Halo – MCC Gets a PC Release and Reach DLC – Classic Halos FINALLY get a PC Release

In a stunning move, 343 industries have exceeded fans’ expectations two-fold by not only announcing that Halo: Reach will be added to MCC, a wild but popular fan request, but also announcing that the long-awaited PC release for MCC is imminent and, remarkably, the game will be available on Steam. This is perhaps the biggest piece of Halo gaming news since the announcement of Halo: Infinite, and fans are ecstatic.

This can only mean good things for the Halo community, as provided that 343 doesn’t make the same mistakes as they did with MCC’s Xbox One release back in 2014, the Halo community is going to grow with a new influx of PC players who are either newcomers to the franchise and are curious or nostalgic former fans, perhaps those who never bought an Xbox One and switched to either Playstation or PC, who will now take the opportunity to revisit the franchise.

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Xbox 360 Era Halo Games are coming to PC at last on the MCC –

Another important thing to note is that the release of MCC on PC will mark the first time that Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 will be released officially on the PC. In fact, a mainline Halo game hasn’t been released on PC since Halo 2 Vista in the mid 2000s, so this announcement is a big leap forward for Halo in the PC community. With the inclusion of the full classic multiplayer systems for all the Halo games, as well as Firefight, Spartan Ops, Forge, Theater, and not to mention the Campaigns for every classic Halo game, MCC in its current state is quite an impressive game in terms of content.

However, there are some technical conditions to this release regardless of what version of MCC you have – for console users, Reach’s Campaign and Firefight are premium DLC, whilst the multiplayer and forge are available for free. For PC users, each game in the MCC will release separately in chronological order – that is, starting with Reach, then CE, then 2, and so on. 343 industries have decided to release MCC on PC in this way to ensure that there are as few issues as possible with the release and to mitigate any immediate problems. Whilst this may frustrate some PC users who really want to play Halo 2 Anniversary or Halo 3 on PC, this is a good sign that 343 industries are have learned from the mistakes of the original release of MCC in 2014.

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More NEW Content for the MCC is Coming

To get involved in what is essentially the Beta for Halo MCC (starting with Halo: Reach) on PC, and the concurrent Beta for Halo: Reach on the console version of MCC, it is possible to sign up to the Halo Insider program via the Halo Waypoint site.

The PC release and the inclusion of Reach are not the only pieces of good news, however. 343 industries also confirmed in the same announcement that the long-awaited Custom Games Browser is also coming to MCC. This will allow players to search for live Custom Games and join them as they would a Social Matchmaking game. This makes it much easier for players to set up their own Custom Games with enough players to test a forge map, try out a wacky game mode, or just host their own matches on the classic maps or modes they love that don’t pop up as often in Matchmaking. This is already a feature of Halo 5: Guardians and it was perhaps the best thing added to the game since Jorge’s Chaingun, and it was able to give the game a dignified send off as its impressively long post-release life came to an end at last.

However, as bombastic and exciting as all this glamorous news is, let us not forget that this isn’t even the full extent of the work that 343 industries is doing on the Master Chief Collection. In fact, months before this update dropped, a previous update to MCC that added new Skulls to Halo: CE also came with a promise that more content is being created for the classic Halo games, particularly new game modifiers in the form of either Skulls from later Halo titles being created for their classic predecessors, or even brand new Skulls that are being developed and tested by 343 industries behind the scenes. Factor in the Halo: Reach release, and the fact that Halo is coming to PC, and this opens up some exciting new opportunities, particularly with the idea of Custom Skulls, an idea that several fans have put forward as a possible means 343 industries could use to bringing modding to MCC on PC. Speaking of which…

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Modding Halo MCC on PC Will be Possible – But Not on Release

Although not every fan would necessarily ask for it as a feature, the idea of including modding capability for Halo: MCC on PC has been thrown around. For one, we know that modding Halo on PC is hardly a new idea – mods have been created for Halo: CE (via the official Halo: Custom Edition), Halo 2 Vista (but only just) and even Halo 5: Forge for PC, and we have already covered a popular new mod that was recently released for Halo: CE on Sacred Icon before – known as Halo: SPV3, this incredible mod is a full conversion that adds features from many other games to the original Halo and expands the weapon sandbox, levels and enemy variety. Could this kind of content become available for all the games included in the MCC for PC in the future? Could we see a new renaissance of the Classic Halo portfolio thanks to the ability of the community to continuously create new content?

