Wednesday, 27 July 2016

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review [Gaming]

2011 was the last time we had a LEGO Star Wars game. That one was different. It featured a TV Series and not any of the films. It also expanded what LEGO Star Wars was about. It had larger hubs, bigger battles, and a neat concept that made it feel as though you were really in large scale battles, which many fans dubbed LEGO Battlefront. It also introduced a story switch mechanic, so multiple scenarios could play out at once with you able to switch between them on the fly. It is here then, that we get to this latest LEGO Star Wars game.

From the off you can see new things are coming with the upgraded HUD and start screen. Rather than just the three options of 'New Game', 'Load Game', and 'Options' [and 'Exit Game' if on PC] there is now a 'Continue Game' option right at the top [though of course it won't be visible on first starting the game up] and an option to jump straight to the Download Content shop. For the HUD, the character icons are now contained within a circle, so the hearts you have are around the circle. It's only a slight change, but makes it look a little more refined.
Major new additions include Multi-Builds, which allow puzzles with just one set of buildable bricks. These are a neat way of adding new puzzles to the series in general. For instance, in the starting level on Jakku, you'll have a fire that needs to be put out with the water pump. Step one is fixing the wire. Build up on the left, jump on the switch to fill up, job done. Once the water is in the container, it needs to be dragged over to the pump itself. Destroy what was built and rebuild those bricks in front. After using BB-8 on the constructed pad to bring the container to the pump, the pump needs to be activated. Destroy the bricks and rebuild on the right. Other times these Multi-Builds might lead to collectibles.
The other major addition is Blaster Battles. These battles are also spread out over levels to shake things up a bit. Here, a cover fire type game plays out. Hidden behind walls, you need to aim and fire, killing a certain amount of enemies to progress or destroying a cannon stopping you from progressing. Other abilities come into play here as well, as you grapple plugs to pull things over, or use binoculars to find weaknesses in certain things. These are fun, and depending on whether you can avoid dying yourself, give stud rewards based on a medal system [0 deaths - gold, 1 death - silver, 2 deaths - bronze, 3+ - nothing].

The levels themselves are varied, even when based on the same planets. There are ten main levels, a prologue that takes place during the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi, an epilogue that sees Rey undertake the journey of climbing the passage to Luke, and six other levels. These other levels are the more interesting of the lot, since most of them tell completely new stories, and two of them allow us to play as the villains. The cutscenes in all of these still retain the humour and charm of previous LEGO games and portray the story of The Force Awakens well. It does feel at times though as if they were struggling to pad out the game with levels. Don't get me wrong, all the levels are fun, but with certain levels it feels like LEGO Harry Potter syndrome - where certain levels feel forced into the game just as padding. That doesn't affect overall enjoyment though, and once the main levels are complete the whole 100%ing the game comes into play as more characters are unlocked for Free Mode plays and a lot more things can be accessed from the hubs. In this game, there are five hubs. The smallest is the Millennium Falcon, with the largest being Starkiller Base, Jakku, and Takodana. D'Qar, the planet of the resistance base, is a middle ground. In these hubs, numerous puzzles are around to get gold bricks. NPC's offer up numerous challenges to get more gold bricks. Races also return, sometimes within levels themselves. Within levels they'll net you a minikit. In the hubs they give a gold brick. Another thing for collection around the hubs are Carbonite Bricks. These allow classic characters to be unlocked from across the Original and Prequel Trilogies, ranging from the popular [Episode IV Leia] to the obscure [A-Wing Pilot]. So even after all the levels are complete, there are still a large amount of things to collect. While all of this is available to collect, more experienced gamers will probably get them all within ten hours, depending on how many they'd collected during the main play.

The only thing I'd have to say is that it wouldn't be a LEGO game without the glitches. While none are game breaking, it can be a bit annoying when you have one minikit left to find in a level and the guide is telling you it's in a completely different place. Or characters getting stuck.
The music is great, as is the voice acting, with characters sounding exactly like they do in the film during the new dialogue that was recorded, even with those whose actors hadn't reprised their roles for the game. There isn't much to say with LEGO games at this point, as they are mostly the same. It's just a case of exploring the new things within them. And I can say all those new features are good fun, and the returning ones from other games like the aforementioned races are implemented well here.
The game can be recommended for LEGO fans and Star Wars fans. Even those who like action/adventure games or collectathons. The game itself doesn't get on the levels of Harry Potter in terms of bad parts, and is a definite great game for the LEGO series.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Star Wars Celebration Europe II Post-Talk [Events]

