littered through the universe. Some are bound to planets, while others explore the stars with you and may be hostile. As you discover new things about civilizations you will grow to learn the language of the species that built it, and will have the means to interact with them. You can also barter with them using a universal currency called "Units." Some species just want to make war, which is a good reason to keep upgrading your ship's weapons. Although No Man's Sky can be played offline, it is recommended that players play it online for that rare chance of running into someone else.

The Atlas
All findings in the universe are stored on The Atlas (pictured above). Think of it like a legitimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Hello Games says the Atlas is perhaps the most important thing in the universe. Could this be a device people interact with to discover what else is out there?

Surviving the Unknown
No Man's Sky is a survival game that places a heavy emphasis on scouring the environment for resources. Hello Games created its own periodic table filled with elements that must be excavated to help your character survive. Some elements are rare, while others hold mysterious properties. Figuring out what can help you is part of the adventure. If you venture onto a cold planet, resources can help you build better protective gear. No Man's Sky is about the long game and thoroughly exploring worlds to increase your chances of survival.

If You Die
If you aren't prepared for a planet's toxic surface or run into a particularly nasty beast, you can die quickly. If you perish on a planet, your character respawns at his or her ship, with the only penalty being the loss of items that weren't stored and discoveries that weren't catalogued. Death in space brings you to the nearest space station, but it sounds like you won't have your ship or any items. We'll have to wait to see what this means.

The Multitool
You wield a tool that doubles as a weapon and resource-collecting device. Like most things in No Man's Sky, the multitool can be upgraded and changed. Hello Games' Sean Murray has said it's similar to the tricorder from Star Trek.

Catalogue Your Findings
If you are the first person to uncover new life in the universe, you can name it. That name is permanent, and if another person stumbles upon it years from now, will see the name you gave it. The odds of most creatures having phallic names are probably higher than anything in this game.

That wraps up this edition of Science-Fiction Weekly. I'll be back next week with exciting details on a new game, and a journal of my adventure through No Man's Sky (complete with video of my findings). I'll leave you with a comic book recommendation: Run out and pick up Dark Horse's Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens. Yes, it sounds terrible, but I enjoyed the hell out of the first issue. All hell is about to break loose between the three forces! – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Trek Beyond Review, Han Solo Trilogy

In one of Star Trek Beyond's rare, quieter moments, captain James T. Kirk turns to first officer Spock and says, "We make a good team." Spock pauses for a second, before calmly replying, "I believe we do." This brief exchange, which is meant to show genuine bonding between two crew members who have developed a friendship in near cataclysmic times, is awkward to the point that it doesn't feel right, a prevailing sentiment echoed throughout most of the film. Actors Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) didn't butcher this scene; the unease is intentional, as we learn both characters are holding secrets from the other. Director Justin Lin and writer Simon Pegg, who also plays chief engineer Scotty, handle the character ensemble well, juggling classic personality traits Trek fans have come to expect with new wrinkles that make each character more interesting and worth following. However, the time allotted with each character is rarely satisfactory, truncated into short snippets that are often lost amid loud and overly long action sequences – some are exciting and suspenseful, while others are goofy to the point of almost smacking of parody.

Again, something just feels off in this new Star Trek adventure. Even Kirk bounces unpredictably between dashing and charismatic to somber and directionless. When we first meet him in this third Trek film in the rebooted series, he's struggling to come to terms with his thirtieth birthday, knowing he's now a year older than his father ever was. The edge is taken off of this heavy moment by Karl Urban's "Bones" McCoy, the ship's doctor, who is often the highlight of any scene. Bones is written exceptionally well, adding levity and heart at the right times. Kirk's conflicted story arc is interesting, but again, is not given time to develop in a satisfying way amid the action, and the apparent need for the plot to keep moving from one set piece moment to the next.

As we worry about Kirk and Spock on a personal level and want to invest more time with both characters, the story is steered in a different direction. When the Enterprise, which has been exploring unknown space for three years, is sent on a rescue mission through a nebula and asteroid field, all hell breaks loose. Levels of hell that we haven't seen in a Trek movie before. Just when it seems that Kirk and his crew will figure out a miraculous way of saving the day, all is lost. The death and destruction are immense, unfolding through a bombardment of action – it just keeps coming, bigger and more chaotic as it races toward a surprising end. Lin handles this chaos deftly, and as visually stunning as it all is, should be credited more for creating such a monumental threat to a vessel and crew that always find a way to win. At the head of this new threat is a character named Krall (played by Idris Elba), a mysterious alien being who can siphon the life out of living things and wields technology leagues more powerful than anything the Federation has seen before. He introduces this film's MacGuffin: a device called the abronath, which can apparently destroy everything, but he really doesn't need it since he seems capable of that already. Chalk it up to the idea of the powerful apparently wanting more power. It works. He's super evil. I get it.

With this villain in play, the story appears to be heading into even darker territory, but it again hits the pause button to shift in a different direction. With the crew down and out, the story adopts a playful spirit with Spock and Bones discussing life, and Scotty and a new character named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) trying to come to terms with their current predicament. The great threat Krall posed just moments ago now appears more pedestrian and hospitable, almost acknowledging the threat was OP and the good guys need a sporting chance if this film is going to end any time soon. This is when Kirk hatches a plan he won't reveal yet, and, well, all forms of silliness follow. I won't reveal what happens next for the sake of spoilers, but if you thought the inclusion of the Beastie Boys' song Sabotage in J. J. Abrams Star Trek was absurd, you haven't seen anything yet. That line of thinking can be used for far worse things. J. J. Binks levels of bad. In this instant, the film slides into disaster territory and fully embraces it.

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I wanted to cover my ears and eyes during this moment, debated walking out, but I'm glad I didn't. After the terrible stuff subsides, the film slows again to give us more fun character development and the promise of something great on the horizon. Lin's debut in the Star Trek universe is shaky at times, but he understands what people love about these movies and characters and clearly wants to appease everyone. A couple of bad ideas (one horrible one) are not enough to sink the fun in this film. It just feels a little off. Here's hoping Lin gets a second shot at nailing that formula.

Outside of this review, this entry of Science-Fiction Weekly will be a little lighter than normal (apologies), but there is one newsworthy item that you should know about. According to a report from NY Daily News, Disney has apparently signed actor Alden Ehrenreich, who is playing a young Han Solo in another "Star Wars Story," to a three-film deal, which may mean we are getting a trilogy. The insider the info comes from says "Given that Han’s early adventures do not need to be tied to the Empire,
it leaves story lines open with the opportunity to really give fans
something different. They can explore new galaxies and crazy creatures
and bring in a wide array of new characters." I like the idea of Star Wars moving beyond the Empire to expand the size of the universe. All too often Star Wars stories are too familiar, using the same characters over and over again. Yes, we are getting more of Han (and probably Chewbacca at some point), but the other players involved will likely be new to the lore.

Again, sorry for the shorter column. I'm spinning far too many plates at the moment with other work, but should be back to my normal schedule next week. See you then! – The Feed