Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Birth of a Spartan

Halo are continuing to release innovative content and another has appeared.

Birth of a Spartan is a live action trailer in the tradition of 'Landfall' a superb short by Neil Blomkamp, who was set to do a Halo movie, now of District 9 fame. More recently 'We are ODST' gave us a brief overview of the life of an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper before we got to experience it in-game.

This installment goes over the recruitment and augmentation of a Spartan-3, the new super-soldiers you'll be playing in the game, moreover this one gives you some background on Carter A-259 the leader of 'Noble Team'

For those likely to buy the game, new editions have been announced - a limited edition including a copy of 'Halsey's Diary' and other Halo artifacts and some in-game armour, or a Legendary edition which has some bonus content and a statue of the Noble Team.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Doctor Who - New series, new species part 26

Doctor Who has burst back onto our screens with a new...well everything! It has been fascinating to see the new directions the show is starting to take and I'm optimistic about the future of the franchise in new hands.

For those of you maybe new to the blog, these post look at any brand new alien races introduced to the show, covering three episodes (roughly) per post - consider yourselves warned any of you behind the British timetable of the show. Thankfully along with 'new' everything else there are also some new creepy crawlies for us to examine!

Multiform / Face Tendril / Prisoner Zero

Yet another exercise in dull names by the show runners - I'm getting a bit tired of names ending in 'form' or 'kind' as it is quite a lazy way to name the monsters, essentially a posh way of saying 'wasp-type thing' or 'spider monster'. Worse still the creature has been referred to as 'Face Tendril' an even worse descriptive moniker. Anyway - what's in a name eh? It was quite a fun bit of CGI taken over by actors playing the 'disguised' form of the monster, a highlight was seeing Olivia Coleman in the role. I'd give it an 'OK' as it was fun and moved the plot along, but wasn't really the threat it should have been - rather, the Atraxi provided the real menace, whisking the beast away just after it provided some more exposition - about the 'Pandorica's Box' or something - another inventive name there!

Oh and apparently they're multi-dimensional!

The multiforms were a race capable of travelling between dimensions and taking different appearances by forming psychic connections with living, but dormant minds, such as coma patients. They possessed powerful technology such as perception-filters to further enable then to mingle with society. Even without technology they were naturally equipped with their changing ability, powerful fangs and they were able to reduce themselves to small particles to fit through tiny spaces and reach their victims. One example of this race was 'Prisoner Zero' a powerful individual imprisoned by the Atraxi until it escaped through one of the cracks in space/time and arrived on Earth.


Now that's more like it that's a proper Sci-Fi name!! They even chucked in an x for good measure! A pity then that the species was quite vague in it's design. Don't get me wrong - I loved the giant eyeball (Sauron rip-off?) but is that what the species look like? Is that (as I prefer to think) their security system - it remains unclear from the episode at least. They also seemed a bit Judoonish in function, mysterious police force arrives on Earth and causes havoc in the debut episode with a new companion - sound familiar? Nevertheless their spaceships were cool, the all seeing eye was off the wall in a traditional Who way and they gave a realistic setting for the Doctor to use his CV as a weapon.

The Atraxi were a powerful race who had a powerful security force tasked with keeping the most dangerous prisoners captive. They were able to hunt down any fugitives with giant eyes that tracked an enemy as long as they remained visible. They possessed enormous crystaline spaceships and weapons that could incinerate a planet within minutes. Despite their technology it still took them 12 years to track an escaped prisoner when it got through a crack in space-time. Though law keepers themselves they were not above breaking the law to get to their goal, breaking Shadow Proclamation conventions to get to their target.

Star Whale

I'm not even going to comment on the name! I think the creators had been reading Discworld and watching Star Wars before starting to have this idea of a city in space upon a creature's back and have the characters inside a giant mouth of a space creature. It was quite a fun concept and the back story behind it was intriguing, the last of it's race coming to save humans, only to be enslaved by them. I can't help querying some of the details though, like how the Doctor can be in the mouth of the whale, next to open space and yet still be able to breath and why they aren't expelled into space when the beast threw up. I suppose there's some sort of reasonable explanation. The creature also represents a similar 'whale' captured by humans in a Torchwood episode.