Given that games like Skyrim or Star Wars Battlefront II, both games that have been available for a considerable number of years, still have a massive playerbase thanks to the release of new mods, it could well be possible that the Halo community, which has suffered more than a few distinct schisms and crises since 343 industries took over the series, may finally come together once again in the way that the original release of the MCC back in 2014 was intended to.

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Doctor Who – Big Finish – I, Davros Review

Davros, arguably one of the most iconic and recognisable characters in the history of Doctor Who, is also legendary for being one of the series’ least developed. As villains go, Davros is very much a ‘Palpatine’ kind of villain – as far as the TV show goes, he’s evil and that’s that, with no explanation or further extrapolation required. This is by no means a bad thing, in fact many of the best villains are the ones that are just inherently insane, but Big Finish had already had one spat at developing Davros’ character in the aptly named Main Range audio Davros, and in that story they presented a previously unseen angle to the character of Davros that left listeners wanting more. As such, Big Finish took a leap of faith and created the I,Davros series – a four-part prelude to Genesis of the Daleks, with each part showcasing an important moment in Davros’ life on Skaro, from his boyhood to the day he received his injuries.

Innocence

Innocence_cover.jpgThe first audio in the series depicts Davros as a child, in a similar fashion to The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar from Series 9, although the circumstances are starkly different. Depicted as a self-entitled prodigy rather than a defenceless victim, this version of child Davros invokes little pity from the audience, as even in his youth it is clear that the Davros we all know is already beginning to emerge. However, the show is stolen by an unlikely candidate – the cunning Calcula, mother of Davros and perhaps the best addition to his backstory. Cold and ruthless, Calcula’s depiction in this audio makes it clear where Davros gets his sadistic or unfeeling tendencies. Some of the material depicted in this audio is fascinating, particularly as a fan of Genesis of the Daleks, as the Kaled history and culture is expanded upon as well as the history of the Thousand-Year war.

Purity

Purity_coverThe second story in the series expands on Davros’ military career and his attempts to be transferred to the Kaled Scientific Corps. Now thirty years of age, Davros is as ruthless as ever but is held back by his commanding officers, something that frustrates him throughout the story and drives his desire for power and influence. His lack of conscience is also expanded upon, as even when confronted with physical reminders of his horrors he has committed, he remains as pitiless as ever. One of the most interesting recurring themes throughout this series is the fact that Davros was already Davros before he was injured, and the excuse that his raving megalomania is the result of feelings of impotence are swept aside as little more than a misconception. Ultimately, as hinted at in Davros, the horrors of war are what forged the mind of Davros – his scars were just a formality.

Corruption

Corruption_cover.jpgArguably the pinnacle of the series, Corruption depicts Davros’ rise to power in the Scientific Elite and has the most links with the audio Davros, as many of the events that are shown in that story are repeated here, but expanded upon. The highlight of this story is the return of Shan, Davros’ potential lover and eventual rival who was essential in the early development of the Dalek theory. This story also shows arguably the most important event in Davros’ life before the creation of the Daleks – the Thal attack that left him scarred, and his initial reaction to his new form. It is here that Terry Molloy demonstrates his deep understanding of the character and, despite not taking over the role of Davros until a decade after Genesis of the Daleks, he shows that he is the definitive Davros as his excellent performance is the highlight of the series.