It was quite a three day event, is the first thing I'll say. As per last year - in terms of trailers - I did feel the Rebels Season 3 trailer overshadows the Rogue One behind-the-scenes trailer, and despite the fact we never saw it on the livestream, the actual trailer as well. The animation team has the ability to draw on more material without giving too much away, since just six 20 minute episodes will almost match an entire film. Double that six, and there's enough material to make a trailer for just half a season without giving anything important away. Sure, the Rebels team will give us some things like the appearance of Thrawn to get us speculating, and just glimpses at plot points, but we'll never get the full picture. That's not to discredit the Rogue One stuff of course. We still don't know too much about this standalone story, though Vader will make an appearance somewhere. The small action scenes we see are enough to know that this film will be more serious in tone. We'll have to see where both film and TV series go in terms of direction, but both seem to the channelling this era pretty well.

As mentioned, Thrawn is returning to canon, and as such is getting his own canon book. Written by none other than Timothy Zahn, the original creator of the character. He was also consulted for bringing the character into Rebels, so much of what we'll see of Thrawn will be true to the old expanded universe. In other publishing, a prequel novel to Rogue One was announced, with James Luceno at the helm. This author has done some great work within the Star Wars universe, and so with a prequel to Rogue One now added to his name, I'm expected another great story. The novel is named Rogue One: Catalyst. Other publishing for Rogue One include The Visual Guide, sticker books, and Make Your Own books. Of course, there is the Ahsoka novel which, after that panel with Dave Filoni, should be a good read. For guides throughout the other films, there will be a Complete Locations book, a Galactic Atlas book, and a Ralph McQuarrie two-volume concept art set. All three of these look set to be interesting, with the Complete Locations book giving in-depth cross section drawings of locations from the various films. While there wasn't any new comics announced at the Marvel panel, they did show off covers for the final Darth Vader comic, as well as preview pages for the main on-going comic.

I'm just going to give a brief mention of EA - as let's face it, they have just announced Rogue One content. For Battlefront, a tease of the Death Star content was shown off, and the fourth expansion got revealed - Rogue One: Scarif. For the Death Star DLC, the new heroes are Chewbacca and Bossk. The heroes for Rogue One: Scarif are Erso Jyn and Orson Krennic. We sort of have space battles, in that they are definitely in space. After all, it's the Death Star. How could you not have space battles in Death Star based DLC? But, as far as I'm aware, it will still be regular Fighter Squadron matches. Which is still good.
The mobile game Galaxy of Heroes has been teased to be getting Rogue One content, and also gets a new raid in Tank Takedown. For The Old Republic, a sequel of sorts to Knights of the Fallen Empire is in the works. Knights of the Eternal Throne should arrive by the end of the year. The untitled Star Wars game of Visceral only featured in words. But when those words come from someone who previously worked on Uncharted, you get the feeling that this game is in safe hands.

Of course, a Celebration isn't a Celebration without all the special guest panels. Mark Hamill is entertaining to watch, as he talks about his experiences and 'almost' let's slip Rey's last name. Anthony Daniels and Warwick Davis really work well together, and it was funny to see the two reacting well off each other as from the start they acted like two big ego's competing for dominance to showing respect for each other at the end. And Daniel's joke of  'probably not recognising me because I didn't have a red arm' as he walks out with a sparkling gold jacket got a good laugh. Ray Park is still a great guy, and hearing about him being Darth Maul is always something interesting to hear. It's also something to see him head down off the stage to a nervous young boy nearly in tears and greet him.
Warwick Davis during the Rebels panel was also a good laugh, with him playing off Dave Filoni and Sam Witwer very well indeed. It was also entertaining to hear Warwick do a Maul voice and Witwer do an Ewok voice, then agree to swap parts. Dave was also saying how he likes to bring back old voice actors, with Warwick getting 'offended' that he didn't want any new talent. By the end of the panel Dave had changed his answer saying he's always looking for new talent, and Warwick was confident he'd have a new character under his name.

There really is too much to talk about when it comes to these events, whether all the interesting interviews taking place, or the looks behind the scenes of the films. Even looks at merchandise coming out. The closing ceremony gave some interesting little bits of info, like Alden Ehrenreich giving his views on being cast as young Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher saying she wants her dog to have a part in Episode VIII. Then Warwick closes us off after meeting with the crews of the stages, the Star Wars Live team, and all the members of staff behind the scenes. Oh, and a little something about it being the 40th anniversary of something. Yes, the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. Celebration Orlando, which I'm sure many fans will be dubbing Celebration 40th, is sure to be a real big one, with Episode VIII, more hints at new films, and many more special guests. We'll get teases of EA games, such as Battlefront 2, but the big bulk of that will be at E3, just like with Celebration Anaheim.