The Star Whales were a large, benevolent species that dwelt naturally in open space, capable of traveling at considerable speeds. They were bio-luminescent, perhaps to catch prey in the darkness of space by mimicking stars and planets, also they were covered in neural tendrils that helped them sense what went on around them and attack anything that landed on their skin. For reasons unknown the species began to die out. One remaining whale, perhaps the last of it's kind, rescued the remnants of humanity and carried them to a new world.

And that's it for now. New Daleks don't count, not even shiny ones and their overly emotional androids. We've got a few more recurring races to come so it might be slim-pickings next post, but I'll be here don't worry.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Game Review: Halo Wars

Before we start - if I haven't already, word out to David who's now 'following' - nice to have you!

Calling these things 'reviews' is a bit of a joke as they're getting further and further out of date as we go on. As I've stated previously I hate doing 'proper reviews' as there are a ton of people oyut there more qualified doing much better work - but still I quite like letting you know what I enjoy and what I've been up to and so I'll persist and maybe overload you with so much VG content that you beg for some Legacy instead!

Rough Plot

The first game to follow the Halo trilogy takes place a whole 20 years before the ring-world was found. Humanity has encountered the Covenant and suffered war for 5 years at their hand. The Spartan-2 super-soldiers are still new to the war, but used to effect, however humanity is still losing. The Spirit of Fire is deployed to Harvest to set up bases with it's large stock of equipment, troops and self-assembling firebases. When they encounter the Covenant they find them investigating a 'relic' - which leads them to Arcadia, a colony world now under attack. They defend the world, with the aid of the Spartans, but the Covenant plot takes them far into uncharted space to a mysterious world where they encounter and fight the Flood and try to stop the Covenant from getting their hands on a terrible weapon.


The game was true innovation at it's best - a strategy game built for the console. The nimble control system allows for rapid and flexible control of units, formerly only accomplished with a computer mouse. Developed by Ensemble, masters of the genre and creators of the famed Age of Empires series, the game works fluidly and provides and excellent and enjoyable experience on the 360 which challenges you but the game mechanic does not stop you completing the challenge. Unfortunately the studio has had to close so it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue.

Sci-Fi Stuff

The game, while radically different from it's first person shooter forebears, is still a fully-fledged part of the Halo universe, that means Artificial Intelligence, Alien Races, Spaceships and new Planets. The Halo franchises is one on the most richly detailed Sci-Fi franchises of the current time. I'll got into more detail on what we encounter in a follow-up post as I did for Force Unleashed.

Worth Playing?

Yes, undoubtedly yes. I'm hooked on Halo so the game could really be any genre and I'd give it a try as long as it furthered the storyline in some way. You may not be a strategy game player but this one does hold it's own and makes good use of your trigger fingers. Furthermore the storyline is engaging and carried forward by truly beautiful cinematics by Blur Studios that serve a a real reward for completing a mission.

More soon.

Friday, 23 April 2010

SF at the Movies - April '10

Ok, it's time for another look at what Sci-Fi goodness may be gracing our screens this month. As this is inevitable a shorter and less involved post I may take the liberty of telling you a few things.

First the shock news that Star Wars: Legacy is finishing!!! You may be relieved after the saturation of Legacy posts you've has recently, but it really is terrible to see the series go. Now we were frequently assured that it would not end and there is some matter of new leaking before it should, but the series 'as we know it' is ending with the 50th issue. I'm sad at what might happen, but also a little excited to see where they might take the era next - I'll update you when I know.