Guilt

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This audio deals with the immediate run-up to Genesis of the Daleks, and fully realises the intent of demonstrating how life on Skaro rapidly declined over the course of the series. Now little more than a bunker, the once proud Kaled race has covered their battered city in a vast dome, and the insane Davros experiments with mutating the infant population of his own race. Highlights of this story include the introduction of a young Nyder, the expansion of the Kaled political system that was seen in Genesis, and of course the final stages of the Dalek project being completed, setting the scene for the first encounter that Sarah Jane has with Davros in the Wastelands. With the prelude complete, Guilt does a fantastic job of bridging this series with the show and creates an atmosphere that is very reminiscent of the world we saw in Genesis of the Daleks.

Conclusion

All things considered, I,Davros is an excellent depiction of the backstory of one of Doctor Who’s most iconic villains and not only does an excellent job of tying in both Davros and Genesis of the Daleks but also tells four gripping stories in its own right, many of the plot details of which have been omitted from this review as it is definitely something that is best experienced rather than simply retold. Though there are some issues with the series, such as a largely unnecessary framing device of Davros standing trial on Skaro, and the idea of him retelling his story to the Daleks making little sense as they would hardly be interested in the first place, overall this is a minor drawback that has little impact on the series as a whole. I, Davros is well worth a listen and as it is available as a bundle from the Big Finish website for just £14.79, it is one of the easiest Big Finish collections to pick up for those who are unsure of where to start with the Doctor Who audios.

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How to Fix – The Paradigm Daleks

Welcome to the next article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, this piece will discuss how the infamous Paradigm Daleks could be improved in future seasons of Doctor Who, should they ever return. As previously mentioned in Doctor Who Theories – What Became of the Paradigm Daleks? the taller, bulkier and multi-coloured redesign of the Daleks that took place in Series 5, Steven Moffat’s first series as showrunner, was not well-received by fans.

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DW XI I Ep3
Image Credit: Dalek 63 88

The most important thing that was to blame for the poor reception of the New Dalek Paradigm was the lacklustre set that was used for their big reveal in Victory of the Daleks – a tiny room in a disused matchstick factory with a ceiling that was barely high enough for the Paradigm Daleks to even fit. The Dalek props themselves were not nearly as badly designed as fans made them out to be, and alterations to the props for Asylum of the Daleks corrected several issues with the design that were evident from Victory – most notably the plastic-like colours that were replaced with the much nicer chrome finish, but the hump at the back was also reduced in response to complaints about the ‘hunchback’ design. For more information on the specifics of the tweaks to the design click here to visit Dalek 63 88’s comprehensive history of the Paradigm props used in Asylum of the Daleks.

But this seemed to be too little, too late, and the Paradigm Daleks were never seen again following Asylum of the Daleks. In total, they had featured prominently in just four episodes in the entirety of Matt Smith’s run as the Eleventh Doctor, which were Victory of the Daleks, The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang and Asylum of the Daleks. They had also cameoed in  The Wedding of River Song and been featured prominently in several video games and comics of that era, but by Peter Capaldi’s first episode as the Twelfth Doctor to feature the Daleks, Series 8’s Into the Dalek, the Paradigm had disappeared and have never been seen since.

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Before delving into speculation and ideas as to how to fix the Paradigm should they ever appear again, the narrative issues with the Paradigm must first be addressed. These issues are totally separate from the more commonly cited problem of the Paradigm’s design, but are perhaps caused by it – firstly, the Paradigm should have been introduced as an officer class for the Daleks from the get-go. Although it is clear that they later became this in Asylum of the Daleks, when they were first introduced they were certainly intended to replace the bronze design entirely. In interviews that were included in behind the scenes material relating to Victory of the Daleks with writer Mark Gatiss, who wrote the story and helped with the design of the Paradigm, he envisions future episodes of the show featuring the Daleks being staffed entirely by the red Paradigm variety, as he considered that the new ‘Drone’ for the Daleks and it was marketed as such at the time. Had the Paradigm been an officer class from the start, with the Progenitor in Victory of the Daleks producing a few Paradigm Daleks and then more bronze drones, perhaps they would have been better received and could have been included as recurring antagonists in a similar fashion to Russell T. Davies’ Cult of Skaro.

