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Science-Fiction Weekly – Mass Effect Andromeda, Star Wars Rebels, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Starbucks is to thank for a planet name in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. During a SXSW keynote, the film's director Gareth Edwards said the planet Scarif came from a Starbucks barista hearing his name wrong. The barista wrote "Scarif" on his drink instead of Gareth. He also said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy suggested Rogue One's bloody ending, but he didn't think it would stick. He  thought Disney would change course to different conclusion. "I kept waiting for them to go back on that decision," he said to the SXSW crowd. "Until the last week, I still waited for that little 'no,' but it never came."

Star Wars fans will want to tune in to Disney XD on March 18 at 8:30 p.m. to watch a Star Wars Rebels episode titled "Twin Suns." As the name so clearly highlights, the setting is Tatooine, and it just happens to be the battleground for another lightsaber fight pitting Darth Maul against Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes, he's old Ben now, and no, Maul will likely never die.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

I don't think I need to remind you that Mass Effect Andromeda is just one week away (just a few days away for EA Access subscribers). My journey is well under way, and I even sat down with Suriel Vazquez to play through two hours of the game for your viewing pleasure. The footage you are about to see chronicles the entire opening of the game up through the first planet, called Eos. You'll meet companions, get a brief taste of open-world exploration, and learn everything you need to know about leveling and combat. We even show off conversation choices – nothing huge, mind you – but you'll get a good idea of how Ryder's brain is wired. I'm finding Ryder to be a much different character than Shepard, showing a little more youthful enthusiasm and a lack of experience. It'll be interesting to see if players take to this younger, more family-driven character than the battle-hardened Shep.

My early thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda are all over the place at this point. I'm enjoying the story immensely. The Andromeda system is proving to be an exceptional canvas for discovery. I love how nothing in this sector of space is defined until another species or a document tells you what it is. We instead see humans trying to decipher what they are seeing. That's a fantastic little touch. BioWare also nails the pacing in the early moments of Andromeda. If you want to take it slow to soak up the lore, you can take on a number of side missions and activities to keep you occupied for hours. If you want to blaze through the campaign, you can bypass those moments and keep moving along the critical path – meaning you won't run into big lulls like you did on Citadel. The new hub world, called Nexus, is nicely designed with most waypoints grouped together tightly. There is a tram ride that takes a few seconds, but again, the destination you seek is usually close.

The lull you'll likely run into is tied to world exploration. Each planet I've landed on has been huge. For those of you who want to explore every little cave and camp, you could spend an entire day on one planet. If you just want to stick to the story beats, get comfortable with the idea of driving vast distances and having to navigate rocky terrain to reach your objective. You are the "Pathfinder" after all. The Nomad controls well, and is an absolute beast when you kick it into six-wheel drive. I haven't unlocked any weapons for it yet, but the base controls are solid. Frustration comes from figuring out how to navigate mountains and uneven terrain. Not everything can be climbed. I'm enjoying the exploration and Nomad moments, but these aspects are where Mass Effect Andromeda slows down to a crawl.

Combat is enjoyable and challenging, but again has some issues. I'm not a fan of the auto-cover design, which makes Ryder take cover when standing next to any flush surface. I much prefer having that action handled by a button press. The Force-like biotics are good fun to wield (as they always have been), and are ridiculously powerful, even in the first couple hours. Enemy A.I. sometimes seems smarter than usual, showing the ability to rush or flank when they have numbers. I have run into a few foes who were defeated by the environment, either struggling with the pathing to reach their destination or thinking they were in cover when they were in fact almost fully exposed. Ryder's companions are aggressive and capable of finishing off foes. They are also quite interesting when you get to know them. So far, I haven't run into a character that is a wholesale ripoff of someone from Mass Effect 1-3. They all stand out in different ways.

That's my early take on Mass Effect Andromeda. Keep in mind, I'm still early into the adventure, and it looks like it's going to be a long haul. I'll have more on my journey next week, along with Game Informer's official review, penned by Joe Juba. For my full take on the first two hours, watch the video below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The 10th season of Doctor Who launches on April 15, and it looks absolutely bonkers. It even has a robot speaking in an emoji language. This is Peter Capaldi's final season as the good Doctor, and odds are we'll see who takes over for him in his final episode. Before that day, he may meet a beloved character from the past if actor John Barrowman has any pull with the show's creators. Barrowman played Captain Jack on previous season's of Doctor Who and Torchwood, and would like to see what happens when the Doctor meets Jack. "The Doctor's a little bit older, perfect – Jack's matured a little bit," Barrowman said on The Doctor Who Fan Show. "Would he think, 'I'm not sure about your cape there, sir. What happened to the coat? Why a cape? Why have you gone all Dracula on me?'"

I'd love to see Captain Jack return. Torchwood was a wonderful show, and Jack proved to be one of the series' most interesting characters (both in the present and future). I also want to see David Tennant return as the Doctor. I know that goes against the spirit of the show (not to mention its lore), but he was so damn good. He should be forced to play that role until the end of time. Again, I don't think season 10 is a good jumping-on point for newcomers to the series, but take a look a the trailer below to get an idea of just how much science-fiction variety this show offers in just one season.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

I don't like saying something is great before I see it, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is going to be great. How can it not be? I laughed through every trailer and think the casting is as good as it gets in Hollywood. The latest clip from Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards reaffirms my stance on this forthcoming film. Get ready to laugh, people. Poop jokes are the best.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bungie Details Destiny Age Of Triumph Update’s New Weekly Activities

Last week, Bungie detailed how Destiny's final update, Age of Triumph, will chronicle a lifetime of player activities in a new record book and re-level older raids to keep them current. Today, senior designers Tim Williams and Joe Sifferman joined community manager David “Deej” Dague to reveal new details about the update, which hits March 28, and how it reworks the game's weekly activities. 

