Friday, March 29, 2013

Halo: Silentium Review

With the release of Halo 4 last Fall, we saw the return of Master Chief John-117 as he battles an awakened, ancient enemy: The Didact.  First appearing in the Halo 3 terminals, the Didact was the military leader of the Forerunners who ultimately fired the Halo Array as a last means of stopping the Flood, an intergalactic parasite that infects and devours all life.  By firing the Array, the Didact sacrificed his wife, the Librarian, who was stranded on Earth protecting ancient humans.

The Halo games have predominately  focused on humanity's war with the Covenant and ultimately the release and resurgence of the Flood, and the Forerunners and their great conflict against the parasite was nothing more than a legend.  No Forerunners were ever present as it appeared they all died fighting the Flood 100,000 years ago.  In 2011, however, Greg Bear's Halo: Cryptum, was published, thus beginning the Forerunner Saga of novels which finally tell us of this ancient race and their desperate and fatal war against the parasite.

Through the first two novels of Bear's trilogy, we learn some rather fantastic things about humanity and our own ancient, space-faring empire that lost a war to the Forerunners and were subsequently devolved, kept alive because we had already fought and defeated the Flood, supposedly holding a cure the Forerunners hoped to learn should the parasite return.  We learned Forerunner society had different classes and its own petty power struggles, and the Didact was ultimately exiled for disagreeing with the Master Builder, chief of the highest Forerunner class, and the Council, on how to go about fighting the Flood.

In Halo: Cryptum, a young Forerunner named Bornstellar Makes Eternal Lasting releases the Didact from exile, and the Didact ultimately imprints his memories and physical nature on Bornstellar, essentially making a copy of himself.  When both are captured by the Master Builder, Bornstellar is returned to his family while the Didact is seemingly executed.

After the destruction of the Forerunner capitol by the rogue AI Mendicant Bias, Bornstellar takes on the mantle of the Didact, leading the Forerunner war against the Flood.  While the original Didact, known as the Ur-Didact, had no love of humanity, Bornstellar, now called the IsoDidact, had no qualm with them.  Thus Halo 4 surprised me with the Didact being an aggressor against humanity.  Thankfully all is answered Bear's final novel, Halo: Silentium.

Halo: Silentium introduces a new class of Forerunners, the Juridicals.  Essentially investigators and keepers of justice, the Juridicals gather and judge testimony through agents called Catalog.  Halo: Silentium, generally speaking, is one large collection of testimony, as Catalogue interviews and records the accounts of the Librarian, the IsoDidact, the Master Builder, and, surprisingly, the Ur-Didact.

Bear continues with the style and tone set by the previous two novels in the saga, and like them, Halo: Silentium is a very un-Halo Halo novel.  Don't take that as a negative, however, as the novel is an extreme page-turner, very engaging and far more fantastical than militaristic.

The novel opens sometime after Halo: Primoridum concludes, and the Flood has made great in-roads into the heart of Forerunner society; the war continues and the Forerunners are loosing.  Through the accounts Catalog collects, we learn the true origin of the Flood, the horrible crime Forerunners committed long ago, and the reason the Flood seeks to consume all life.  We know how the novel and the war ends, of course, as the Array is fired, but the details leading up to that point is one of desperate struggle, hope, and ultimately love. 

Believing the Ur-Didact to be dead, the Librarian has taken the IsoDidact as her husband and supports him in the war effort.  Yet the Ur-Didact was not executed by the Master Builder after all, and he returns to aide his people in their time of greatest need, yet something has changed about him, some dark taint lies over him that may undo all the Forerunner's plans, and the Librarian's specifically.  She is ultimately forced to confine her original husband as seen in the Halo 4 terminals, setting the stage for that game, and leaving the IsoDidact to do what must be done.

Halo: Silentium is a grand conclusion to Bear's masterful trilogy, filled with the sadness and regret of a once great species that ruled the galaxy.  It demonstrates both the genius and tragedy of the Forerunners, their empire, and the technology they left behind to influence the galaxy after they were gone.  Most importantly, it provides essential backstory to Halo 4 itself, helping players gain even more insight into the Halo universe.  For fans of the franchise, the Forerunner Saga should not be missed.

