It seems like picking on Blizzard right now is the geek-culture bloggers equivalent of kicking a dead horse, but that horse knows what it did, and while an apology has been issued for the political controversy, it comes across has a rather hollow token, to say nothing about the mass-blocking of comments on YouTube videos from the event.
We are not here to stir the political pot, that’s not what we’re here for. I am here to pick on Blizzard for something a little less volatile, the games that were announced this year.
What? I said a little less…
Blizzard do one thing exceptionally well, and have done since the 90’s: epic cinematics. They fall firmly into the “pros” column on pre-rendered cinematic cut-scenes and trailers and whether you are for or against them, there is nothing negative to say about Blizzards cinematics in their own right. As if to prove a point, oh wow that Diablo 4 trailer was pretty. There were times when the graphics quality bordered photorealism a little too closely, and there seems to have been a positive tone shift, which I will get to shortly.
Pretty pictures aside, we also got a good look at some in-game footage, and the level of detail is delicious, especially given the genre. Moreover, Diablo 4 is darker visually, and it sounds like they’re going dark in narrative, like it should always have been. My biggest issue with 3 was all the pretty colours, in defiance of the legacy left by 1 and 2, and it easily meant that Grim Dawn made a better successor to the throne. A more “medieval” version of hell has been suggested, and the little glimpses we’ve seen suggest hints of Hieronymus Bosche, and the brightest coloured things on screen – the blood red demon “fallen” – are stringy and drawn out horrors.
But of course it wouldn’t be Blizzard without compulsory online multiplayer elements, and sure you don’t have to engage with the other players, but so help me I don’t even want them around, and I don’t like the idea that they might try and engage with me. You’ll pardon me if I remain far more interested in Crate’s ARPG than the usurper to D2.
Oh, and can I get a citation on the claim “Best in class visceral and fluid combat” please? What I’m seeing is that there is a way to play the druid, a way to play the sorceress, so on so forth, with not a great deal of variety, only an optimised route to power. I’m going to hope that this has more to do with the demo than the finalised game, but I’m going to profoundly suspect that I am wrong.
Oh… good? Whatever happened to the days when Blizzard would wait over a decade between sequels? No, I’m not going to complain about this one.
As you may have already guessed, I don’t really do online or multiplayer, so I’ll keep my critique here short. Another of Blizzard’s fortes is great character development, we’ve seen it across the Warcraft legacy, and Overwatch really shows what they’re capable of. There’s a great Extra Credits video on the idle animations of Overwatch and how they communicate a great deal about the character you’re playing. I will watch Overwatch content because the stories are pretty cool, and I like that they’ve introduced some singleplayer content.
I hope that the new game will be more than just shooting while wiggling from side to side.
More World of Warcraft
Among the early announcements, onesies! Do you hear the sound of scraping? That’s the bottom of the barrel.
The former stranglehold Warcraft held on the market is broken, and I feel like now would have been the time to go completely revolutionary, bring back Warcraft as an RTS, I’d even take a World of Starcraft, just to see something that isn’t yet more WoW. There was a lot of talk about the Overwatch sequel being massively supportive, rewarding, and compatible with players of the original game, would a Warcraft 2 be so outlandish?
The game has been updated, modernised, more and more content has been brought to the game, and the original game has been repackaged and redelivered to us in brighter and shinier colours, which I cannot and will not disparage because I bought and played the re-releases of Skyrim, Myst, and Heroes 3 among others. And after fifteen years of World of Warcraft, it has now exceeded the lifespan of the strategy game that preceded it.
Board gamers can look forward to a Smallworld of Warcraft that looks like it’s close to a release date, and it looks like that’s as close as we’re getting to a Warcraft “original” style game.
Am I going to rag on Bethesda next week for only having Elderscrolls, Fallout, and Dishonoured? Well to be fair they also have Doom and Wolfenstein and whatever Deathloop is but it looks inte- y’know what? Bad example. And to be completely fair, I should also point out that Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Starcraft exist.