Secondly you may have noticed something new on the blog - 'Blogga's Wall' is a new way for me to share information with you. As of posting it features a Dr Who poster, these are put on the website to print following each episode so I thought I'd put them on the 'wall' here instead. After the show it will be used as a way to show you what's going on, what books I'm reading, what games I'm playing, movies I've watched without having to post about them all, which might get tedious.

OK, quickly onto movies...

Repo Men
Released 16/04/10

Repo Men is set in a future when organ harvesting is now common. It follows the story of a man, who took out a new heart on a loan and now has to avoid the futuristic 'repo men' who want it back.

And that, it seems, is it - there's some movie called Nephilim supposedly out but I can't see anything about it - of well, more next month!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Power Trip 8 - Persuasion

It's been a long time since I did one of these, but I think I'll finally get on with another post and see if 'Power Trip' still has any juice. For those of you who don't know or have forgotten (most of you I'd imagine!) Power Trip is my brief look at superpowers, which characters have them, where they come from and what they say about us. I start with character who appear in Heroes, look at their abilities and go from there.

It's quite interesting how the bank of superpowers have pretty much all been 'done' - I try on occasion to come up with my own super-team, and it's very difficult to create abilities that don't already belong to a decades-old Marvel character, I wonder what that tells us, do I have the answer - heck no!

Anyhow - this ability was shown in Eden McCain a character in Series 1 who had the ability to get people to do just about anything she wanted just by speaking to them. Her ability was used by the company to cover up their secrets and get people to do work for them. She used it effectively until Sylar went after her power and she killed herself to stop him getting it.

Few other characters have this power, only 'Kelly' - a character from the 'iStories' has a similar ability. I guess this is because it has been superseded by the advancement of Matt's telepathy, though Eden's power was different from this as (in a comic) she killed her mother simply by saying 'die' - which seems beyond a telepath, also she couldn't read minds as far as we can tell.

There has been a long-standing interest in mind-control and powers of persuasion among humankind. Hypnosis, drugs and myriad other techniques are employed or dreamed about as a way of persuading our fellow man to do what we want. The ability manifested in this character is merely a natural extension, someone who can just do it by speaking while the rest of us fiddle about with LSD and fobwatches.

I guess it's just a basic desire for power here - there are various situations when our fellow man just gets in our way and we could do with control over them. Eden herself uses the ability to avoid the police and distract unwanted visitors.

Not many characters have this specific ability, with most going down the 'advanced telepath' route to achieve the same goal. One character who does is Silver Fox a member of the Weapon X team and lover of Wolverine (shown above in her movie appearance) she can make anyone do whatever she wants as long as she touches them, a restriction like this seems to be common, Eden has to speak specifically for control, maybe we still want limits to our powers.

I enjoyed that - I might do some more.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Star Wars Legacy: Monster (43-46)

Last Legacy post for a while now honest!! This four part arc brings us up to date, more or less, with current Legacy storylines, making these 'reviews' slightly less farcical than they already are. With this being the case it is worth asking you, the readers whether you appreciate this as there are significant spoilers in this post if you have yet to receive your latest issue. I guess for me it's my pleasure to fill you in on what's happening in Star Wars and to encourage you to maybe try this series out yourself - but if this style doesn't suit you let me know.

There's a fair few updates here so no extra post on the end ok!!

Imperial Knight Updates

Hogrum Chalk
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Position: Master Armourer
First Appearance: Legacy# 43 (Monster, part 1)

Master Chalk was grievously injured sometime during his service to the Empire, forcing him to retire from the Imperial Knights. He, however believed the force had a purpose in his accident and devoted his time to building better armour, including life preserving suits. He upgraded the suit Azlyn Rae was given using these skills. He had been responsible for delaing with Jedi before the war and was brought along by Emperor Fel to their meeting with Jedi.

We also saw Azlyn in her improved armour, which is very similar to Knight armour. We also
saw a few anonymous Knights later in the battle.