And with that, this Celebration comes to a close. And a bit more celebrating of a franchise will be coming up in a few days with the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary party in San Diego. While I more than likely won't be able to watch it live [what with it being 02:00 BST] I'll still be reporting on anything that comes out of it.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Star Wars Celebration Europe II Pre-Talk [Events]

It's the time of year again where Star Wars fans get a big celebration of all things relating to the franchise. Last year was huge, what with the start of new films and a reset to canon making everything new. And with that we got quite a few new stories, in both comic and novel form. Oh, and the glorious Rebels Season 2 trailer. We got a small peak at a scene from Season 3 on The Star Wars Show, and it is looking as good as ever. So let's take a look what we have this year.

The obvious big thing is Rogue One. The panel is sure to do for this film what the Force Awakens panel did last year. Cast and crew talk about the film, and near the end a new trailer gets revealed. That last one in April got people talking, so I'm sure this one will bring a lot of excitement. All this will be happening at the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story panel tomorrow [15th] at 16:00 BST.
That's on the first day, though films get a big focus throughout. In fact, the next biggest thing in terms of films would probably be the Future Filmmakers Discussion panel, which will be closing the Celebration off on the 17th, 15:00 BST. Future films being Episode VIII and the untitled Han Solo film. Since both films are far off, we can't be expecting any footage, though maybe a teaser of Episode VIII like what happened for Rogue One at the last Celebration. Perhaps that teaser might even reveal the full title. That would sure be a grand way of closing the event.
The Force Awakens will still be explored, with The Creatures, Droids, and Aliens of Star Wars: The Force Awakens giving a look at how the various elements like Maz Kanata, BB-8, and Unkar Plutt were designed and sculpted, then put through fabrication, animatronics, painting, and puppeteering to make them look real on screen. This takes place on the 16th 12:00 BST.

One of the bigger things on the 16th is the Rebels Season 3 panel at 16:00 BST. Here will be sneak peeks at Season 3 of the show, including the new trailer. This is sure to give us insights into what happens to Kanan, the design decision behind Ezra's new look [which we saw in the preview clip on The Star Wars Show], and how Sabine will factor into things considering she's meant to have a bigger focus this season. There's also the reveal of new characters. Nothing excited fans more than seeing the clones Rex, Wolffe, and Gregor on the AT-TE during the Season 2 trailer, and this season's trailer is sure to have some bigger surprises like that as well. There is sure to be a big focus on Thrawn, the chiss Grand Admiral of the old Expanded Universe, who reports say is being brought back to canon. There's bound to be other surprises as well, with new vehicles, familiar faces, and perhaps even seeing some familiar planets. What with the bigger focus on Sabine we're meant to be getting this season, many people are saying a return to Mandalore is certain. Considering what we know of the Mandalore situation, it will be interesting to see how the planet is faring, and who actually controls the planet. And the whole Mandalore situation brings me nicely onto another panel, in fact one of the first panels to be happening this Celebration.
The Ahsoka's Untold Tales panel kicks off tomorrow at 11:00 BST, and features Dave Filoni, Ashley Eckstein, and Pablo Hidalgo discussing the past and future of Ahsoka. Her younger years will be talked about, including discovery by the Jedi Order [something we saw very briefly on the opening narration of The Clone Wars episode The Gathering], and exploring the untold The Clone Wars episodes that she would have featured in - possibly including the Siege of Mandalore. There will also be talk about the novel that is set to be released that is focused on Ahsoka.

Elsewhere we have the Star Wars Publishing panel [16th 12:00 BST] that will focus on upcoming novels set to be released, and possibly even revealing one or two new ones, and the Marvel's Star Wars Comic Books panel [16th 15:00 BST] which will look at what has been happening and more than likely what is to come in the comic book side of extra content. For the video games side of things, Meet the Creators: The Minds Behind EA's Star Wars Games [16th 19:00 BST] looks at the creation and design of current games, and goes into some detail about those yet to be fully announced. It's possible something new will be released, though not a full trailer for any game. If they do though, it could be very interesting to pick apart - as many have done with those small teasers from E3.
As always, there are panels focused on merchandise. LEGO being the big one, as usual. Hot Wheels will also be discussing the making of the die-cast cars themed after various characters. Also around are various actors and crew members, with some - Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels among them - hosting their own panels.