I suppose I look to Blizzard as an example of a bubble that looks set to burst, and recent events make that bubble look especially fragile. The popularity of their fairly narrow range of intellectual properties is undeniable, and one must pay respect to any company that can keep players enthralled and enjoying a game for fifteen years, and then still go on to produce another market-dominating title in Overwatch.
And yet I’m watching the opening ceremonies from this year’s Blizzcon, and there’s an astonishingly similar feeling to watching the advert for a “new” apple product. It doesn’t sound like they’re changing much, it doesn’t sound like they’re innovating in any way, and yet there’s a host of fans who’ll still pour their money into the new thing and keep the bubble floating for another year.
The last time I did one of these was four years ago, I really ought to make it a more regular thing because San Diego Comiccon is a prime event to promote new material and media coming up in time for the mass indoor-migration. Here are a few of the highlights I’ve picked up on:
Harley Quinn Animated Series [NSFW]
No seriously, they packed this thing with bad language and violence.
Ok, this has some potential. I like Kaley Cuoco as Harley Quinn although I wish she’d given it the proper southern-drawl* that has been a hallmark of the character for decades, but that’s about my only complaint. In the post-Nolan DC days it can be hard sometimes to remember that there have been fun days in DC, even in Gotham where some of the dumbest villains have challenged the caped crusader, and that includes Quinn. So far we appear to be capturing the essence of what Suicide Squad wanted and failed to achieve, and we’ve kept key elements of the Suicide Squad Quinn in the pink and blue look.
Being broadcast on the new DC subscription network may limit the potential pretty dramatically, I actually think this may prove to be a growing problem because Disney are doing the same thing (more on that later) and the number of subscription services are getting as prolific as the number of television channels, but now you have to pay for all of them individually, and slowly but surely that new business model is going to prove how well it doesn’t work. I think. That’s my opinion at any rate.
Anyway, reserving judgement on Harley Quinn but holding on to a shred of optimism.
The Abrahamsverse Star Trek has put one hell of a stamp on Star Trek since then, we’ve seen it all over STD, and apparently we’re seeing this new theme of industrial style sets and higher colour-contrast lighting schemes in this resurrection of the greatest captain to ever command an Enterprise. The story looks to be another combination of Data and the Borg, and Seven of Nine will be joining the crowd as well to really dig into themes like artificial intelligence versus actual intelligence, life, freedom and independence. Rumours are that Jonathan Frakes will also be reappearing.
Our new crew includes Allison Pill and Harry Treadaway, two very talented young actors who never seem to have broken big which is a genuine tragedy.
Prediction: Turns out the young woman in the trailer with all that mystery around her is the borg queen and somehow time travel is involved… again. I say that because it looks like that borg cube is under construction, and as everyone has a particular loathing of this woman there’ll be some kind of shenanigans with nanomachinery and paradoxes. In short I can’t say as I’m all that excited, but I’m curious.
Marvel Season 4
I was expecting a long slow decline for the MCU that would slowly hurt everyone’s feelings and ruin ten years of amazing cinema by soaking the legacy in bleach until we’re left with a flimsy, pale imitation of what used to be. It looks like they just gave up, no part of the line-up gets me excited, no, not even the new Thor film.
Blade and Fantastic 4 have been confirmed for the future, along with another Spidey-film, and a Black Panther follow up, and sure we’ve got the groundwork for a Secret War or something, and who knows, maybe this is a grand fake-out, but I have some issues, and I’ll keep them short.
The time for Black Widow was about three years ago, some time around Civil War or Winter Soldier when she was at her most popular. A great animated film was made with her and the Punisher working together to take down Crimson Dynamo, and that was about as good as I think we’ll see. You want a good Black Widow? Red Sparrow is probably your best bet.