The central addition in terms of drops is the new Treasure of Ages, which Tess Everis now offers at the Eververse Trading Company store. The treasure offers armor, weapons, and various other limited items from throughout Destiny's life, including the Desolate Taken and Spektar armor sets, as well as seasonal items. If players want a specific item, they can break down items from this random chest and use the silver dust they collect in a greatly expanded silver dust store, which offers those same items.  

Age of Triumph will also offer a new 12-step quest from The Speaker, which will take players through all the types of activities Destiny has to offer. The quest begins with the new weekly story playlist, which replaces the daily story quest. The new playlist will mix in story missions from every Destiny expansion into a collected groups, such as Mars and Venus or House of Wolves and The Dark Below. The new playlist will offer one Treasure of Ages per week and 20 legendary marks five times per week.

Age of Triumph also shakes up the activity bar in the bottom left-hand corner of The Director screen. The Challenge of Elders (not to be confused with the Prison of Elders) has been added to the bar at a new 390 difficulty and will offer 10 legendary marks for completion three times per week, as well a legendary engram once a week. The regular Siva Crisis Heroic playlist now offers a weekly Treasure of Ages in addition to its thrice-weekly allotment of 10 legendary marks. The new Crucible option (which condenses the two previous options) now has a weekly playlist, which offers one more Treasure of Ages per week and three servings of ten legendary marks. Additionally, Lord Shaxx now offers two weekly bounties for six-versus-six modes. Players can now also purchase arena items for silver dust as well. 

The weekly Nightfall strike has not been updated in terms of light level requirements, but the new Daybreak modifier will increase the difficulty of enemies and the recharge rate of special abilities, similar the Mayhem Crucible mode. Bungie stressed the mode will still offer a difficulty level equal to the Nightfall strikes, even with all the reduced cooldowns. The Daybreak modifier will come around once a month, and rewards for the Nightfall will stay the same, offering a way for players to level to the 400 light cap. Additionally, there will be period of six straight weeks of Daybreak strikes from July 18 to August 22. Finally, Age of Triumph will mark the return of the iconic blue flames after completing the Nightfall Strike, as well as their experience buff.

Next week, the team will be cover the update's new gear, ornaments, and weapons from the new modes, the updated raids, and how the team plans to re-introduce weapons from older raids.

 

Our Take
The Daybreak strikes sound great, and the Treasure of Ages is a great way for a lapsed player like me to get caught up on seasonal stuff. I'm a bit miffed about the reduced emphasis on Crucible for on the weekly activities bar, since I play most of Destiny alone with a few group outings per week, but I suppose The Challenge of Elders offers that pickup solo option. Hopefully, the Daybreak strikes and increased rewards for other weekly activities will make it easier to find people to play those activities with.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Mass Effect Andromeda, Star Wars Rebels, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Starbucks is to thank for a planet name in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. During a SXSW keynote, the film's director Gareth Edwards said the planet Scarif came from a Starbucks barista hearing his name wrong. The barista wrote "Scarif" on his drink instead of Gareth. He also said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy suggested Rogue One's bloody ending, but he didn't think it would stick. He  thought Disney would change course to different conclusion. "I kept waiting for them to go back on that decision," he said to the SXSW crowd. "Until the last week, I still waited for that little 'no,' but it never came."

Star Wars fans will want to tune in to Disney XD on March 18 at 8:30 p.m. to watch a Star Wars Rebels episode titled "Twin Suns." As the name so clearly highlights, the setting is Tatooine, and it just happens to be the battleground for another lightsaber fight pitting Darth Maul against Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes, he's old Ben now, and no, Maul will likely never die.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

I don't think I need to remind you that Mass Effect Andromeda is just one week away (just a few days away for EA Access subscribers). My journey is well under way, and I even sat down with Suriel Vazquez to play through two hours of the game for your viewing pleasure. The footage you are about to see chronicles the entire opening of the game up through the first planet, called Eos. You'll meet companions, get a brief taste of open-world exploration, and learn everything you need to know about leveling and combat. We even show off conversation choices – nothing huge, mind you – but you'll get a good idea of how Ryder's brain is wired. I'm finding Ryder to be a much different character than Shepard, showing a little more youthful enthusiasm and a lack of experience. It'll be interesting to see if players take to this younger, more family-driven character than the battle-hardened Shep.

My early thoughts on Mass Effect Andromeda are all over the place at this point. I'm enjoying the story immensely. The Andromeda system is proving to be an exceptional canvas for discovery. I love how nothing in this sector of space is defined until another species or a document tells you what it is. We instead see humans trying to decipher what they are seeing. That's a fantastic little touch. BioWare also nails the pacing in the early moments of Andromeda. If you want to take it slow to soak up the lore, you can take on a number of side missions and activities to keep you occupied for hours. If you want to blaze through the campaign, you can bypass those moments and keep moving along the critical path – meaning you won't run into big lulls like you did on Citadel. The new hub world, called Nexus, is nicely designed with most waypoints grouped together tightly. There is a tram ride that takes a few seconds, but again, the destination you seek is usually close.

The lull you'll likely run into is tied to world exploration. Each planet I've landed on has been huge. For those of you who want to explore every little cave and camp, you could spend an entire day on one planet. If you just want to stick to the story beats, get comfortable with the idea of driving vast distances and having to navigate rocky terrain to reach your objective. You are the "Pathfinder" after all. The Nomad controls well, and is an absolute beast when you kick it into six-wheel drive. I haven't unlocked any weapons for it yet, but the base controls are solid. Frustration comes from figuring out how to navigate mountains and uneven terrain. Not everything can be climbed. I'm enjoying the exploration and Nomad moments, but these aspects are where Mass Effect Andromeda slows down to a crawl.

