Release Date: December 13 Director: Peter Jackson Rating: Not Yet Rated
Our adventurers continue towards The Lonely Mountain, taking them on a path through giant-spider-filled forests, the sylvan kingdom of the Wood Elves, to a human-inhabited city on the border of their destination besieged by a gold-hoarding giant fire-spewing dragon.
What We Know:
After being safely delivered away from an Orc ambush, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), and the company of 13 Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) can now see their destination of The Lonely Mountain in their sights, but the adventure has only just begun. Thankfully, they come across a powerful new ally in a giant axe-wielding warrior named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). Hailing from an ancient race of shape-shifters, he uses that ability to transform into a vicious black bear. He's friendly, though, and provides them a much needed break, which they'll need for the next deadly leg of their journey.
However, as they continue on, Gandalf throws everyone a bit of a curveball when he abruptly ditches the group to tend to that whole "Necromancer" business down in the dark stronghold of Dol Guldur; a pressing matter after evidence has lead him to believe that a powerful force of evil has returned to Middle Earth. After dealing out some advice, he sends the group on their way.
Now without Gandalf's wisdom and guidance, Bilbo, Thorin, and the group must rely on their own instincts through the dark forests of Mirkwood, as they are chased by hordes of gorging giant spiders, only to be captured by the company of the Wood Elves under the rule of King Thranduil (Lee Pace), the elven sovereign father of Legolas (Orlando Bloom, reprising his role). The hospitality there, despite their almost angelic aesthetic, is equivalent to a shotgun-toting redneck who found whippersnappers on his property.
Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The phone and tablet space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here are our five favorite games this week:
GAME OF THE WEEK RAVENSWORD: SHADOWLANDS
Ravensword: Shadowlands is the highly anticipated sequel to Ravensword: Aralon, and even though we thought that one couldn’t get any better, Ravensword 2 has met all our lofty expectations and then some, offering an expansive world filled with magic, adventure, and lore. Tyreas is under siege after a war against the dark elves goes wrong, and it’s your destiny to seek the three Ravenstones that will provide passage to the Shadowlands, where you’ll confront the demon trying to rip the world asunder.
If you’ve been looking for the equivalent of Skyrim on your iOS device, Shadowlands is the closest you’re gonna get, with jaw-dropping environments, open-world exploration options, and loads of quests and combat to slake your RPG lust. There’s even the requisite character customization at the game’s outset and the ability to purchase and furnish houses. Both options are pretty impressive, especially for a mobile title.
The controls, combat, and leveling mechanics smoothly propel the game forward, and the storyline is engaging (albeit a bit recycled from standard fantasy tropes). The talent system is well balanced, and we love that it lets us mold characters to our desires instead of forcing us into one particular skillset. Ravensword: Shadowlands is a stellar iOS game and sets the bar for mobile RPGs delightfully high.
As kids, we were obsessed with Choose Your Own Adventure books, so we're thrilled that after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Underground Kingdom has gone live on the App Store. It’s an interactive storybook that brings the CYA series into the digital age, with the original author of the series, Edward Packard, on board and providing his favorite stories to Visual Baker Studios for translation into interactive Gamebooks.
Underground Kingdom revolves around a deep crevasse in Greenland, where it's rumored that a black hole at the center of the earth is potentially a portal into a vast, strange world inside our planet. It’s up to you to navigate the book and choose wisely during your travels. This interactive book is a brilliant re-imagining of the original series, and we're hoping to see more Gamebook releases as time goes on.
Full disclosure: The writer of this article was totally a Kickstarter backer of Underground Kingdom, because CYA books wrote much of her youth.
Wow, Wide Sky is a weird game. Created by one man, Marcus Eckert, Wide Sky delves into the strange world of laboratory testing, ropes, and hedgehogs. According to the game, hedgehogs “have wicked souls and need guidance,” and you’ll help occupy them with rope training and swinging from the clouds. Like we said, weird. But also oddly awesome in its own way.
Obviously, you can’t just swing around for no reason, so Wide Sky adds in a collecting element via orbs in the sky. Breaking them and grabbing the shards is the name of the game, and you’ll have a set time in which to do it for each level. There are a variety of ropes (some with special powers to activate in-game) that provide unique challenges while you play, and though it all sounds bizarre, Wide Sky comes together in a very charming way, making it a worthy title for your iPhone or iPod.
Wave Trip is a musical game unlike most we’ve ever played on iOS. And it’s hard. We’ll explain that in a bit, but before that, you should probably know what Wave Trip is all about. This is a little side-scrolling game where you’ll control a ship, collect stuff, and avoid hazards. Normally, this would seem pretty status quo, but when you mix in a song that unfolds as you collect coins and other objects, it takes the game into a cool, abstract place we’re really into.