dalek series 6The second most glaring narrative flaw with the implementation of the Dalek Paradigm was the lack of Dalek stories in the following series to back up their introduction. Series 6 was devoid of a true Dalek story and this is possibly the greatest contributing factor to the failure of the Paradigm. Had Asylum of the Daleks’ design tweaks been implemented as early as the first half of Series 6, perhaps fans would have been more accepting of them, particularly as the chrome finish makes them look more metallic and less like oversized toys. Possibly in reaction to the poor reception of the Paradigm, Steven Moffat chose to put the Daleks on a mini-hiatus until Series 7, by which time he had made the decision to backtrack on the idea of the Paradigm completely replacing the bronze Daleks and introduced the Dalek Parliament, which featured bronze and Paradigm Daleks working together with no explanation as to why. Since this was the last appearance of the Paradigm, it is safe to say that this decision essentially killed the redesign for good.

series-9-daleks.jpgInterestingly, although the Paradigm were not featured in later Dalek appearances like The Time of the Doctor and Into the Dalek, it was still possible that they were working behind the scenes as the Dalek officer class that they had now become. Information from sources like Doctor Who encyclopedias and fact files from Matt Smith’s era suggest that the Paradigm were still very much alive, and were working behind the scenes to rebuild Skaro and the Dalek Empire, and that the booming voice of the Supreme Dalek threatening the Eleventh Doctor during his initial regeneration scene is in fact a Paradigm Supreme. However, when Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar came around and fans got to see the rebuilt Skaro for themselves, the Paradigm had been entirely replaced with a new form of Dalek command made up of various types of classic Daleks from the show’s history. Not an unwelcome choice of Dalek design for a modern day episode, but a surprising one. Even more interestingly, behind the scenes photographs from the Series 9 two-parter show that the New Dalek Paradigm props were on set at the time, alongside a Peter Cushing movie style Dalek. However, none of these were featured in the episode, and they seem to be the only Dalek props on set at the time that were excluded from the episode. It seems Moffat was considering following through on his idea to have the Paradigm return as the Supreme Council of the new Daleks, but instead opted to imply that they had either disappeared or had been assimilated into the ranks of a newer Dalek hierarchy instead. Either way, the Paradigm were gone for good.

paradigm-daleks.jpgBut if a future showrunner decided in the future that the Paradigm should return? Could it be done? The props themselves are almost certainly in storage somewhere at the BBC, and provided enough time had passed the return of the Paradigm could actually be quite nostalgic for many fans. Not only that, but bringing the Paradigm back might give fans of the Eleventh Doctor’s era some closure. But how could it work? For a start, there would have to be some kind of explanation as to why the Paradigm disappeared in the first place. Perhaps the mysterious Dalek Eternal meddled too much in Dalek history, resulting in the mismatched Empire seen in Series 9, and as a result the Paradigm were exiled. The explanation from the Doctor Who Experience, that the bronze Daleks eventually overthrew their superiors, could also make for some interesting television that harks back to the Dalek Civil War story arc of the 1980s Dalek stories.

If the Paradigm were to return in the future, it is highly likely that more tweaks will be made to their design. Although fans in 2010 were highly critical of these Daleks, there are many aspects of their design that are actually really effective that should be retained in future designs. These include the taller figure that makes them more intimidating, the biological-looking eyepiece that is perhaps one of the creepiest designs yet, and the interesting but sadly undeveloped ‘weapons hatch’ at the back that makes every Dalek capable of transporting multiple weapons or tools at once, which is a great idea that makes sense as a logical evolution for the species. The essential factor to take into account when redesigning the Daleks should be less of “What looks cool?” and more “What makes sense?”. An example of this would be the bolts and rivets on the bronze Daleks – they may look great, but don’t actually make much sense in the logic of the universe, as Daleks would hardly be likely to use human methods of construction when building their army. This goes to show that even the best Dalek designs have their flaws, and adaptations of the classic Dalek look are definitely the way forward for future showrunners who want to try their hand at giving the Daleks a makeover.