Combat is enjoyable and challenging, but again has some issues. I'm not a fan of the auto-cover design, which makes Ryder take cover when standing next to any flush surface. I much prefer having that action handled by a button press. The Force-like biotics are good fun to wield (as they always have been), and are ridiculously powerful, even in the first couple hours. Enemy A.I. sometimes seems smarter than usual, showing the ability to rush or flank when they have numbers. I have run into a few foes who were defeated by the environment, either struggling with the pathing to reach their destination or thinking they were in cover when they were in fact almost fully exposed. Ryder's companions are aggressive and capable of finishing off foes. They are also quite interesting when you get to know them. So far, I haven't run into a character that is a wholesale ripoff of someone from Mass Effect 1-3. They all stand out in different ways.

That's my early take on Mass Effect Andromeda. Keep in mind, I'm still early into the adventure, and it looks like it's going to be a long haul. I'll have more on my journey next week, along with Game Informer's official review, penned by Joe Juba. For my full take on the first two hours, watch the video below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The 10th season of Doctor Who launches on April 15, and it looks absolutely bonkers. It even has a robot speaking in an emoji language. This is Peter Capaldi's final season as the good Doctor, and odds are we'll see who takes over for him in his final episode. Before that day, he may meet a beloved character from the past if actor John Barrowman has any pull with the show's creators. Barrowman played Captain Jack on previous season's of Doctor Who and Torchwood, and would like to see what happens when the Doctor meets Jack. "The Doctor's a little bit older, perfect – Jack's matured a little bit," Barrowman said on The Doctor Who Fan Show. "Would he think, 'I'm not sure about your cape there, sir. What happened to the coat? Why a cape? Why have you gone all Dracula on me?'"

I'd love to see Captain Jack return. Torchwood was a wonderful show, and Jack proved to be one of the series' most interesting characters (both in the present and future). I also want to see David Tennant return as the Doctor. I know that goes against the spirit of the show (not to mention its lore), but he was so damn good. He should be forced to play that role until the end of time. Again, I don't think season 10 is a good jumping-on point for newcomers to the series, but take a look a the trailer below to get an idea of just how much science-fiction variety this show offers in just one season.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

I don't like saying something is great before I see it, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is going to be great. How can it not be? I laughed through every trailer and think the casting is as good as it gets in Hollywood. The latest clip from Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards reaffirms my stance on this forthcoming film. Get ready to laugh, people. Poop jokes are the best.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Bungie Weekly Update Teases News About “What’s Next” For Destiny Tomorrow

Each Thursday, Bungie publishes the latest news about its popular online shooter, Destiny, through a blog feature called "This Week at Bungie." While these updates are usually full of in-depth information on tweaks, balancing, and future news, the Destiny developer's update is noticeably scarce this week.

Instead of providing the granular details players typically expect from these updates, Bungie's Deej teases that we'll learn more about new content coming in March tomorrow morning at 12 p.m. Eastern / 9 a.m. Pacific. The tease hints at what tomorrow's announcement will hold, including new challenges, sandbox changes, and a reveal schedule, but doesn't provide much more than that.

Bungie also mentions that a title update will be pushed to all PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players next week, but will not affect anything on the gameplay side. During the maintenance window associated with this update, players may have difficulty downloading content and accessing the Destiny Companion app.

The most recent expansion for Destiny was 2016's Rise of Iron. Last month, Activision revealed that Destiny 2 is planned to release this fall. No word on if this announcement will mention either of those, or if the new update will be separate from those two releases.

[Source: Bungie]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Torment, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Batman Vs. Aliens

Most of you are hunting robotic dinosaurs today, but there's another science-fiction game you should consider dedicating time to, especially if you don't own a PlayStation 4. Torment: Tides of Numenera is readily available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and it's supposedly quite good. Game Informer's Matt Miller gave the game a respectable rating of 8.5 out of 10, and says it's a delight for speculative-fiction lovers.

Torment takes place one billion years in the future, well after the collapse of Earth's most advanced civilization. The remnants of that society still exist for a new civilization to discover, but it isn't just humans. Aliens, specters, and weird dream-like entities are all part of the same thriving society. Most beings don't know how to harness the power of the technologies and artifacts left behind by the previous generations, but those who can wield it gain immense power. The role you play is of a stranger in a strange land; someone who appears to be far removed from time and space, and has no business being here. I don't want to go too much into who you play, as it is a cool reveal, but it isn't what you would expect.

Torment is a top-down role-playing game that offers depth in its character customization, quests, and turn-based combat dynamics, but is mostly a game of text. You can freely move about the world to explore, but almost every discovery made is followed by page upon page of text that describes what you are looking at, how your character is feeling about the object of desire, and even the events that are unfolding around it. If you see a person standing at a bar, your character will describe how that character looks, even though you are seeing him with your own eyes. You get extra detail this way, more than you do in most games. Most of the action – even a few battles – unfold through text. That doesn't mean you don't have a hand in shaping what happens. Much like a Telltale game or a choose-your-own adventure book, most scenarios bring a multitude of choices. For example, during my playthrough I walked out onto a dock and came across two spinning pink cones. I was giving these options:

Two floating cones whirl and spin deliriously around each other, giggling like children being tickled. The air around them smells of sweet, burning leaves.

1. "What are you?"
2. [Quick Fingers] Touch a cone as it passes.
3. Watch them for patterns.
4. Leave the cones alone.

