Science-Fiction Weekly – XCOM 2: War Of The Chosen, Star Wars: Force Friday, Blade Runner 2036
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is out today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Game Informer's Ben Reeves says this expansion pack "adds nearly a game’s worth of new content into the existing framework without compromising any of its mechanics." This new content begins with the addition of three powerful new factions, the Reapers, Templars, and oddly named Skirmishers. All of these factions can be used for missions, but you won't be able to use them in the game's new Challenge mode. You'll instead utilize a pre-built squad of Advent or XCOM troops to complete missions in which you'll rack up points based on your performance. Score well and you may find yourself on the global leaderboard. A variety of Challenges can be taken on at any point, and a new one is added every day. XCOM 2 designer Mark Nauta says "You have no vested interest in the soldiers in Challenge mode – aside from a score – so with the clock ticking, you’re more likely to throw them into the middle of hell.”
War of the Chosen also offers new environments and missions, along with a variety of never-before-seen Advent and alien foes. You can even customize and pose your soldiers for resistance posters that appear in the game and can be shared with friends. I've been meaning to get back into XCOM 2 for months – a guilt that's been hanging over me, given just how much I loved the first entry – but my time has gone to the other new turn-based strategy game on the market, Ubisoft's Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. I know there isn't much science fiction in the plumber/rabbits team-up game, but if you love XCOM's style of play, I highly recommend you give it a look. The combat strategies are ridiculously deep, and it's overflowing in battle variety. Just know this; permadeath isn't a thing in Kingdom Battle. Mario won't die and never come back. The tight bond you form with your soldiers isn't there, which is a surprisingly huge part of why I love the XCOM games. At the end of the day though, we ended up getting two great new turn-based strategy games in one week. That's reason to rejoice. The video directly below gives you a look at Challenge mode, as played by Mark Nauta.
I know many of you are saving your pennies for Force Friday (September 1), but you may want spend some of them today on Star Wars Rebels. The excellent third season is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. I can't recommend this show enough. It's a fantastic addition to Star Wars' canon, especially with Grand Admiral Thrawn in the mix. While you're at the store, head over to the collectibles aisle and look for Funko's first series of Star Wars Mystery Minis. The set includes C-3PO, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Greedo, Hammerhead, Han Solo, a Jawa, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, Ponda Baba, Princess Leia, a Stormtrooper, Snaggletooth, and oddly a Shadow Trooper. That's the base set. You'll also find Gamestop offers exclusive figures of Luke and Han in Stormtrooper armor, along with a different version of Vader. Walmart also offers a new sculpt for Chewbacca, a spirit version of Obi-Wan, and a Tusken Raider. If you're going for all of these figures, good luck. The Tusken Raider is obviously the biggest prize of the exclusives, but its pull rate is 1 in 24. You're better off paying extra for it online. My collection thus far consists of Leia, Chewbacca (standard version), Snaggletooth, Greedo, and C-3PO.
If you plan on running around on Force Friday to grab the best of the Last Jedi merchandise, you won't be able to formulate a cohesive battle plan until Friday. Most retailers are not revealing any of their exclusive merchandise until then. A leaked list from months ago shows the highly coveted 6" Black Series line will be spread across a handful of stores, but Luke and Rey should be in all of the standard assortments. Supreme Leader Snoke and the Stormtrooper Executioner (an ominous name) are believed to be retailer exclusives. Again, we won't know exactly what is out there to purchase until Friday. I love that Lucasfilm is keeping a lid on this stuff, but for collectors, this is going to be a crazy day.
By the end of this shopping spree, if you happen to feel like a zombie or need to unwind in a mindless way, Killing Floor 2 is now available on Xbox One. This cooperative-focused shooter allows six friends to team up to take on legions of zombie hordes. Game Informer's Jeff Cork reviewed the PlayStation 4 version last year, giving it a 7.75 out of 10. "Zombie fans have a lot of options out there, but they shouldn’t overlook Killing Floor 2," he said. "It’s a fun way to spend a few evenings, or as a deeper alternative to Call of Duty’s zombies mode. Even though you’ve probably seen much of what it offers already, it’ll have you cackling as you paint the walls red with a few of your friends."
In a previous Science-Fiction Weekly column, I outlined the events that take place between Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. As luck would have it, we don't have to settle for short one sentence summaries that detail the key events that occurred in this huge gap of time. Warner Bros. is creating three "in-world" short films that give us a look at these events. The first of these films, 2036: Nexus Dawn," is directed by Luke Scott, and follows a character named Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto). I could give you details about the plot, but I think you're better served watching the film yourself.
I leave you this week with a look at Syfy Films' Realive, coming to theaters on September 29, and video on demand, and digital HD on October 3.In Realive, a person with an incurable disease is given one year to live, but opts instead to turn his body over to an experiment. He is frozen in cryo for over 60 years, awakening in 2084, only to find the love of his life has accompanied him in a peculiar way. I'm fully on board with this film's puzzling plot, and like what I've seen of how director and writer Mateo Gil is putting it together. Gil is also known for co-writing the Tom Cruise film, Vanilla Sky.