One quick look into the history of the Eternals tells me that there will need to be some serious conceptual changes to make them work well in the MCU. They’re a bunch of demigods in service to the Celestials, which should bring in a few of the Celestials in time for the likes of Glactus and whatnot, but from what I read they’re far from beloved characters. Shang-Chi is a house built on sand, with Iron Fist flopping harder than Finn Jones’ hair (hah!) and the Mandarin being a fake-out that upset a lot of fans.
“Multiverse of Madness” is a rather uninspiring subtitle, as is “Love and Thunder” which sounds like an episode of Miami Vice.
And here are all of these Disney+ titles, all of which were unsubtly set up during Infinity/Game, Hawkeye will be about training a younger archer, Loki picks up from the Tesseract incident, and buddy cops Falcon and Winter Soldier screams of Lethal Weapon with more vibranium. What If… sounds like it could be mildly interesting, but it’d need to do something more than regurgitate the old What If’s of the comics. What they plan to do with Wanda and Vision is anyone’s guess but for now I’m contenting myself with some early 00’s style sitcom in which most of the comedy is Vision trying to understand people.
A better sounding fan-timeline can be found here, filled with titles that – while clearly fake – has a few more beguiling titles.
So the Witcher looks… fine, I guess? There are a few showpiece scenes that look like they could be cool, but I’m listening to the story and it doesn’t grip me yet. I’m quietly hoping to see a Mad Max style approach to Geralt, approaching as a nearly blank slate who comes to propel someone else’s story.
Far more interesting, we saw a mini making-of for dark Crystal along with a bit of new footage which looks like it’ll be a genuine masterpiece of television. It’ll be something to look forward to binging straight after Insomnia.
We’ve had new trailers for a bunch of extra films that we’ve known about for a while, a glimpse of what Rick and Morty’s fourth season will have to hold which… basically is more of the same but that’s cool, that’s what we like. A, hopefully better, television adaption of His Dark materials is on the way and now we can see a bit of it, it looks like it won’t be shying away from the anti-religious themes that were omitted in the Golden Compass film, but also features a cast of some of the best actors of the decade. IT, Watchmen, Westworld, but perhaps the thing that worries me the most is the Snowpiercer series that I simply cannot envision accomplishing what the film did.
Hate to end this on such a downer, so I’ll let it fizzle on a bad line instead.
*New Jersey accent! Turns out I’ve been getting it wrong for years.
My interests over the last few years have rather shifted onto tabletop rather than video gaming, a trend you might have noticed. And after years of false promises, over promising, console spitting-fights, and months and months of disappointing results, E3 is starting to get something of a yoke over its shoulders. What should be a time of exhilaration and optimism is held down by burdensome negativity that is simply not the fault of the expo.
Got that out of the way, now onto the interesting stuff. Superbowl season is trailer season, and time for major releases to grab the attention of the biggest TV watching audience left. And while I’m not feeling well you’ll pardon me if I take this opportunity to have a quick gander over this year’s crop of attention grabbers. (more…)
I do not sports.
I am not a sports person, I cannot name sports people, but I like how those who sports on a regular basis don’t admit to being nerds despite the fact that they’re bigger geeks than we are when it comes down to names, numbers, dates; I see no difference between sports fans at a match and geeks at a convention. But anyway, that’s not the point.
I love the Super Bowl! I’m vaguely aware of the results and that they are somehow historically important, but I was far more interested in YouTube the following few days, which have been as full of trailers as I’d hoped. Some I expected, some I really didn’t, most of them made me stupidly excited, and here are those: (more…)
“They don’t make them like they used to”, well maybe you just don’t appreciate them like you used to!