The writing is quite good, mostly handle by Monte Cook, a former Dungeons & Dragon writer who helped construct the 3rd Edition Handbook, as well as a handful of its modules. Heed my advice, Torment is not for everyone. It's slow and all about developing the story. I find the world fascinating, and although I'm still early in this adventure, love how my character is developing and interacting with the world. There's a real connection there between the player and character. The trailer below should give you an idea of what to expect from the narrative:

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Regarding gameplay, I am noticing that the Xbox One version does suffer from bouts of unresponsiveness. I'll click on an item, and sometimes my character will stand motionless for four to five seconds before positioning himself next to it. Other times he won't do anything at all, which requires moving the character manually into a different position to trigger a response. This is a small complaint, but it has occurred roughly a dozen times, leading to a bit of frustration. The Xbox One version also runs into framerate issues in the more heavily populated city areas. Again, it's a small thing, but it is noticeable. Miller says he didn't encounter any of these problems on the PC version (which he reviewed). Neither of us has played the game on PlayStation 4. Don't let these small detractors hold you back from playing on Xbox One, however. Again, I'm enjoying the experience. It's a different type of game that I'm enjoying when I need to take a break from Horizon or Zelda.

In the world of superheroes, Marvel fans don't have to wait long to see the Guardians of the Galaxy share the screen with The Avengers. No, I'm not talking about the forthcoming Infinity War film, but rather the second season of Guardians of the Galaxy's excellent animated show. The fun kicks off on March 11 on Disney XD with an hour-long episode that sees Star Lord fighting Iron Man, Hulk taking on Groot, and all of the Avengers and Guardians going at each other. We'll have to watch the premiere to see why they are at odds with each other.

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The first trailer for Alien: Covenant hits tomorrow, and was teased through the release of a new poster. The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Noomi Rapace, and Danny McBride. While the name implies a return to form for the franchise, it is the sequel to Prometheus, with Fassbender reprising his role of the android David. Rumors suggest the majority of this film will take place outdoors, which could create a much different atmosphere for this long-running series.

Speaking of Aliens, NECA recently announced a new line of Batman action figures based on two crossover events. Along with a two-piece set that pits an armored Batman against a Predator, NECA is releasing a set featuring Batman versus Joker Alien. As silly as this concept sounds, I actually enjoyed the comic book series. The xenomorphs he faced were spliced with the DNA of Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy. The figures stand in at roughly 7", and are slated to release this July.

That's going to do it for this week's column. As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. Play the hell out of Horizon and Torment and let me know what you think of both of them. See you again in seven days!

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Science-Fiction Weekly – Horizon Zero Dawn, Power Rangers, BioShock, The Predator

Horizon Zero Dawn isn't out for another week, but reviews are already hitting, and they are mostly glowing. Roughly 50 writers weighed in on Horizon, leading to an average score of 88 on Open Critic. Game Informer's Jeff Marchiafava nearly hit that cumulative score on the head with an 8.75 out of 10 rating.

In his review he complained about open-world tedium and ritualistic looting, but raved about almost everything else developer Guerilla Games threw at him. To quote:

Just when you've mastered the basics, Horizon's massive
world opens up. Aloy's first journey out west provides a remarkable sense of
discovery; the new desert landscape is teeming with different, deadlier
machines, along with new settlements to explore and beautiful vistas to behold.
Horizon's mysteries really sink their teeth in here; while it may lack the
power and meaningful choices of narrative-driven series like The Witcher and
Mass Effect, Guerrilla has crafted compelling lore for its post-apocalyptic
world. Unlike most open-world games, I looked forward to finding new audio logs
and emails that detail the old world's collapse, and the modern-day conflicts
between the isolationist Nora tribe, sun-worshipping Carja, and combative
Oseram give Aloy's quest more meaning and complexity. Most importantly, Horizon
isn't afraid to delve deep into heady sci-fi topics, and the myriad mysteries
it sets up are all answered in a marathon of revelations and explanations
toward the end of the game. Despite its flaws and foibles, Horizon's story
unexpectedly became one of the major driving forces of the game for me.

I've put roughly 10 hours of my own into Horizon, and I'm having a blast with it. I'm most impressed with the combat mechanics. Aloy is a bona fide destroyer of machines, gifting the player with an empowering sense of barbarianism. Meleeing a robo-raptor to death is always exciting and a true test of skill, as is sniping an equally menacing foe from afar. The hunting evolves nicely as the adventure unfolds, forcing Aloy to incorporate traps and bait into her techniques. Leading a lumbering beast along a path to a trap location is immensely satisfying, as is the showering of loot once it falls.

I'm also enjoying Horizon's narrative, which bounces chaotically (in a good way) between primitive society politics to advanced science fiction. Aloy is the key piece of a mystery that is unfolding in the world, and Guerilla does a nice job of rewarding the player with little tidbits as new areas are explored. There's a lot to love about this PlayStation 4 exclusive. I'm more bullish on it than Jeff, but I do share similar thoughts on the need to constantly harvest items. The process of it isn't bad, mind you, but it is a constant distraction in an otherwise outstanding experience. Even if you don't love open-world games, you should give Horizon a look for its combat and story.

If you are in the market for a new board game, you may want to take a quick gander at the recently launched Terminator Kickstarter campaign by Space Goat Productions. With 24 days remaining, the funding goal has already been smashed. The Terminator board game is played simultaneously on two boards, one set in 1984, and the other in 2029. One player takes control of Skynet, and the remainder of players are the resistance. Both boards play differently. The future is about resources, whereas the past focuses on characters and missions. Successes in the past eliminate things in the future. That's a great hook for a board game, and Terminator should make it to production unless something terrible happens during development.

That's it for the games. Again, we're not seeing much movement in the science-fiction space, but at least we get Horizon next week.