It’s a pretty fun concept, and the artwork is just the right amount of abstract to match the game content. However, there is a crazy learning curve in Wave Trip, one that may frustrate newer iOS gamers and even turn off veteran players. It takes a good while to “get” the looser control scheme, but overall, it’s a solid effort that’s worth checking out, especially if you love a challenge.
This is a whole week of beautiful and strange games, and SuperSight continues that trend with a quirky little title that began as a flash game. You play as a warrior learning how to achieve “Clear Sight” through a series of challenges atop Mount Wrong. As you play, you’ll learn new abilities to aid in your quest for “Clear Sight” and replenish your ability pool with coins collected from beating up bad guys.
SuperSight combines a highly stylized look with a zen-inducing soundtrack, offering an interesting experience that’s neither totally relaxing nor overly adrenaline pumping. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is different. Since it’s free, we’re happy to recommend giving SuperSight a whirl. Don’t be surprised though if you don’t understand it. We’re still not sure if we do.
EA Sports' annual pre-Super Bowl sim is finished, and Madden NFL 13 favors the Baltimore Ravens to take down the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday in a 27-24 victory. If the Ravens win in real life, it will mark the fist time San Francisco loses in the championship game, having won in its previous five visits to the Super Bowl.
The Madden NFL series has had good success with picking winners in recent years. EA Sports' annual Super Bowl sims have been right for seven of the past nine years, with the only incorrect calls coming in 2008, when the Giants shut down the Patriots, and in 2011, when the Packers bested the Steelers. The simulations always use the most recent roster updates and depth charts for each team, with AI controlling both so player skill isn't a factor.
You can get a sense of how the simmed game went down in EA Sports' highlight reel above.
It appears that upcoming film adaptations for Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are in the works over at Marvel Studios for what is being referred to as "Phase Three" of their release planning. What does that mean exactly?
Well, just to drop a clue, we are now exiting what is considered the Phase One era, which culminated with The Avengers last year and ready to begin Phase Two, which will kick off with Iron Man 3 in May, continuing with Thor: The Dark World this fall, Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and The Avengers 2 in 2015. Indeed, it appears that the studio is watching over the pacing of their comic book film releases diligently and cautiously. In a recent interview with MTV, studio head, Kevin Feige discusses details about this phase-centric release strategy:
"'Ant-Man' is definitely part of Phase Three," Marvel's Kevin Feige told MTV News during our recent interview. "Like 'Iron Man 3,' it's certainly set in the Marvel Universe, but it's also through the lens of Edgar Wright — which is the only reason we're making the movie." Adding:It's very much an 'Ant-Man' origin movie from the perspective of Edgar Wright and his co-writer Joe Cornish. It will of course be firmly planted in the MCU, (Marvel Comics Universe) but a different corner than we've seen before."
Regarding Doctor Strange: "'Doctor Strange,' which I've been talking about for years, is definitely one of them," he confirmed. "He's a great, original character, and he checks the box off this criteria that I have: he's totally different from anything else we have, just like 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' He's totally different from anything we've done before, as is 'Ant-Man,' which keeps us excited."
We've known for some time that the film debut of would-be Avengers member, Ant-Man will come on November 6, 2015, just six months after The Avengers 2 hits theaters. However, this latest revelation, besides confirming the Doctor Strange project, reveals that the story of the size-shaping Hank Pym (which will be directed by Edgar Wright) is considered an important watershed project for the studio, who will use it as their Phase Three kickoff. -- A far cry from the low-tier side project it was once dismissed as being.
The cast of upcoming franchise follow-up, X-Men: Days of Future Past continues to be growing into a family reunion returning of former residents of the X-Mansion. This time joining the plethora of powerful mutants are, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, and Ellen Page!
Over the weekend, director, Bryan Singer tweeted the identity of this latest trio of acquisitions. Of course, fans of Singer's previous trilogy of films (the last of which was directed by Brett Ratner,) know the players, respectively as Rogue, Bobby "Iceman" Drake, and Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde. According to Singer:
Very excited to welcome #annapaquin, @ellenpage & @shawnrashmore to #XMen #DaysofFuturePast - thank you @BrettRatner for letting them live!
The film will be an adaptation of the popular time-travel-infused "Days of Future Past" comic book storyline from Chirs Claremont and John Byrne published back in 1981. In that story, the assassination of an anti-mutant senator alters the timeline, subjecting mutantkind to a future where they are hunted to near extinction by the giant robot Sentinels. Obviously, there are stark differences between the film canon and the comics and the specifics about how the storyline deviates are still unknown. (For example, Kitty Pryde was the main protagonist in the original comic book storyline. While Ellen Page is returning to play her, it's doubtful the film will focus on her character in the same way.)
