Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: Now with 50% less fail!

So it's a new year, and I refuse to start it off with apologies about the long gaps between posts.

I refuse.

Instead, I'll give a quick sketch of the next year's nerd events and my own forecast on them. Now, this doesn't mean I'm going to ignore the laundry list of to-blogs from the past year: I'll still be writing on the backlog of 2012 content if I have even the slightest opportunity. In particular The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man demand my reviewer's attention, not to mention I feel like another Mass Effect 3 rant is bubbling beneath the surface of my writer's block (just kidding--don't change the browser!).

Movies of 2013
Iron Man 3
Coming out May 3, 2013
I'm a fan of all of the latest crop of true Marvel movies. True Marvel movies being the ones directly produced by Marvel, not the latest Spider-Man and X-Men cinematic properties--obviously. But I really love the realization of Marvel's staple characters on the big screen, including Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Movie Tony has developed a very particular style and presence thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s inimitable panache and great directing in the past, and so I'm eager to see more of the well-realized character's heroic journey. The film's trailers make it look like Iron Man 3 is going to delve into the darker aspects of Tony Stark's heroic identity and feature a lot of Benjamin Kingsley mustache-twirling as the Mandarin, one of Iron Man's most formidable and enduring foes. I like this. There also looks to be a realistic treatment of the frailty of the hero's private life, also an element I like to see explored in a reasonably consistent hero story. So bring it on.

However, (you knew that was coming, right?) I have never been a fan of the Extremis plot of the comics. As a kid, I always found the limitations of Iron Man's armor to be the most charming part. Sure, Iron Man might be a world-class super when he has time to put on the right variation of his armor, but if he's surprised while out of costume he's at a huge disadvantage. The Extremis plot (in the comics, hopefully they'll change it in the movie) makes Tony's armor into a nanite-fueled power that he can summon at will and which compresses into his bones when unneeded, defusing the character and grit of the traditional armor-donning we've seen in the movies. Not to mention that the Extremis plot involved a variation of psychotic rage zombie that was a more dramatic than action-packed threat to the invincible Iron Man. But even with some minor reservations, I am so going to see this movie on opening day.

Thor: The Dark World
Coming out November 8, 2013
The next movie of the Asgardian Thunderer's exploits is coming out in the final quarter of the year, and verily I am excited to see this movie. Which you doubtless could have surmised from my review of the first movie. Doubly excited are my humors at the prospect of seeing Christopher Eccleston cast as the dark elf Malekith. The vengeful schemer is a worthy antagonist in his own right, but the promise of Malekith's plot pertains more to Asgard than Midgard, and so verily I adjudge more battles celestial to feature in this film, giving more glorious action to the Warriors Three and fair Sif. The return of the entire many-starred cast from the premier saga is encouraging and promising as well. And while I'm vexed that Darcy Lewis is ordained to be still relevant to the plot, I can forgive the gratuitous presence of Kat Dennings in another Thor film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Coming out December 13, 2013
Again nerds can look forward to closing out the year with a journey to cinematic Middle Earth. While there were some definite faults with the first part of the new trilogy, I enjoyed it immensely and the well-selected and well-led cast will be a powerful draw for this next film. With Smaug comes some of the most iconic moments of the book, which I hope they will handle with accuracy and consistency (the first movie screwed me out of "fifteen birds in five fir trees!"). There's the promise of some incredible visuals, but also a compelling dramatic dynamic in this part of Bilbo's adventures as well, as Thorin's dark side and obsession come to the fore. Yes, The Desolation of Smaug is going to be well worth the wait and a worthy bookend to the year.

Games of 2013
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Coming out February 12, 2013
Yes, this one was in my previous post for nerd features of 2012, too. And after being so long delayed, there's definitely a justifiable fear that this game might go the way of Duke Nukem Forever--postponed so long that the game becomes an unplayable boondoggle, the dross of a revolving door of half-committed teams. I don't think we'll be stuck with that same fate, though. Unlike DNF, Aliens: Colonial Marines has shown more of its cinematic story in the past weeks, and the gameplay--which had always been a promising combination of first-person defensive tactics and Left 4 Dead--now looks like it will be supplemented with a fun, tense campaign narrative.

Indie Games--the Kickstarter role-call
Coming out throughout 2013
Kickstarter has seen some great games getting approved within the past year, and many of those promising projects are going to get generally released in the coming months. There's the old-school tactical RPG with rotoscoped art and Norse-inspired themes of Banner Saga, which looks painfully beautiful and features head-smackingly challenging tactical gameplay that demands you stay one step ahead of your opponent and yourself. The Canucks at Sauropod Studios are refining their already fun prototype build of Castle Story, making a dynamic resource and strategy game that will be the best thing to happen to voxels since Minecraft. Star Command, a tactical crew command game where you move your redshirts and officers around the stations of your own upgradeable starship, fighting other ships and repelling boarders in Trek-influenced fare, should be released within the next couple of months. Polish-made M.O.R.E. promises to revive the underwhelming 4X genre of PC games with a space empire-building game that takes a lot of cues from Master of Orion II, arguably the best game in the genre. And by arguably I mean you're dumb if you think otherwise. And there's Dead State, a zombie survival tactical RPG where choices are supposed to matter on a group survival basis--so like Walking Dead plus Mass Effect plus mechanically deep gameplay. Coolio.

On the larger-but-still-indie side of things, Planetary Annihilation looks to be ready to give the RTS genre a well-deserved kick in the pants. It comes from some of the creators of Total Annihilation, one of the absolute best real-time strategy games of all time. The rock-paper-scissors and same-old gameplay of Blizzard's latest regurgitation of Starcraft just goes to show that the genre needs new blood, so Planetary Annihilation's developer, Uber Entertainment, is going to provide that in a game where conquering the map becomes conquering the planet becomes smashing other worlds with asteroids in a bid to take over whole star systems, all in one seamless real-time experience. Can't wait.

Similarly, there's a number of great tabletop games coming out this year. Shadows of Esteren, a French-made medieval horror RPG taking a lot of inspiration from Welsh and Celtic culture and myth, has made a successful translation over to America and is one of the most beautifully rendered RPG projects I've ever seen. Dreadball, by Mantic Games, is going to be a miniatures-based sci-fi sports game in the same vein as Games Workshop's long-neglected fantasy game Blood Bowl. And more plastic addictions are currently waiting in the wings, as well, so look for even more hyper-nerdery in the new year.

Blog Posts of 2013
Now, in addition to the stuff listed above (and the listings of past promises), I'm looking ahead to set-piece articles in the next year. My family is definitely going to the Fire and Ice Game Convention again, and this time I'll be leading a game or two, so you can expect coverage of the game preparation and planning process before the con and then an after-action report afterwards as well.

Also, I've fallen into the Star Citizen fanboy pit (thanks to my Kickstarter addiction), so you can bet you'll get at least a couple of articles about it before Nerd Year 2014. I plan on some commentary, nostalgia, and at least one or two articles leading up to the unveiling of some serious awesome towards the end of the year.

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