In a Reddit AMA, director Gore Verbinski talked about his plans for the cancelled BioShock film. This universe is a great choice for the silver screen, but I don't think the story would work as well in a condensed, non-interactive form. The journey develops in meaningful ways over time, and having a direct hand in dictating those events is what the big plot twist is all about. Yes, it would still resonate in a way, but I don't think it would be as powerful. Verbinski came close to getting Bioshock off of the ground. Closer than I thought. Here's what he had to say:

“It’s an R-rated movie. I wanted to keep it R rated, I felt like that
would be appropriate, and it’s an expensive movie. It’s a massive world
we’re creating and it’s not a world we can simply go to locations to
shoot… We’d be building an entire underworld universe. So I think the
combination of the price tag and the rating, Universal just didn’t feel
comfortable ultimately. At that time also there were some R rated,
expensive R rated movies that were not working. I think things have changed and maybe there will be another chance, but
it’s very difficult when you’re eight weeks away from shooting a movie
you really can see in your head and you’ve almost filmed the entire
thing, so emotionally you’re right at that transition from architect to
becoming a contractor and that will be a difficult place to get back
to.”

One film that looked like it might run into development hell, but has recently started production is Shane Black's The Predator. Filming began in earnest yesterday, and Black celebrated the event with an image of part of the cast. For a gritty film like The Predator, launching with smiles and vibrant lighting is a little weird. It almost looks like a cosplay shoot at a convention. Crossing my fingers for this one, but I'm already seeing that kid as narrative trouble.

Finally, if you were one of the people who said negative things about the first trailer for the Power Rangers reboot (I saw your tweets), you'll love what you see from the second trailer. The camp is back in a big way, and it looks like the film delivers awesome, large-scale CGI battles. I also like what I'm seeing of Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston's characters. This is a day-one film for me. Where do you stand on it now?

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Science-Fiction Weekly – The TV Shows You Should Watch, Divide, Guardians Of The Galaxy

Friends often ask me if they should watch Doctor Who. I believe it's one of the most heartfelt, whimsical, and interesting shows on television today, but I can't in good conscience recommend it to most of the people I know. Why? I don't see an easy entry point. I don't think you need to go back the series' inception in 1963 – even I can't get into those episodes – but to understand what makes this show great, you have to start with the 2005 season, starring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor. He's the least charismatic of the recent Doctors, but the events that unfold around him carry on into future seasons. To put it a better way, you want to watch the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who. He's the showrunner, writer, and director who gave this series new legs. Watching over a decade worth of Doctor Who to "get it" is overkill, and something few people will do, but that's the completionish approach.

The alternative is starting with Matt Smith's run in 2010. This means you'll miss the greatest Doctor Who era (with David Tennant as the Doctor), but Smith's first season is another solid entry point, as it almost feels like a reboot. If you want to see David Tennant's run from 2006-2010, I recommend starting with that Eccleston season first. He was only the Doctor for one year, but his story sets the table for Tennant's reign.

If not Doctor Who, what science-fiction shows do I recommend to my friends? I have a handful that I divide up into levels of nerdom. The least nerdy and easiest to follow is Netflix's Stranger Things. The characters are front and center more than the experiments, science, and, well, strange things. The binge-worthy show is set in 1983 and focuses mostly on the disappearance of an 11-year-old boy. The mystery of what is happening at any given time is a driving force for this show. The second season begins on Halloween, so you have plenty of time to catch up. If you were living under a rock during the Super Bowl on Sunday, here's the teaser trailer for season two!

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Sticking on the Netflix theme, I also recommend Travelers, a new show about time-travelers who journey back to the 21st century to save the planet. Their version of Earth in the future is mostly destroyed. They return to the past by entering the body of a human who is seconds away from death. Since that person would technically no longer exist, they aren't altering the timeline too much. Travelers is another show that tells a great science-fiction mystery by focusing intently on each character. The modern-day content is just as engaging as the sci-fi angles.

If a big mystery is the hook you are looking for, HBO's Westworld is one of the best shows on television. The first season doesn't dawdle in ambiguity for long. It delivers just as many answers as it does new mysteries to unravel. This is another easy show to jump into, as the first season just concluded, and it tries to root itself in reality as much as possible. The sci-fi themes are heady, yet are communicated clearly enough that anyone should understand what is happening.

If you are in the market for something a little different, Syfy's The Expanse is a must-watch show. Set roughly 200 years from now, mankind has taken to the stars and populated our solar system. Shocker: We haven't learned much about empathy in the time that has passed. A great social divide still exists, and people are fighting for survival. The show is mostly seen from three radically different perspectives; one focused on a noir-like detective, another on a political advisor, and one following an unlikely starship captain. The Expanse is beautifully shot and hasn't slowed in the slightest on delivering intrigue.

Syfy has another little hit on its hands in Killjoys, a pulpy show about bounty hunters living on the fringe. I'd only go into this show if you have an appreciation for shows like Farscape or Stargate, as the tone often fluctuates between serious themes and camp. Other shows I enjoy are Continuum and Orphan Black, but both have hit rough spots later in their runs. I hope these picks help you find something fun to watch right now. If you dive into one, let me know what you think of it in the comments section below.

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Next to Mass Effect Andromeda, the most exciting development in science fiction right now is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The  Super Bowl trailer is fantastic, and highlights new recruits for this ragtag crew. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in theaters on May 5.

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Don't expect to be playing anything exciting this week. The only notable science-fiction game is Divide, a top-down adventure that focuses more on exploring offices designed like rat mazes than anything else. Divide gets off to a strong start with meaningful character development between your character David and his daughter, but quickly loses its story hooks in favor of exploration.

After learning of an experiment his wife was working on, David becomes a stranger in a strange land, trapped in a different reality. Rather than figuring out what this world is, David is quickly tasked to hack computer terminals over and over again. The complex he inhabits is confusing in design. Getting lost is easy. Figuring out what to do next is mostly trial and error given the lack of clarity in the mission and map systems. I wanted to see David reunite with this daughter, but I grew bored of the simplistic gameplay, which sees the player walking from terminal to terminal and door to door. Combat is a part of the equation, but in the early stages of the game, running past enemies is the easiest solution, as their A.I. cannot pinpoint you quick enough. The combat itself doesn't offer anything you are missing. Just point your gun at an enemy and fire.