I’ve no doubt that I would have enjoyed Inside Out if I was seven, but I was a little bored by it to be honest, and looking back at the roster 2015 has not been all that great for films for kids, or at least didn’t have an awful lot of real attention grabbers. Except Minions, thanks for the fresh wave of merchandising, bad memes and kids talking gibberish, Universal Pictures. (more…)
So another San-Diego Comicon comes and goes, and the lucky few have had their chance to wait in mile after mile of queues to discover what the future of nerd-marketed-media holds, and right now there’s three big titles on everyone’s mind:
Batman vs. Superman
Recently leaked, and even more recently given a full release – because let’s face it, it was never going to stay SDCC exclusive for long – the Dawn of Justice trailer shows a fuller set up for the conflict, and shows us a clear shot of Wonder Woman in action, and even hints at Aquaman’s origins (it’s subtle, but it’s there). We also get a very thorough idea of how Jesse Eisenberg will be playing Lex Luther, and that’s where I want to start:
Jesse is a small bloke, maybe lacking the kind of gravitas that Superman’s greatest enemy usually comes with, but here we see a very different interpretation, one that I regard with the same kind of optimism as Heath Ledger’s Joker. He looks to have a subtle kind of manipulation, insidiously polite and jovial, I can see all kinds of villainy, and he absolutely has my curiosity. I’d also like to say that Jeremy Irons is an excellent casting for Alfred.
That’s about as positive as I can get for BvS: DoJ. Seriously, another Batman origin story is being crammed into this? We have two JLA characters being shoehorned in without an origins film, this is all getting out of hand. We get that you’re trying hard to play catch-up with Marvel, but this is not something you can rush.
In short, I can hardly contain my lack of enthusiasm. I’ve made my opinion of Zack Snyder very clear, but that’s really besides the point. The trailer has enough positive points that I can’t just right this film off. The true tragedy here is that Affleck is going to be playing Batman twice in the same year without nerd approval…
Now here’s the first DC project in a long time I’ve actually looked forward to for a while, right up until I saw the Joker. From that point on, everything else I’ve seen has increased my concern that this could be another failure. And yet…
The Joker is the biggest question mark for me. With both the loss of Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill retiring from the role with the completion of Arkham City, whoever takes up the role next is going to have a hard time of it, and Jared Leto has certainly weathered the scrutiny on his design. It has its’ prose and cons, he seems to have a decent voice for the job, but I remain unconvinced.
Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the central roles here, Margot Robbie especially seems to be occupying centre stage which makes sense if the Joker is the major villain. I generally have no problem with that so long as the other villains get a decent look in at the action. There are some big names here: Katana, Killer Croc, and Captain Boomerang.
In short, I’m back on the fence about Suicide Squad, which is a positive, but ultimately mediocre shift. The credentials of the director seem heavy on the low-brow action, but this trailer makes me wonder if he’s finally been given the chance to show what he can do.
Couple of things before you click play: 1) Sony have not given up and released the trailer properly yet so this is still “leaked footage”. Get it while it’s hot! 2) This is the Deadpool movie we asked for, so if you can hear it you’ll be hearing strong language.
Well, this certainly sets the tone! Plenty of fourth-wall breaks, a dig at Green Lantern, and just a whole bunch of cool stuff. Not a lot of story though. Not glimpse of the villains who could well be Ajax and Copycat, who are both cast. Could just as easily be Deadpool himself, let’s rule nothing out here.
This, alone amongst the trailers here is a film I am looking forward to, but this trailer doesn’t give us much except renewed hope, and I can’t say much more than that. Marvel have always played their cards a little closer to their chests, and Sony look to be keeping up the business model. Ryan Reynolds is the real driving force behind this film, he’s a nerd in a position of great power within this production, and after last year he has the burden of countless nerdy hopes on his shoulders.
Summer must be coming, as YouTube is awash with rather awesome looking film trailers, so as we prepare to retreat to air-conditioned halls devoid of sunlight let us take a gander at this season’s offerings.
The Fantastic Four
It occurred to me recently that if this film is awful, then that will be a complete set. The 1994 film, the recent attempts from 2005 and 2007, and finally this one. I have to say I am less optimistic having now watched the new trailer, and not because of the weird Johnny Storm thing (I mean Reed Richards would have made so much more sense, unless you’ve got a plan for the whole “adoption” idea… that’s another rant though, one that other people have beaten me to). (more…)