Whether they remain a cautionary tale of the hubris of the Moffat era, or they are one day picked up by a showrunner who wishes to do them justice, the Paradigm Daleks will forever be remembered as either a blatant mis-step or a tragic missed opportunity by various factions of the Doctor Who fanbase. One thing that almost all Doctor Who fans can agree on, however, is that although no showrunner should feel apprehensive about trying to put their mark on the Daleks, none should ever again try a Dalek redesign with such zeal without first checking to see if the design actually works well on screen.

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Halo MCC – Top 10 ‘Additional Skulls’ That We Want To See Added to MCC

In the most recent update to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, 343 industries did something unexpected, exciting and ridiculous – they added new skulls to Halo: Combat Evolved, supplementing the game with several skulls that expanded its already impressive array of skulls from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary that was released in 2011. Halo: CE now features several skulls that, until now, had only been present in Halo 2, like Anger and Ghost, and several more that are staples of the modern incarnations of Halo, such as Thunderstorm and Tough Luck. However, in the blog post accompanying this update, 343 industries suggested that not only will the other Halo titles in the MCC be receiving new Skulls in the future, but also that there will be brand new skulls added to the game that have never been seen before. Since then, fans have been speculating as to what these skulls might do, so here is a list of the Top 5 ‘Additional Skulls’ that fans want to see in Halo: MCC.

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#10 – Invincible Allies Skull

This one is fairly low on the list because, if it ever exists, it will more than likely be a 0x scoring skull, and rightly so – having invincible allies would make the game very easy, in a similar fashion to infinite ammo, but it cannot be denied that having invincible allies would also be hilarious and would open up opportunities for weird and wacky glitches as it would be possible to blast or whack allies into areas that they would usually not enter. This skull has been brought up several times in relation to Halo: CE, as Marine snipers would often teamkill their allies when firing a rapid sequence of shots at eye-level , if marines walked into their line of fire. This Skull might even open up entire new ways of playing levels – if your Marine allies could survive 343 Guilty Spark on Halo: CE, or your Grunt allies could survive Sacred Icon (the level this blog is named for) on Halo 2.

#9 – Halo 2 Grunt Birthday Party Skull

This one is slightly less likely, but many now forget that in the original Halo 2, the Grunt Birthday Party Skull had a totally different effect to what it became in later Halo games. Originally, activating the skull caused all headshots to turn into plasma grenade explosions, so any time a projectile heads a character’s head – even if they are dead – it creates a plasma explosion. This skull’s effect was likely altered as it did make the game easy, as you could wipe out entire squadrons of Grunts or Flood with a single headshot, but the skull was still fun to use and, like the Grunt Funeral Skull that has somewhat continued its legacy, it can sometimes create lethal deathtraps for the player. If the Grunt Birthday Party Skull in its original form did ever return to MCC, it would likely be implemented under the name ‘Grunt Birthday Party (Classic)’, or perhaps even be given a completely new name. Either way, that feature is sitting dormant in the code of Halo 2: Anniversary and it needs to be released.

#8 – Universal Bandana

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This isn’t an idea for an original or returning Skull, but it is one of the most commonly requested ideas on Halo forums when fans are asked what Skulls they want to see implemented into Halo: MCC, and it is easy to see why. The Bandana Skull allows for exploration and exploitation opportunities in Halo: CE and Halo 2, but is not a feature for Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST or Halo: 4. As far as the hints that 343 industries have dropped in their blog posts are concerned, Universal Bandana will be implemented into Halo: MCC in due course, as it is likely that each game will be updated in separate updates.

#7 – Angry (SPV3)

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Those who haven’t played the excellent SPV3 mod for Halo: CE on the PC will likely not be aware of the Angry Skull, but it is an excellent idea that was implemented to SPV3 but would likely work on any and all Halo games. The Angry Skull turns all previously allied AI against you from the start of the level, meaning you not only have no allies at any time but also have vastly more enemies, and some sections of levels that would usually be a breeze become vicious gauntlets. If this Skull was ever implemented to Halo: MCC, parts like the first section of Crow’s Nest on Halo 3, that features almost 50 Marines, will add to the challenge, particularly if playing on Legendary with other Skulls on. This Skull would likely score around 1.3x, as it would drastically increase the difficulty of many levels.