The science-fiction world in Divide is fascinating. David uses augmented-reality contact lenses to reveal hidden information in his environment. A glistening glass city can be seen on the horizon. Storms prevent you from getting there. This is a rich world that we sadly don't learn enough about in the opening acts. The visuals and score set the tone perfectly, but again, the entertainment isn't there to back them up. I'm only three hours into the game, but it doesn't seem like it's going to evolve at this point. I just keep interacting with computers to unlock more doors, and more of the office complex. Bummer. I really wanted to see where this story went. If you are still intrigued by Divide, check out the trailer below.

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That's it for this week's column, everyone. Thanks again for supporting this silly little editorial. I can't stress that enough. See you in seven days!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Pacific Rim, Godzilla Vs. Kong, The Assembly, Dreadnought

A VR experience that launched last summer is now headset free and currently available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. I'm talking about nDreams' The Assembly, a first-person search for answers seen through the eyes of two different characters on diverging paths through a secret science lab. The organization they are investigating is called the Assembly, and their experiments may have gone too far. The gameplay is slow, leaning heavily on drawer opening and computer searching for files and information, but the narrative rolls along nicely, and develops  in interesting ways as more of the lab is exposed. The game also throws simplistic grid-based puzzles at the player, which don't gel well with the setting and are disruptive to the narrative flow, but are relatively enjoyable challenges.

Don't expect The Assembly to blow your socks off, but I'm a big fan of stories that dive into experiments gone awry, and I had a good time seeing this mystery unfold. The weird thing: this version doesn't fully abandon its VR roots, meaning you can still warp through the environment as a means of movement if you want. If you have PlayStation VR, you can experience the PlayStation 4 version both ways.

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From the onslaught of emails you delivered for Yager's upcoming multiplayer title Dreadnought, I lined up another exclusive first look at a ship. Today we are looking at a Hero Ship named The Tonder. Here's Yager's breakdown the vessels lore, vitals, and functionality:

The Tonder

Manufacturer: Jupiter Arms
Class: Light Tactical Cruiser
Tier: IV
Length: 251m
Mass: 111,000t
Crew: 215
Shield Type: Damage Reduction

Info:
The Tonder was the flagship of PCF Captain Keiko Lee and a capital ship in the renowned raid on the Transhuman Battleship Hangars on the Martian Trojans, a turning point in the Great Solar War. It is speculated that the battleships equipped with prototype wormhole warp drive modules were not destroyed during the raid as per Captain Lee's orders, but instead were looted and sold to the highest bidder on the black market.
 
Gameplay:
Different to most other Tactical Cruisers, the Tonder is geared towards aggressive frontline combat. It is able to support itself with surge drones and dish out a surprising amount of damage to nearby enemy ships. Using the blast pulse combined with the Overclock Module can make the space around the Tonder a very unfriendly zone for any hostile that dares getting close to the Tonder.

Weapons & Modules
Primary Weapon: Heavy Beam Turrets
The JA-N120-Blight can deal significant damage to enemies at long ranges, but cannot be used for repairs. The Blight was a result of Jupiter Arms’ failed attempt to develop their own nano-repair technology. Instead, they engineered the first beam weapon on the market.

Secondary Weapon: Tesla Turrets
All that we know about this unreleased weapon comes from scraps of megacorp marketing literature: "The Vajra-TT400 turret deals high damage against targets at extremely close ranges."

Primary Module: Surge Drones
A module that deploys a drone which replenishes the energy of the launching ship and its nearby allies.Adapted from Oberon’s REV-2 Repair Beam, the REV-9C Surge Drones are designed to follow the vessel that launches them, while also regenerating its energy.

Secondary Module: Wasp Missiles
(classified)

Perimeter Module: Blast Pulse
The module fires an explosive pulse that deals massive damage to ships within its radius. This design variant is completely overclocked and sacrifices safety for power—part of the pulse will get absorbed by and affect the vessel that deploys it. Given the amount of damage the Blast Pulse can do to surrounding ships, many captains believe that using this module is a risk worth taking.

Internal Module: Overclock Module
This module drastically reduces module cooldowns. A modification of the Overclock Pulse Generator, it affects only the ship it is equipped on. The unorthodox use of ultra-ferrafluid pushes the Overclock Module beyond the performance of the  previous model. The significant reduction of module cooldown time not only allows captains to use modules more frequently, but also creates many strategic possibilities for the versatile Tactical Cruiser class of ships.

Now we just need Yager to deliver a release date. Dreadnought can't come soon enough, although Overwatch's seasonal events continue to steal away my nights (and a new one is upon us today).

Neither G.I. Joe live-action film was particularly good, but they did deliver on over-the-top action. Will we see a third entry? Paramount wants to make one, but the date keeps getting pushed back. The ideas are also changing. One of the wildest ones comes from director D.J. Caruso, telling Collider that the next film was almost a crossover between the G.I. Joe and Transformers. “They’re not ready to do [G.I. Joe meets Transformers]
yet," he said. "That’s exactly what they should do, but they’re not ready to do that
because the script I was developing, the two worlds sort
of collided at the end, and when they read it, they were like, ‘We’re not
ready to do this yet.’ They will eventually collide – those two worlds –
and it’s probably when [Michael] Bay decides he’s done with Transformers.”

This crossover battle has already happened in comic books numerous times, and is one of the most exciting developments I've heard for both both film franchises. Perhaps the most exciting part of it is hearing someone say "Bay" and "done" in the same statement, but I do like the idea of the Decepticons teaming up with C.O.B.R.A.