To take a look at all the panels and events happening within Star Wars Celebration, the events page of the official website is the place to be. The Star Wars Show are hosting the live stream this year, with several events per day being livestreamed with interviews and other things happening between panels. Not all panels will be shown on the time listed on the events page due to conflicts, so the news of what happened will be out before the livestream picks those panels up. The full schedule of panel streaming can be found on the official Star Wars website. It's now just a case of waiting for tomorrow to come.
Enjoy watching, reading or keeping up with the event in your own way, and the post-talk should be up on Monday.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles - Look Back, Look Ahead Part 1 [Network]

Roleplay and crossovers. That was me and Jaz. That's pretty much been me my whole life, though now I had someone equally interested in both at my side. Upon trying to edit something on Wikipedia - Wiki Hunters: a site where Boba Fett will come after you if you mess up a wiki page. Better disguise ourselves as robots using the Teselecta. Want to spice up college life? School Invasion - where enemies of various franchises invade education buildings, with the various people within claiming powers from said various franchises to fight the invaders off. Homer Simpson appears in the same battle as Lord Voldemort? Not ending well. However we ended up working these roleplays, Star Wars and Doctor Who would always be at the forefront. Of course, Jaz was already involved with the Doctor Who fan fiction timeline, already working on audio dramas for his version of The Doctor. He had a few ideas down for a Doctor Who/Star Wars Crossover, though asked for my input. Thus the great partnership began for the series that became Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles.

The start of the ideas began at the end of October in 2011. Various sound effects were sourced from that point on, and a theme was made by Jaz - as well as the promotional picture - while I worked on the script and we both continued exchanging ideas. My original start lacked much in the way dialogue and a clear indication of sounds. My first audio, it took a bit to get used to. Communication was key in getting sounds right, and audio and written files were traded and discussed quite a lot. Thus the opening battle being devoid of Dalek voices, which added to the suspense of who was killing the Stormtroopers. And I guess, one thing I should get out of the way - we wanted to set the story in a period that wouldn't clash with either franchise, both canon and fanon timeline wise. No Obi-Wan, Luke, Leia, Yoda. No Maul, Dooku, Vader. And since it was set in the fanon timeline, Jaz already had access to his Doctor's time period, so that was easily sorted. And so within two weeks, the first episode was finished, development of the second began, and on the 11th November Universal Jump was uploaded to The Jaz Network - Jaz's Youtube channel. Since he already had a following and already had audio dramas of his Doctor on the channel, it was decided the series would be better there. Rather than my channel which at that time I think was still running under its old name of ninplaydo and had a grand total of one or two videos [which were removed].
Episode Two was slower to get started, even though the ideas were around. Details were finalised, and it introduced DarkRula into the story. Originally, I was set to record lines as DarkRula, who is essentially my character within the Star Wars universe. This idea continued and the script was finalised at the beginning of December. Ideas for Episode Three started as soon as Episode Two's script was finished. Recording started, and it became clear me doing the voice of DarkRula just wouldn't cut it. The recording equipment I had at the time [literally earphones used as a microphone] just wouldn't do anything good. So the decision was made to bring someone in. Les Ortega was contacted by Jaz and he accepted to do the voice. After some direction from me, he did a pretty good voice for DarkRula. Fun fact - the audio was originally set to be six episodes, and from the production of the second episode, we knew we wanted to set the end on Endor. The last episode.