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#6 – Combat Evolved Vehicle Armour

This Skull would essentially make all vehicles invincible, like they were in Halo: Combat Evolved. As in Halo: CE, this would not apply to certain vehicles like Banshees, Ghosts, Wraiths and likely other enemy vehicles, but would exist to give UNSC vehicles more versatility, especially on Legendary difficulty. This Skull would be non-scoring, likely having a 1x score, although a 0x score is possible. In other Halo titles this Skull would affect the Warthog, Scorpion, Mongoose and Mantis, and perhaps in Halo 2 Arbiter levels it would affect certain Ghosts, Spectres and Wraiths depending on which vehicles are intended for the player in each mission.

#5 – Bottomless Clip

As this feature exists as an option for Halo: Reach and Halo 4 in Forge and other modes, Bottomless Clip would surely not be a difficult feature to program into the campaign. After all, Bandana already gives players infinite ammo, and whilst this Skull would surely have a 0x score, it would make levels like The Storm and Tsavo Highway on Halo 3 a blast (literally). There would be other, practical uses of Bottomless Clip too in several of the Halo campaigns for the purposes of map exploration, boundary breaking, exploits and other shenanigans that Skulls are commonly associated with.

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#4 – Bang Bang

This Skull was from Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, but modders have since been able to access it and discover that the effect turns all weapon sounds into a voice recording of a man saying ‘Pew’. Whilst the idea is funny, the execution requires improvement, and if this Skull is to be added it should be on the condition that all weapons get their own individual voice clips that associate with that weapon, of people trying to imitate the weapon sounds of Halo, that would be pretty funny. Grenades would definitely just be someone going ‘Bang!’ though. Since the gameplay change is entirely aesthetic, this Skull would probably just have a 1x score.

#3 – Wuv Woo (Halo Wars)

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This Skull, which until now has only featured in Halo Wars, turns certain weapon projectiles into rainbow lasers with love hearts spewing from them, a sickening display which strikes fear into the hearts of all who see it. In Halo Wars, the Skull only works on Scarab beams, but for Halo: MCC, each type of weapon should have its own comical design – rainbows for Covenant weapons and confetti for UNSC weapons, perhaps? And in Halo 4 the Promethean weapons can fire multi-coloured blasts instead of their usual standard orange. Again, this Skull is aesthetic, so would likely score 1x.

#2 – Third Person

Based on a cut Skull for Halo 3: ODST, Halo: MCC should include a Skull that switches players to a third person perspective, like in Theater mode or when in a vehicle, at all times – meaning players will have to rely on the HUD more in a fashion similar to the original Star Wars: Battlefront. When combined with the Blind Skull, this Skull would open up great opportunities for making Machinimas, and would allow players to player the Halo games again in a whole new way.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Big Head Mode Skull (All enemies and allies have engorged craniums)
  • Halo 2 Black Eye Skull (Meleeing enemies gives you Overshields like in Halo 2)
  • Gamble Skull (You do more damage, but take more damage)
  • Reverse Assassins Skull (All allied NPCs are permanently cloaked)
  • Brawl Skull (Enemies favour charging melee attacks over ranged weapons)
  • Permanent Cloak (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player is permanently cloaked
  • Overshields (Halo CE/Halo 2) – The player has recharging overshields

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#1 – VISR Skull

This simple but interesting idea for a Skull would essentially combine the ideas implemented into Halo 3: ODST and Halo: SPV3 by giving the player a night-vision mode instead of a flashlight for levels that are bathed in near-total darkness. Although this Skull would be fairly difficult to program, as it would require coding the VISR mode into all 4 mainline Halo games featured on the Master Chief Collection, but the end results would definitely be worth it. After all, the VISR mode was one of the best things about Halo 3: ODST, and bringing that over to the other Halo games would open up new styles of combat for each title, particularly in the Anniversary modes with their dynamic lighting.