One crossover that received the green light and an official name is Godzilla vs. Kong, and it's coming sooner than you would think, currently slated for a May 29, 2020 release. This showdown comes on the heels of two standalone films: Kong: Skull Island, hitting cinemas on March 10, 2017, and Godzilla: King of Monsters on March 22, 2019. Don't stop, Warner Bros. Monster movies are always welcome, you just need decent scripts to make them fun.

John Boyega hasn't held back from talking about his involvement in Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim: Uprising, and shared a photo on Instagram that shows the potential return of the Jaeger Gipsy Danger. I didn't expect to see any Jaeger return, but ask yourselves this: Why would this powerful weapon be decommissioned after winning a war? The return makes sense, even if the pilots are different. Pacific Rim: Uprising opens in theaters on February 23, 2018.

That's it for this week, folks. As always, all feedback is welcome, so please share your insight in the comments section below.

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Dead Effect 2, Exclusive Look At New Dreadnought Ships

If you consider yourself a big mobile gamer, you may be familiar with the name Dead Effect. According to the series' developer, Bad Fly Interactive, Dead Effect 2 has been downloaded over seven million times on mobile devices since its launch on October 28, 2015. Don't worry, I had no clue this series existed either, which is unfortunate since I'm loving the hell out of the Xbox One port. The game hit Xbox Live and PlayStation Network last week, and I think it's worth a look, but not for typical reasons.

Don't read too much into Dead Effect 2's name; it isn't an amalgamation of Mass Effect and Dead Space. Bad Fly has paved its own path into the science-fiction world with a zombie-killing experience that embraces camp to a degree we rarely see. As much as Dead Effect 2 tries to deliver intense run-and-gun action, the real fun comes from the hilarious spoken dialogue. The type of humor that is deployed is hard to read, but that's part of what makes it fun. I honestly don't know if this game is supposed to be comedic or not. Did Bad Fly try to make cool characters
and missed the mark entirely? Or do they have masterful command of all things cheese? No matter what the intended result was, if you love watching low-budget Syfy movies,
this game is fired from the same Ion Cannon.

That's not to say the gameplay isn't fun. It's a little sloppy control-wise, and the A.I. loves running into bullet showers, but the gunplay feels nice and the action rarely has a lull in it, delivering nicely in enemy variety and making each conflict feel like a real fight.

Don't expect much from the story, however. Yes, it's technically science-fiction, but outside of the outer-space setting (on the Spaceship ESS Meridian), and a lab experiment gone awry, killing is the name of the game. The tight corridors don't offer much in terms of maneuverability, but swinging swords or using high-powered weapons to down zombie dogs and brain-eating astronauts is oddly satisfying. I'm four hours into the adventure, and it's holding my interest nicely. Along with the humor, the game offers a surprising amount of depth in its weapons (of which there are over 300), as well as the various upgrade systems. Implants deliver combat boosts like strength bonuses, improved accuracy (through new eyes), and other things that can enhance your potential. The player also levels up, and points can be exchanged for new class-based abilities. If you choose a melee character like I did, you can equip one special such as a ground slam or the ability to pull or throw enemies. Points can alternatively be used to activate 14 special abilities, as well as general or weapon abilities. Like I said, it has depth, but camp remains the star.

I haven't said "Xbox record that" this much while playing a game before. I couldn't believe the ridiculous stuff my character was saying, and the people around him are just as silly and hard to believe. Here's how a typical conversation unfolds in Dead Effect 2:

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And I know you want to see more of Minikin, so here he is in action:

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Finally, take a look at a boss fight. I have no idea why he explodes at the end, but I approve. Why not make him explode is the real question here.

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That's Dead Effect 2. If you enjoy watching Game Informer's Super Replay series, I have a feeling you enjoyed the clips I shared and want to see more. The entire game is filled with content just like this. It's currently retailing for $ 20 on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Now let's talk about Dreadnought. I raved about piloting a capital-class ship in this game a few weeks ago, and now we're getting an intimate look at several new vessels, along with "Hero Ships" that should be available when the game launches later this year. Hero Ships are uniquely designed, giving players instant access to high-end weapons and modules. The catch: These beefed-up alternatives are micro-transactions. As developer Yager points out, "While Hero Ships don't give you an outright advantage in battle, they do offer more specialized options."

Yager provided Science-Fiction Weekly an exclusive look at six vessels. The first three fall into the Dreadnought-class designed by Jupiter Arms, a manufacturer of weapons and defense systems. As Yager points out, "[Jupiter Arms'] employees live and work
in pursuit of a common purpose: to build the best, most efficiently
destructive tech in the Solar System."

Jutland
Tier IV
Length: 591m
Mass: 2,570,000t
Crew: 2,600

The Jutland was taken to the frontlines of all post-War raider skirmishes in the Jovian system, crushing its enemies with its heavy-caliber guns. Commissioned by Jupiter Arms' Shiphead Machia, the Jutland is one of the biggest, slowest and sturdiest ships in the Jupiter Arms fleet and it is still a mystery how it the well-guarded monster ship ended up on Sinley Bay.


Monarch
Tier V
Length:
664m
Mass: 3,590,000t
Crew: 2,700

The Monarch is a true behemoth. Solid and armed to the teeth with Heavy Ballistic Cannons, its close-range power is second to none. While the Monarch packs guns that can decimate the sides of any vessel, it is the slowest, least-agile ship in the Solar System.
This gargantuan Dreadnought was originally captained by Shiphead Rout as the flagship of Jupiter Arms’ fleet. Its strength and durability have since been pushed to unrivaled levels.


Trident (Hero Ship)
Tier IV
Length:
692m
Mass: 4,276,800t
Crew: 2,400
This Monarch-class Dreadnought is a weapon of vengeance. Commanded by Captain Melville Blanco under the banner of the Pan-Colonial Fleet, this flagship represents its captain’s crushing defeat at the hands of a Transhuman Dreadnought—and obsessive pursuit of retribution.