2012 begins, as this is the year I get into the networking business. First with the two fan fiction stories - Pokémon: Shadow Boom and Star Wars: Darth Maul. Then followed the blog at the start of E3 in June. Though of course, the audio series of Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles was still in production. Episode Three was to separate the two arcs, and set up the finale. Episode Two was being worked on by Jaz, and Dalek Fire was finished and uploaded on the 23rd January. Heavily edited voices like Kronis and droids sounded different from Universal Jump as the configuration files for editing were lost. A female voice actor had contacted Jaz about wanting to join the crew, so a female character was included in the ideas we had circulating around. It was also Jaz's turn at writing an episode, as he had a great idea. It was here that my idea might have been lost, had it not been for what came later. But with Jaz came a trip to Tatooine, the TARDIS suffering a lot from travelling, and a fellow Doctor voice actor joined the crew as a one time bad guy. The female voice actor would take the role of someone who helps DarkRula and The Doctor to the base of the bad guy after he steals the TARDIS.
The end of January brings the suggestion of using the ideas of backstory that have been built up through the creation of the audio episodes and for me to work on a written version of the world, starting from when the Daleks first arrive in the Star Wars universe. The beginning of February and the initial planning for Episode Four starts. As well as the beginning of the written side of the series on my website. The first story followed The Doctor as he comes across a power struggle between Daleks and Cybermen, intending to stop it. Which he does, though unknowingly causing the destruction of a planet and causing the rift which sends everything from the world scattered across the Star Wars universe. In other words, the first story of a series called Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles is set in the universe of Doctor Who.
Back to the audio series, and discussion is set on getting me as a voice in the series. So planning starts once again for both Episode Four and Episode Five, this time with ideas for a new character that would be played by me. Script work for Episode Four gets finished bar a few changes before Episode Three gets recorded. At the beginning of May, production picks up again. Jaz also has the idea of recreating the first episode of the fiction as an audio. So Hop and Drop is made as an audio, and appears on both Youtube channels - making that audio the first official video on my rebranded channel. With everything now coming together on Episode Three, Hide and Seek gets uploaded on the 19th May. And so Kerian Twine joins as Thalos, with Elizabeth Stewart as Thalia. By this point, Episode Four's script was fully completed, and Episode Five's script was halfway completed. Again I had to pass on voicing one of my own characters. The Mandalorian Krayt Skirata was a character by me, but I still didn't have anything great to record with, even though I did have a microphone this time around [a cheap one though]. Script work was progressing, with extra stuff being added and some parts being changed. We were targeting a July release for Episode Four. However, college work got in the way, and was forgot about over the summer holiday. Production picked up at the end of August, and the beginning of September gave an idea. Why not merge Episodes Four and Five together? They are both part of the same story, being the ending arc. So that is what happened. Production of both as one episode slowly gets moving across September and October. The full Episode Four gets uploaded on 3rd November. Final Descent uses a word from each of the two episode titles that it was planned to be. Episode Four was planned to be called Dark Descents, with Episode Five being called Final Throwdown, the midway point being when the TARDIS gets blown out into space. The only thing bad about this episode was that it was the final one. For me, the audio work was done. However, the fiction would continue. And I had been busy with the fiction, as when the audio came to an end, I had reached the beginning of it in the fiction. And The Doctor's story would continue within the audios, back in his own universe.

It was great to be working within the fanon works, and in a way I still am. The adventures of DarkRula and The Doctor continue within the fiction, and when one of the audio episodes come up in the fiction, it gets expanded on. While I will be going into further detail on this in the second part to this blog post, the general idea is that the episodes are greatly expanded with multiple viewpoints that never come up within the audios themselves. Even when audio episodes aren't being directly covered, there are some elements or plots that come up that relate to them. The takeover on Tatooine in Rizon Fire [F4.12], for example, is a prequel of sorts to Hide and Seek [A3]. Of course, all of this will be covered in Part 2 of Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles - Look Back, Look Ahead.

Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles Look Back, Look Ahead Series
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

Friday, 1 July 2016

Jumping Under Llamas [Network]

After not giving any focus to Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles last month, this is the month that focus will appear. The Past, Present, Future blog will be up sometime next week, as well as the next part of the story. I decided it might be better for no stories to be posted so a longer transition period could happen. Probably not the best idea, but this allows for new story parts to get back to beginning of the month posts.
Oh, for the events happening this month. For Star Wars fans, it's that time again. A Celebration. A Star Wars Celebration. More news across the entire franchise will be coming out of these three days, and I'm hoping for a lot of cool announcements like last year. Near to the event I'll give a round up of events, with what happened at the event following it. The other event? Something to do with another celebration. It is Sonic the Hedgehog's 25th anniversary, and you can't let the silver anniversary pass without a party, right? A day of fun filled events and the end of all the teases as the new game finally gets announced. It's been a long wait, but that will soon be over. So with Star Wars Celebration on the 15th to the 17th, and the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Party on the 22nd, that's a lot of celebrating franchises in just one week.
I haven't done any reviews for some time - and considering I've been wanting to talk about LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for quite some time - it makes sense that my next would be the latest LEGO game. There has been a lot done to keep players busy, and I intend to cover it in my review.
If anything else happens, you can expect a post about it. I'm sure Nintendo will get to covering some NX news soon. Right? Well fans of Splatoon have something to look forward to, at least. Sort of. The last Splatfest is upon us, coming on 10:00 BST 22nd to 10:00 BST 24th of this month.
That's it for now, so stay tuned to new posts as they happen.