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Have Microtransactions ruined Star Wars: Battlefront?

After the controversial release of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II in late 2017, the game has recently seen a revival thanks to the release of several free expansions. However, with EA being mired with complaints about the microtransaction system, the short campaign and the poorly designed level progression system, there are clearly still fans out there that are not happy with the newest installment in the Battlefront series. In fact, there is a significant portion of the Star Wars fan community that staunchly prefers the original Star Wars: Battlefront II that released in 2005 over the EA-branded remake. But are the two games in any way comparable?

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The original Battlefront II

When it was released in 2005, the sequel to 2003’s Star Wars: Battlefront aimed to improve on just about everything that had featured in the original by adding in space combat, more classes, a better rewards system and countless other gameplay, aesthetic and layout changes that helped to firmly establish Star Wars: Battlefront II as one of the most popular Star Wars video games out there. In the eyes of many fans, the game takes its place alongside other Star Wars classics like Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as one of the best video games of its era, and thanks to a dedicated community that has seemingly only strengthened in the wake of the release of the EA Battlefront series the game continues to be one of the most popular Star Wars releases to date.

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EA’s new Battlefront II

Following the decision by EA to use the name ‘Battlefront’ for their new series of Star Wars first-person shooters, EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II had a lot to live up to. Fans were cautious of the game when it was first announced due to the disappointment many had felt following the release of EA’s first Star Wars Battlefront, which promised much and yet delivered little in terms of maps and content. Early signs for Battlefront II seemed more promising, with the inclusion of the prequel and sequel eras as well as more customization, heroes, space battles and the single player campaign mode. In many ways, EA’s Battlefront II did deliver on what was promised, at least in terms of content – but the controversy surrounding microtransactions coupled with the vast amounts of playtime needed to progress through the levelling system led to many players writing off the new Battlefront game early on, particularly since EA had already failed once.

One of the most glaring weaknesses in the new Battlefront games compared to the Battlefronts of the 2000s is the significant reduction in the number of maps and modes, and the lack of customization options compared to older releases. For many players these features helped define the Battlefront games and for some the use of the Battlefront name on EA’s new games is little more than brand association.

However, the biggest and most controversial issue surrounding EA’s Battlefront II was the inclusion of its microtransaction system. Having started as a means for free mobile games to generate revenue through in-app purchases, microtransactions have gradually seeped into the mainstream console gaming market and the increasing numbers of publishers that have turned to this system has been criticized by children and parents alike. Those against the system argue that it comes across as an attempt by publishers to squeeze as much money out of the consumer as possible, and when the system is paired with randomized loot-boxes that have also become popular in the first-person shooter genre of games the result is something akin to child gambling, as children can spend real money on a random selection of in-game content without knowing what content they will actually receive.

This was particularly controversial in the case of EA’s Battlefront II as it was proven that, without using real money to purchase randomized loot-boxes, it would take hours and hours of playtime to earn enough in-game currency to unlock heroes like Darth Vader despite the inclusion of the heroes being one of the game’s main selling points. Ultimately, the controversy surrounding microtransactions in EA’s Battlefront II contributed to a growing movement against the system led by activists and politicians that particularly target the randomized loot-box system. Progress has already been made in some parts of the world, most notably the Belgium Gambling Commission that has made the inclusion of randomized loot-boxes that can be bought with real money illegal.

Despite the assertion from many Star Wars fans that microtransactions ruined the new EA Battlefront, the game has seen a small rise in popularity following the suspension of the loot-box system and the release of several free sets of downloadable content. Whilst there is no way to know for certain exactly how many active players there are in the game, the release of content related to Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the Clone Wars era has been met with positive response from what players the game has, so it could be that with the removal of the microtransaction system the game stands a chance of turning over a new leaf and winning back the disappointed fans that are flocking to Star Wars’ rival brands in their droves.