The final three ships are tactical cruisers from Akula Vektor, which Yager describes as a "combination of two megacorps: Akula, a defense
manufacturer, and Vektor, a producer of anti-gravity systems and other
civil tech. Its members are unsophisticated, no-nonsense realists, but
their ultimate goal is steadfastly optimistic: to create a battleship
that is incapable of being destroyed."


Koschei
Tier IV
Length:
270m
Mass: 384,920t
Crew: 280

Legend has it that the audacious Ambassador Spinoza Dek always flew the Koschei right to the front of skirmishes, although the traditional position of a Tac Cruiser is at the back. As a tribute to Captain Dek's hubris, this ship was converted into an ironclad tactical cruiser right at home on the frontlines.


Okhta
Tier V
Length:
303m
Mass: 428,800t
Crew: 350

The slow, thick-armored Ohkta is designed to do two things: heal allies, and soak up damage like a tank. Its healing-only primary weapon makes it perfect for repairing teammates from a safe, defensive position.

The Ohkta was commissioned by Akula’s Director of Ethical Hacking, General Reid Guth, who sought to create “the queen of all support vessels.” After Guth defected to Sinley Bay, he pushed it far beyond its original specs.


Kali (Hero Ship)
Tier IV
Length:
318m
Mass: 490,100t
Crew: 540

The Kali is the Flagship of Commodore Rajesh, head of security at Akula’s refinery moon Phoebe. Rajesh is notorious for his cruelty and the crews in his fleet are famous for their efficiency. The Kali is a legend amongst mercenaries who have attempted to attack Phoebe and survived – they tell tales of a seemingly indestructible fleet, made almost invulnerable by the Kali's unstoppable support prowess.

Out of these six ships, the I'm looking forward to flying the Trident the most. That's a nice looking ship, and it's called a "weapon of vengeance." You can't really top that.

That's it for this week's Science-Fiction Weekly. I can think of no better way to end this column than with more Minikin. Enjoy!

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Wars: Episode VIII, Rebels, Thor: Ragnarok

This week's editorial is starting on a strange note, but I feel it's something we all need to discuss. I'm beginning to think movie director Zack Snyder has homed in on my childhood and wants to destroy everything that I loved. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the worst movies I have ever watched. I'm not exaggerating here. I struggled to get through it, and wondered how a film could miss the mark by such a wide degree, especially given we're in the golden age of awesome superhero films. Warner Bros. recently released an image from Snyder's forthcoming Justice League film, and it looks great from this pulled-out angle.

Seeing all of these characters together in a big-budget film is
something I never thought would happen (anything with Aquaman is a long shot, after all). Now let's see what happens when we zoom in on The Flash…

WHAT. THE. F—… Seriously, what in the blazes is going on with this costume design? Are those wires all over his body? It looks like a pile of random parts I'd expect to see at Watto's junkyard. We often joke about video game characters being overly designed with trinkets and scars all over their bodies, but this is just madness. Stop, Zack. Please for the love of all that is nerdy, stop!

Why not update this costume? I still think it looks great.

Or better yet, bring this character (actor, costume, lore, and all) over to the cinematic universe. The CW is doing great things with the DC properties. Tying the two universes together would have been a great way to get the films back on track. Arrow and The Flash are both excellent shows (disclaimer: I haven't watched Supergirl or Legends of Tomorrow yet).

Now let's talk about something that is actually doing well. Star Wars Rebels continues to improve with each passing season, and the latest trailer makes the second part of season three look ridiculously awesome. I won't ruin the surprises for you, but I'm guessing an episode that shows what the Rebels characters were doing during the events of Rogue One and A New Hope isn't too far off. I hope the show goes there, and doesn't end right before either movie. Seeing the Ghost and Chopper in Rogue One makes me think the timelines will intersect. If not, revealing some of the characters are alive and well is a huge spoiler for the end of the series. Check out the trailer below, but avoid viewing it if you aren't caught up on the most recent episodes. Spoilers abound.

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And if you enjoyed that, Lucasfilm released a small clip from from the next episode titled Warhead. I always love seeing new droid types, and this episode looks like it focuses intently on introducing a new robotic being into the Star Wars universe.

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If you were one of the people who wasn't bothered by Rogue One not having an opening text crawl, how do you explain Episode VIII getting one? Lucasfilm hasn't said the movie will have it yet, but has said before that the opening crawl is for the numbered entries in the series. Episode VIII's director, Rian Johnson, confirmed with USA Today that Rey and Luke's confrontation at the end of The Force Awakens would be the beginning point of his film. "I don’t want to skip ahead two years. I want to see the very next moment of what happens," Johnson said. He also pointed out the obvious; the film will focus intently on Rey learning the ways of the Force. So that begs the question: Will the opening text be a recap of The Force Awakens? Will it shed light on different developments occurring at the same time? Or will it simply say "Luke stared intently at Rey…."

The final bit of news I have for you is for Thor: Rangarok, which opens in theaters on November 3. I know we're all eagerly anticipating the release of a trailer (likely attached to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), but Marvel did give us something just as good: a plot synopsis to ponder. It confirms Hulk is in the film, but in a way you likely wouldn't expect. Here's the plot outline from Marvel:

"Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his
mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to
Asgard to stop Ragnarok – the destruction of his homeworld and the end
of Asgardian civilization – at the hands of an all-powerful new threat,
the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial
contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger – the
Incredible Hulk!”

It sounds like Marvel is combining the comic series for Ragnarok and Planet Hulk into one film. That sounds like a bit of a mess, but a fun one that puts war and combat front and center.

Let me know what you think of the news from this week's column. I have an exclusive look at new content from Dreadnought in line for next week's editorial. I'm also hoping to see a few new science-fiction titles during Nintendo's Switch event on Thursday. See you in seven days.

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