BioShock Infinite Launch Trailer

BioShock Infinite is now out and for those who haven't seen it yet, you can check out the game's official launch trailer here or below:

I'm hearing nothing but amazing things about the game, which doesn't surprise me at all.  I'm quite looking forward to picking it up when I get through my backlog.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Season Pass Announced

It looks like NetherRealm Studios will be providing DLC for Injustice: Gods Among Us along the same lines as what we saw in Mortal Kombat; four DLC characters added after release.

In relation to this, they've officially announced a Season Pass for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, which will go on sale for 1200 Microsoft Points ($17.40) or $14.99 respectively (yes, Xbox 360 owners will need to pay more in Canada) on April 16th.

The Injustice: Gods Among Us Season Pass will grant players access to all the DLC characters as they're released for the price of three, meaning that each character will likely sell for 400 Microsoft Points ($5.80) individually.  Season Pass holders will also get the Flash Point Skin Pack, providing alternate costumes for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Deathstroke.

For the full details, you can read the official news here.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena Semi-Finals and Results

Posting this a bit late, however the Semi-Finals for the Battle Arena in Injustice: Gods Among Us has come and gone.  The two match ups were between Batman and The Flash and Superman and Green Lantern, and you can get the pending match summary here or below:

I voted for The Flash and Green Lantern, and you can watch the matches here and here or below:

So, it looks like the popular characters have won.  Check back in two weeks for the Finals (my money's on Batman)!

Dragon Age: The Masked Empire Announced

Today, our friends at Tor Books have announced the next novel set in the Dragon Age franchise.  You can check out the official press release below:

Tor Books announces new Dragon Age™ novel with BioWare Senior Writer Patrick Weekes

The fourth tie-in novel for the Award-Winning and Best-Selling dark fantasy world of the Dragon Age franchise from BioWare

New York, NY – March 26, 2013 - Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC—the largest publisher of science fiction in the world—and BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts, are excited to announce the fourth novel in the award-winning Dragon Age™ fantasy RPG franchise. Patrick Weekes, senior writer at BioWare, will pen DRAGON AGE: THE MASKED EMPIRE for April 2014 publication.

Journey into the darkest and deadliest part of Orlais, where the weight of titles matters less than the strength of blades

The team at BioWare, responsible for such beloved classics as Baldur's Gate™, Neverwinter Nights™, Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic™, and Mass Effect™, set a new Fantasy RPG storytelling standard with the Dragon Age franchise, which has won over 80 awards between the release of Dragon Age: Origins in 2009 and Dragon Age II in March 2011.

The previous three Dragon Age™ novels, Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne (March 2009), Dragon Age: The Calling (October 2009), and Dragon Age: Asunder were well-received by fans and further established the dark, heroic nature and epic scale of the Dragon Age Universe. DRAGON AGE: THE MASKED EMPIRE expands and illuminates new corners of Thedas.

Empress Celene of Orlais rose to the throne of the most powerful nation in Thedas through wisdom, wit, and ruthless manipulation. Now, the empire she has guided into an age of enlightenment is threatened from within by imminent war between the templars and the mages, even as rebellion stirs among the downtrodden elves.  To save Orlais, Celene must keep her hold on the throne by any means necessary.

Fighting with the legendary skill of the Orlesian Chevaliers , Grand Duke Gaspard has won countless battles for the empire and the empress.  But has he fought in vain? As the Circle fails and chaos looms, Gaspard begins to doubt that Celene's diplomatic approach to the mage problem or the elven uprisings will keep the empire safe.   Perhaps it is time for a new leader, one who lives by the tenets of the Chevalier’s Code, to make Orlais strong again.

Briala has been Celene's handmaid since the two of them were children, subtly using her position to help improve the lives of elves across Orlais. She is Celene's confidante, spymaster, and lover, but when politics force the empress to choose between the rights of Briala's people and the Orlesian throne, Briala must in turn decide where her true loyalties lie.

Alliances are forged and promises broken as Celene and Gaspard battle for the throne of Orlais.  But in the end, the elves who hide in the forests or starve in the alienages may decide the fate of the masked empire.