Comic Fans Split Over the Future of Comics after Death of Stan Lee

marvel vs dcIn light of the recent death of comic book legend Stan Lee, many comic fans are wondering what the future will bring for the industry in light of the loss of a major figurehead in the industry and changing times with the rise of the internet.

Stan Lee is best known for his work as creative leader of Marvel Comics, as he transformed the business from a small publisher to a multi-million-dollar corporation that created some of the most iconic comic book characters in history.

Although it is certain that sales figures for physical comics have fallen significantly in recent decades, what is less clear is the exact reason why this is the case.

Many long-time comic fans, like Rob who was interviewed at Worlds Apart, have blamed the internet for the decline in sales – particularly since online comics are proving far more popular with millennials than the physical copies.

However, others argue that the online section of the comic book market is an excellent way of getting young people into comics, particularly since physical comics are more expensive and intangible online versions of comics are better suited for younger readers. In the video Jon discusses the plethora of comics he’s bought online.

As local comic shops begin to evolve with the times, focusing as on merchandise and collectables as much as actual comics themselves, the clear shift in climate in the comic industry presents a worrying change for stalwart fans – but also a promising development for younger readers.

How the 2019 Picard TV Show could change how we look at Star Trek

The Star Trek franchise is perhaps best known for its optimistic depiction of a diverse, harmonious and utopian socialist human society in the future, and the series was founded on creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a peaceful and enlightened future. However, in recent decades the long-lived series has seen a dramatic shift in the tone and feel of its releases to the point where modern interpretations of the iconic brand have lost many of the fundamental themes and morals that defined Star Trek for the first thirty years of its existence.

Fans of the show need not despair, as there is a shining beacon of hope on the horizon – the Picard TV show, set to release in late 2019, has many Trekkies hoping that Star Trek may finally return to the more philosophical and plot-driven stories of The Next Generation as opposed to the action-orientated nature of the newer Star Trek films and TV shows. The fact that Patrick Stewart is returning to the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard after so long suggests that there has been some serious decision-making going on behind the scenes as to what the direction of the newer Star Treks should be, and the kind of messages that the franchise should send to younger audiences.

First seen as the captain of the USS Enterprise-D in the first episode of The Next Generation, Picard soon became a dynamic figurehead of responsibility, reason and ethics in the Star Trek community, even rivalling fan-favourite Spock for best character in the history of the series. Played masterfully by Patrick Stewart for all seven seasons of TNG’s run, Picard embodied the most honest and desirable traits in mankind – passion, mercy, intellect and willpower. Often acting as a mediator and always able to see the bigger picture, Picard became legendary for his ability to uphold his values and principles in the face of adversity and always seemed to take the moral high ground.

In the current political and social climate, it seems there is no better character to return to the front and centre of the Star Trek brand than Jean-Luc Picard. Whilst TNG will always be the keystone Star Trek series and perhaps even the essential Star Trek experience, bringing Picard back for a new show aimed at modern audiences certainly seems like the logical thing to do – provided it is done right. Many fans have criticised newer Star Trek for changing not only the feel but the look of the show, suggesting that the producers have little respect for the show’s history, which has many more fans worried that the new Picard show will be mishandled. It is no secret that the character of Jean-Luc Picard has been mishandled before – the infamous TNG movies from the late 90s and early 2000s depicted Picard as more like an action hero than a morally upstanding life coach, and the state of the Star Trek universe catapulted the once peaceful Federation into several bloody wars before the ‘post-TNG’ plotlines were unceremoniously abandoned by the end of the 2000s in favour of prequels like Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery.

Hopefully with a renewed sense of purpose and with some proper science fiction stories to tell, the new Picard show will stay true to the roots of the character and the franchise to deliver less action thrillers and more thought-provoking stories. Ideally the show will find the effective middle-ground between the two and will deliver something more akin to TNG and less like Star Trek: Discovery. Whatever the direction the producers choose to take it in, there is no doubt that the Picard show will change how we look at Star Trek.