Jedi Updates

Species: Human
Sex: Female
Position: Jedi Knight
First Appearance: Legacy#45 (Monster, part 3)

Hira was part of the delegation sent to meet with the Imperial Knights. She struggled with the idea of allying with the Emperor who was on the throne when the Sith massacred the Jedi. She later fought the Sith and was struck down in the battle.

Fionah Ti
Species: Human
Sex: Female
Position: Scientist
First Appearance: Legacy#44 (Monster, part 2)

Fionah Ti is the daughter of two Jedi, but she does not possess their force abilities. Nonetheless she was raised among the Jedi and trained by both them and the Yuuzhan Vong. She was with her parents of Zonama Sekot, the living planet which housed the majority of the Vong. She returned to Wayland to investigate the source of the Sith plague that mutated their creations. She was able to return some Vong growth to normal, including an amphistaff. She rescued Jariah Syn from the mutated natives and worked with him to help Cade.

Sith Updates

Darth Rauder
Species: Human
Sex: Female
Position: Starfighter Pilot
First Appearance: Legacy#45 (Monster, part 3)

Darth Rauder led a contingent of Sith fighter pilots to head up the Imperial strike force. Adept at piloting a sith Fury-class, she also brought a new Imperial starfighter for the Empire to fly. She was brutal in her methods, threatening death for disobedience and ordering her pilots to kill ejecting enemy combatants.

We also got to see some more of the One Sith's fighter wing.


I'm moving the map up the post as it looks a bit odd on the end without additional updates- this is my one positive contribution to Star Wars!

Issue Review

Wolf Sazen remembers the Jedi project on Wayland, how Yuuzhan Vong skill restored the world their species had destroyed. Yet weeks later the work had horribly mutated by Sith sabotage. Following the force, he headed to Wayland to find his former apprentice.

Cade, however, was on Zeltros enjoying the party in Queen Jool's latest cantina. The party was interrupted by Rav, his former boss, who offered him a job worth a million credits. He warily accepted, then regretted it after finding out it was on Wayland. On arrival they were set upon by Vong creatures and the mutated natives who defeated them and captured Blue. Cade tracks Blue down to fin this was a plot by Darth Maladi designed to test a weapon that will help her gain control of the Sith from Wyyrlok who she suspects of lying. She has placed the weapon on Blue to test whether his dark side powers can defeat it.

Wolf Sazen arrives on Wayland, meeting up with Jariah Syn and Fionah Ti, together they infiltrate the Vong laboratory that Maladi has set up with the help of Zenoq Quah a crazed shaper. They defeat the Yuuzhan Vong weapons within and reach Cade - Maladi flees. Wolf convinces Cade of the power of the light and he, fueled by his love for Blue, defeats the weapon and saves Blue. He has accepted his place in the force, not a Jedi but a weapon to be used against the Sith.

Meanwhile and alliance between Jedi and Imperial Knights is taking place on Agamar. The Sith have learned of this and send a strike force to the planet. The two groups agree to cooperate, but are surprised by an unexpected visitor, Nyna Calixte who has broken away to warn Emperor Fel of the impending attack. The Jedi and Imperials battle the Sith but suffer losses and some of the party, including princess Sia Fel are stranded on the world.

In a shock twist at the end, Nihl advised by Maladi that Krayt is dead, enters the Dark Lord's stasis chamber with Darth Talon and discovers the Dark Lord is...gone!!!

My Two Credits

One of the best story arcs since the beginning, it really moved things forward with Cade's development and also with the galaxy as a whole. The enemies of the Sith are more united, but their unity came at a cost to them as they lost forces during the battle. The only problem I had was the somewhat unclear nature of 'the weapon' that Maladi developed, what it actually did was never really revealed. But on the whole it really pushed things forward, gave us some great new characters and events for the ones we know and love.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Solomon Kane/Darksiders/Legion - What kind of God?

There have been a number of supernatural media circulating of late, both in movies and video games, demonic forces, powerful angels and anti-heroes seeking redemption have been the order of the day over the past two months or so so I thought I'd pass comment on some of what's being said or implied in these stories.