Fans of BioWare are invited to visit the official Dragon Age website at:, where they can preview and find additional information about Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, Dragon Age: The Calling, Dragon Age: Asunder, and more.

About the Author
PATRICK WEEKES is a senior writer at BioWare, and has contributed to all three games in the award-winning Mass Effect™ series. In his seven years at the studio, he has worked with Drew Karpyshyn, New York Times-bestselling author of the  Star Wars: Darth Bane series; Mac Walters, author of several Dark Horse graphic novels tied into the Mass Effect universe; and David Gaider, lead writer of the Dragon Age games and author of the first three Dragon Age novels. Patrick has written short stories for Amazing Stories, Realms of Fantasy, and Strange Horizons; and a graphic novel for the Dark Horse Mass Effect: Homeworlds series.

About Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. The Company delivers games, content and online services for Internet-connected consoles, personal computers, mobile phones, tablets and social networks. EA has more than 275 million registered players and operates in 75 countries.

In fiscal 2012, EA posted GAAP net revenue of $4.1 billion. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, EA is recognized for a portfolio of critically acclaimed, high-quality blockbuster brands such as The Sims™, Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, Need for Speed™, Battlefield™, and Mass Effect™. More information about EA is available at

Dragon Age, The Sims and Need for Speed are trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. Mass Effect is a trademark of EA International (Studio and Publishing) Ltd.  Battlefield is a trademark of EA Digital Illusions CE AB. “PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. John Madden, NFL, and FIFA are the property of their respective owners and used with permission.

About Tor Books
Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1980 and committed (although not limited) to SF and fantasy literature. Between an extensive hardcover and trade-softcover line, an Orb backlist program, and a stronghold in mass-market paperback, Tor annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. Books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, and for the last twenty-three years in a row the company has been named Best Publisher in the Locus Poll, the largest consumer poll in SF.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mass Effect 3 Completed on Insanity

Last weekend, I completed Mass Effect 3 for my third and perhaps final time, this run on Insanity difficulty.  The playthrough took me about 46 hours (I believe my shortest run to date), I imported my Solider from Mass Effect 2, and continued my romance with Miranda.  My squadmates were usually Garrus and either Javik if I was fighting Reapers or Liara if I was fighting Cerberus.

Overall, I didn't find Insanity that difficult, with only three battles being really tough for me.  As usual, I found the arboretum in Grissom Academy to be a royal pain, and the penultimate battle was frustrating but wasn't as bad as my first two playthroughs since I knew what to expect.

The new challenging engagement for me was the final battle against Kai Leng, which I found really tough.  Ultimately I had to move around more and pick targets better, micromanaging Liara's Singularity much more than normal.

Overall though, it was a great playthrough for a great game and netted me the last retail Achievements I needed.  Many gamers are still very critical of its ending, and some have expanded this to the game's general story and character development, but I don't share in those criticisms.  I thought BioWare did a great job throughout, even with the original ending.

I did, of course, use the Extended Cut DLC (and I also maxed out my War Assets as usual) and this time I chose Control, so I've seen all three primary endings (though my original Synthesis ending was the original release's version).

A wonderful experience, and I'm hoping to one day playthrough the entire trilogy from beginning to end.  I'm also hoping the three story-based DLC add-ons for Mass Effect 3 go on sale soon, as I'd love to play them as well.

BioShock Infinite TV Commercial and "Creating Elizabeth" ViDoc

Releasing next Tuesday, BioShock Infinite is my most anticipated game of the year thus far.  Irrational Games has released a TV Commercial for the game (CG, not game footage), and you can check it out here or below:

A few days later, they released the long version of the commercial (which I like far better), and you can check that out here or below:

Lastly, they released a new ViDoc entitled "Creating Elizabeth: The Women that Brought Her to Life," and you can check that out here or below:

The level of interaction with Elizabeth looks amazing, and the amount of effort that they're putting into making her as realistic as possible is most impressive.

I didn't get to meet Elizabeth during the hour and a half I got to play the game, and I'm quite looking forward to meeting her.