However, what is clear, is that the younger "First Class" cast of James McAvoy's Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender's Magneto in the 1960's [*] will still remain the primary players, while the previous trilogy cast led by Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier, Ian McKellen's Magneto, joined by Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, will be set presumably in the present, battling the implications of the timeline disruption.
*Update: It has since been revealed that the timeline for the First Class cast will be set in 1973; ten years after the last film.
X-Men: Days of Future Past alters the space-time continuum without the benefit of a souped-up sports car to hit theaters on July 18, 2014.
Those who pre-order Gears of War: Judgment from GameStop can look forward to some special bonuses, most notably early access to the game's new OverRun multiplayer mode. OverRun is an objective-oriented, team-based showdown between COG and Locust forces, and it best summed up for Gears-knowledgeable folk as Horde Mode-meets-Beast Mode.
The early access begins on March 15, 2013 and runs through to March 19, though you'll have to be a Power-Up Rewards member to take advantage. All GameStop customers who pre-order Judgment will also receive a Young Marcus character skin and Lambent weapon skin, in addition to the Classic Hammerburst that comes with all pre-orders, regardless of who sells it to you.
Gears of War: Judgment arrives in stores on March 19, 2013. That same day, the early access for OverRun opens up to the general public as a proper demo for the game.
Irrational Games has some more to reveal today about the floating city of Columbia, compliments of the latest trailer for BioShock Infinite. Entitled "Columbia: A Modern Day Icarus?," the two-minute clip runs through the origin of Zachary Comstock's floating city and offers an impression of how it is perceived by those who live on the ground.
There's not much in the way of gameplay to see here, as the trailer is more focused on setting up a basic level of knowledge about Columbia. Fans will have an additional opportunity to learn more about the city in the sky when the prequel novella -- BioShock Infinite: Mind in Revolt -- arrives on February 12, 2013. The game follows slightly more than a month later, on March 26.
The 2013 D.I.C.E. (Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) Summit kicks off on February 6 with Valve's Gabe Newell and recently confirmed Star Wars director J.J. Abrams handling the opening keynote duties, a press release confirms. The pair will speak on the subject of "Storytelling Across Platforms: Who Benefits Most, the Audience or the Player?"
The two guys have almost certainly worked together or at least been in contact before, with the PC version of Portal 2 having featured an interactive trailer for Abrams' then-upcoming film, Super 8. The trailer was built using the Source Engine, offering players an opportunity to explore the interior of the movie's crashing train.
Newell will take the stage at D.I.C.E. once again the following day, delivering Thursday's conference keynote covering "A View On Next Steps."
Release Date: November 22 Director: Francis Lawrence Rating: Not Yet Rated
The oppressive powers that be of the Capitol, humiliated from the outcome of last year's Hunger Games, use a loophole to bring Katniss and Peeta back this year to battle a group of the game's previous winners.
What We Know:
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Huctherson) have returned from the 74th annual Hunger Games and now, thanks to the improvisational showmance angle which saved their lives, these pseudo "star-crossed lovers," have become beloved national figures.
However, it seems that the results of the games, was more of a black eye on the face of the Capitol and the corrupt President Snow (Donald Sutherland) than we thought. Now, the safety of District 12's winning tributes, nay, District 12 itself, depends on their maintaining the lie that their love is genuine; the only way for the butt-hurt bureaucrats behinds the games to maintain some level of credibility. That arrangement works okay with Peeta, who has genuine feelings for Katniss, even with aspiring boyfriend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) still lurking about.
Despite the couple's cooperation on that front, their infraction would still not go unanswered. With the 75th Hunger Games upon them, the opportunity for the Capitol's revenge would come in the form of something called the Quarter Quell: A "twist" injected into the games every 25 years. In this case, it has called for the return of victors from past Hunger Games. (A gimmick that may have been lifted from Survivor, but whatever...)
Call it rude, call it sour grapes, call it what you will. But on their final episode, with nothing to lose, X-Play is spoiling in three minutes the endings to some of the biggest games you've ever played.
Do your co-workers need an energizer? You could try group jumping jacks or offsite team building, but with Borderlands 2 loot midgets for the office, you'll never need anything else! Just drop a few of these baddies into the mix, and you'll have everyone perked up in no time!
With X-Play signing off the air for good, however will you get your game reviews? Why, you'll make them yourself! With these tips from our gaming experts, you'll be creating your own stellar reviews for the future games we won't be around for.
Some of the most important people on X-Play were the ones you rarely saw, but for the series finale, all bets were off. Producer Mike Benson is joined on stage by his dog to deliver some of his favorite moments from all the years he spent working on the show.