More importantly to see what they say or imply about God. The Lord Almighty seems to be a background character in these things, which I think uncovers our natural tendency to view God as a distant overseer rather than the true creator and active sustainer of all things.

I should state before I continue that this is not a criticism of the media I will discuss. I'm not implying that they are being immoral or heretical in exploring the themes that they do, rather I am using them as a basis to think about the real God and what he is like. I am neither cultural analyst nor theologian and so I must make it clear that these are my thoughts and as such are susceptible to error and this whole thing could most certainly do with more preparation and thinking, but here goes.

1. Solomon Kane - Redemption from Evil

Solomon Kane is kind of a messed up guy. He has been an evil dude, doing lots of murdering and pillaging until he realizes his soul is at stake and swears to live a life of peace so that his soul may be spared from hell. His dilemma was portrayed excellently in the film as he accepts beatings and tries to resolve things peacefully until ultimately pushed into fighting.

In the film: Solomon has crossed a line and is now doomed to Hell because he has commited too many evil deeds. However his companion tells him (conveniently) that he can be redeemed if he defeats the forces of evil and saves his daughter from them.

Therefore: There is a 'line in the sand' that if you cross, condemns you to Hell no matter what. To be saved from Hell you must either avoid crossing this line or prove yourself useful to God in some manner and earn your freedom.

But: The Bible teaches that 'there is no one righteous' (Romans 3v10), if there is a line in the sand then we're all on the wrong side of it. That means that being redeemed is essential for everyone, not just 'bad people'. You don't need to fight a demon army to prove yourself because 'a righteousness from God has been revealed...through faith in Jesus Christ' (Romans 3v21-22).[my italics]. Redemption is essential, but redemption comed from God himself - read the rest of Romans 1-3 for more, as well as the Gospels.

2. Darksiders - War on Earth and Heaven

Darksiders is the tale of War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who is implicated in a conspiracy that has doomed the human race and unleashed the forces of Hell. Now he must battle against the forces of evil that rampage across a post-apocalyptic Earth and clear his name as well as defeat the enemy. Let's forget that the horsemen are metaphorical (Revelation 6) and have a look anyway shall we?

In the game: Darksiders is clearly fanciful and makes no apologies for it, so maybe they aren't sending a message with this piece, but it is interesting nonetheless. War has been deceived and the demon realm has won and destroyed Earth and War must prove himself innocent to God.

Therefore God: Is unaware of all that goes on in His realm and the enemy are capable of deceiving Him and His forces to their own ends. For such a significant catastrophe to take place God is either incompetent or incredibly far removed from what goes in in His creation.

But: Satan himself cannot escape God's eye, in Job 1 Satan has to present himself before God
and asks permission to strike Job, and even then only gets a limited power to do so. God is the one who says to the snow 'fall on the Earth' (Job 37), he is still actively involved in our world and neither men nor demons can deceive Him or thwart his plans.

3. Legion - God Giving Up

In Legion, Angels are sent to Earth with one purpose: the destruction of humanity. However there is a child that could change humanity's fate, a child as yet unborn. Michael rebels and aids a group of humans to defend this child and save humanity from destruction.

In the film: God has tired of humanity and prepares to send the forces of heaven to extinguish the human race. Michael rebels against this command and arrives ahead of the forces to fight his brothers, who use a particularly demonic set of abilities, including possession, to attack the small group.

Therefore God: Has 'lost faith' in humanity, has had enough of us and decided to jack it in and destroy the whole lot of us because of how violent and unpleasant we are. Comparisons are made to the flood, only this time God isn't using water but angels.

But: After the flood God promised never to flood the world again (Genesis 9) and yes that only covers water-based destruction specifically but he still made a promise to the human race, and God keeps his promises. It didn't take long after Noah for humanity to resume it's unpleasantness and God did plan to do something about it - and he did, He 'gave His one and only Son'(John 3v16). The God who went to such lengths to save undeserving sinners won't forget us or get bored of us.

I know this has been simplistic in approach, but without time to research this properly I felt it best to keep things as basic as I could manage, I hope it's of some interest.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Star Wars Legacy: Divided Loyalties

Ok, you're going to be saturated with Legacy now with another post coming up soon, but then we'll be up to date and I'll only post when arcs are complete, with maybe the odd character post dotted in between.

Let's do this, you'll be thankful there's no additional character post, that's 'cause there's a stack of updates right here!

Jedi Updates

This issue introduced us to four new Jedi. I think from now on I'll only include 'Homeworld' if it's known.

Te Corso
Species: Elomin
Sex: Female
Position: Jedi Master
First Appearance: Legacy#42 (Divided Loyalties)

Te Corso is a Jedi Master now residing in the Hidden Temple on Taivas, before the war she led diplomatic envoys to Coruscant and was well known to the Triumvirate ruling the Galactic Alliance. After the rumours of Darth Krayt's death she lead a team of Jedi to discuss an alliance with Gar Stazi's fleet and then led their fighter pilots into battle.

Asaak Dan
Species: Togruta
Sex: Male
Position: Jedi Master
First Appearance: Legacy#42 (Divided Loyalties)

Assak Dan was an accomplished fighter who escaped the Jedi massacre and found his way to the hidden temple. He joined the task force sent to the Galactic Alliance fleet, and was intrigued by Imperial Knight Sigel Dare, probing her with his humour. He joined the Mon Calamari Rangers on Dac after visiting the planet.

Species: Nikto
Sex: Male
Position: Jedi Master
First Appearance: Legacy#42 (Divided Loyalties)

Drok was on the task force to the GA fleet. While there he rooted out and attacked a traitor to the fleet, then joined Te Corse and the Alliance starfighters in space combat.

Sayar Dun'La
Species: Bothan
Sex: Male
Position: Jedi Master
First Appearance: Legacy#42 (Divided Loyalties)

Dun'La joined the Jedi Task force to the GA Fleet. While there his skills as a Jedi Healer were put to quick use in the ensuing battle and his powers proved invaluable to the fleet.

Imperial Navy Updates

You thought it was over didn't you?!

Krion Grail
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Position: Admiral (First Coruscant Task Force)
First Appearance: Legacy#42 (Dividied Loyalties)

Grail was an ambitious commander in charge. Leading the small but powerful task force fleet he had already become and Admiral and had his sights set on the Grand Admiral position. He believed in advanced planning to anticipate the moves of the enemy so that they do what you want them to and boasted of this to Shantileen, his second in command.

Issue Review

This was a tense and powerful issue that covered a lot of ground. We see the first proactive steps of the Jedi as they meet with the Galactic Alliance. At the same time Sigel Dare takes a shuttle from the ship to Dac to retrieve master Sinde, Asaak Dan accompanies her. She fights her master when he refuses to leave and master Dan joins the fight, separating then and offering to take the Imperial Knight's place and freeing him up to return to the Emperor.

Meanwhile the fleet is under attack, a helmsman, coerced by the Empire, shoots Admiral Stazi and leads the Imperial Task force to the fleet's location. With Stazi injured, his second in command must take the helm. Relentlessly pursued by the Imperials, they eventually work out how they are being tracked and turn the trap on their enemies. The traitor is executed, but forgiven, by Admiral Stazi.

My Two Credits

This issue had a very 'Battlestar Galactica' feel to it, with the fleet being desperately tracked across space. The action was fast-paced and covered a lot of ground, but somehow didn't lose me along the way and there were some great fanboy moments with the return of the Jedi and their 'twintail' fighters.

The resolution was moving and realistic, with Stazi understanding how the Imperials had threatened his officer's family. His line of 'forgiven, but not excused' was a moving end to the piece.


I'd already done a map, shortly after the issue came out - you can see it here if you want.

And that's it! Hope you liked it 'cause there's more o' that headed your way.