Injustice: Gods Among Us "Raven," "Doomsday," and "Harley Quinn Character" Trailers

We're getting closer to the release date of Injustice: Gods Among Us, and two more characters have been revealed for the fighter's roster:  Raven and Doomsday.

You can check out their reveal gameplay trailers here and here or below:

Also, a Character trailer for Harley Quinn has been released, showcasing her storyline fallout with the Joker.  It's pretty cool and you can watch that here or below:

Injustice: Gods Among Us releases on April 16th, and check back next week for the continuation of the Battle Arena as it heads into the semi-finals.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena Quarter Finals Results

The Quarter Finals for the Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena have been fought, and the matches are available to watch here, here, here, and here or below:

 So I was pretty close, only got one match wrong.  Good fights non-the-less, and check back in two weeks for the Semi Finals.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

BioShock Infinite "False Shepherd" Trailer

Roughly a week and a half until launch, the latest trailer for BioShock Infinite has been released.  Entitled "False Shepherd," you can watch it here or below:

Great trailer for what should be an amazing game.  BioShock Infinite is turning into my most anticipated game of the year, and based on my hands-on time with it, you won't be disappointed come March 26th.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena Quarter Finals

And the quarter finals are on for Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena and you have until tonight to vote.

To prep your knowledge on the different matches, you can watch these two videos here and here or below:

My votes?  Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman.

The results will be up tomorrow for your viewing pleasure!

Halo 4: Castle Map Pack Trailer

Fresh on the heels of the Majestic Map Pack, the Castle Map Pack has been announced for Halo 4.

The Castle Map Pack will contain three mid-sized to large maps, mainly focused on vehicle combat.  The maps will be called Daybreak, Outcast, and Perdition, and you can check them out in the Map Pack's official trailer here or below:

The Castle Map Pack will release on April 8th and will cost 800 Microsoft Points.  For those with the Limited Edition of Halo 4 or the War Games Map Pass, the Castle Map Pack will run you no extra charge.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Dead Space 3: Awakended Trailer

The first DLC add-on for Dead Space 3, entitled "Awakened," comes out this month, and EA has released a trailer for it here, which you can also watch below:

That looks very cool and really dark, actually, which I like.  I still need to pick up Dead Space 3, and I'm waiting to get through my backlog (and probably for a price drop) before I do.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel Trailer

The final DLC for Mass Effect 3 is out now.  Entitled "Citadel," it's single player content that sees Commander Shepard team up one last time with his past and present crew to take down a new conspiracy.

Just before the DLC launched a trailer was released, which you can view here or below:

Looks good, very character driven, and from what I've heard from friends who've already gone through the content it's quite lengthy, taking five to six hours to complete.  I'll be waiting for a sale, but I'm looking forward to giving this a whirl.

Injustice: Gods Among Us "Red Son Dev Diary" and "Lex Luthor Character Trailer"

Some new trailers came out this week for Injustice: Gods Among Us.  The first is a developer diary for the Red Son pack that you can get by pre-ordering the game at EB Games.

The Red Son pack includes three new skins, one each for Superman, Wonder Woman, and Solomon Grundy, as well as extra Challenge Missions.  You can check the developer diary out here or below:

Lastly, we have a character trailer for Lex Luthor, who appears to side with Batman against the regime.  You can watch that here or below:

Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena Round 1 Recap

I thought the matches were going to continue this week into the quarter finals, but looks like I was mistaken and that's next week.

Instead there's a breather happening, and we have a lovely little recap video of what happened through Round 1.  You can watch it here or below:

Check back next week for the details on the next round of voting.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us Battle Arena Week 4 Results

Posted yesterday, the results from the last matches of the first round in the Battle Arena for Injustice: Gods Among Us are up, and you can check out the fights here and here or below:

Check back next week for the details on the first round of the quarter finals.

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm "Vengeance" Trailer

Just over a week away now, the first Expansion for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is nearly upon us.

While I haven't properly played the franchise since the originals in the late '90's, Blizzard Entertainment's cinematic department is still top notch, and their latest trailer for StarCraft II: Hears of the Swarm, entitled "Vengeance," is no exception.

You can check it out here or below: