Saturday, 16 January 2077

Support The Wertzone on Patreon

After much debate (and some requests) I have signed up with crowdfunding service Patreon to better support future blogging efforts. You can find my Patreon page here and more information after the jump.

Friday, 20 January 2017

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY delayed yet again

CBS has announced that they are no longer wedded to the May launch date for Star Trek: Discovery and the show will instead launch when it's ready.

The announcement comes just before the starting of filming, which is due to start on Monday in Toronto, and just after the news that James Frain will be joining the cast as Spock's father, Sarek. It came after a previous delay from January to May, brought about by behind-the-scenes changes (such as Bryan Fuller's departure as showrunner, although he remains attached as co-writer and producer) and a longer-than-expected casting period.

Part of the problem seems to be that CBS was treating this like a prestige cable project, with an enormous budget ($6 million per episode, or more than twice the American average), but also seemed to want it on a standard network turnaround time of just a few weeks from shooting to transmission. Clearly now they've realised that this is not going to be possible and are instead going to give the show time to breathe during production.

Star Trek: Discovery is set about ten years before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series and will depict the voyages of the USS Discovery as it becomes embroiled in an event important to the backstory of the original series (possibly the Four Year War against the Klingons). It will still launch in 2017, possibly the summer, on CBS before moving to CBS All-Access. It will air in Netflix in most overseas territories.

For those who want their space opera fix a bit sooner, the second season of The Expanse launches on SyFy (in the US) and Netflix (almost everywhere else) on 1 February.

WEREWOLF: THE APOCALYPSE game in development

A couple of years back Paradox Entertainment bought White Wolf, the company behind the World of Darkness, a horror setting for a family of roleplaying games, the best-known of which is Vampire: The Masquerade. It's now been announced that a new computer roleplaying game in the setting is in development, based on Vampire's sister game Werewolf: The Masquerade.

The new game, curiously, is not being released by Paradox. It's instead being developed by Cyanide, the French studio behind Blood Bowl and the so-so 2012 Game of Thrones RPG, and being released by Focus Interactive. This makes me wonder if the development deal pre-dates White Wolf's acquisition, as there doesn't seem much logic to them doing this and not Paradox themselves.

Hopefully the new game will be good, although Cyanide's track record has been spotty. What gamers have been hoping for is a new Vampire game, especially given Paradox's alliance with Obsidian, where some of the developers of the well-received 2004 RPG Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines are now working. Time will tell whether that intriguing possibility comes to light.


Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 games are being announced and released faster than rounds from a Space Marine autocannon these days, and surprisingly most of them seem to be falling into the category of "okay", with a few, such as Total Warhammer, being very good indeed.

The latest title, released today, is Sanctus Reach. This game is significant because it does what Warhammer fans have wanted for decades: translating the tabletop wargame directly into a PC game. The result is a strategic, turn-based wargame pitting the Space Wolves (one of the numerous chapters of Space Marines) against the Orks for control of the Sanctus system. If successful, there will no doubt be several hundred expansions adding other races and factions. The game has so far reviewed well, with the main criticism being about the limited animations (which could be tightened up in patches). Importantly, the gameplay sounds pretty solid.

Upcoming games include Necromunda, an adaptation of the popular Warhammer 40,000 spin-off boardgame focusing on gang warfare on an human hive world, and the eagerly-awaited Dawn of War III, an epic real-time strategy game from Relic Entertainment. Recent games in the setting include Vermintide, Deathwing and Space Hulk (in two distinct editions).

Thursday, 19 January 2017

RIP Miguel Ferrer

Hollywood actor Miguel Ferrer has passed away at the age of 61.

Ferrer was a Hollywood mainstay in the 1980s. His credit of genre note was the helm officer of the USS Excelsior in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), but his first big role was in RoboCop (1987), where he played the executive in charge of the RoboCop project whose murder provides a major impetus for Murphy's actions later in the film. He would go on to appear in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), The Stand mini-series (1994), Traffic (2000) and Iron Man 3 (2013). His TV roles included CHiPs (1983), TJ Hooker (1985), Miami Vice (1987-89) and Twin Peaks (1990-91), as well as a long-running role on Crossing Jordan (2001-07).

Ferrer had a lower profile in movies in recent years, having discovered a successful new career at the turn of the century as a voice-over artist in animation (mostly in the DC Animated Universe) and video games (such as Halo 2). However, he had kept busy with a recurring role on the TV show NCIS: Los Angeles. He had also already completed filming his return as FBI forensic pathologist Albert Rosenfield for the new series of Twin Peaks, which will start airing on 21 May 2017.

XCOM 2: LONG WAR 2 released

In a surprise move, the Long War 2 mod for XCOM 2 has been released on PC. During discussions earlier in the week no release date was given and it was assumed that it was still months away. But instead it's out now.

Long War 2 radically enhances the strategy game, adds a new soldier class (three if you count those incorporated from other mods) and gives the player many more options for fighting the alien menace, although the aliens also have more abilities to counter-attack. The early reception for the mod sounds highly positive.

The mod is available via Steam completely free of charge.

BBC and Amazon join forces on GOOD OMENS TV series

The classic fantasy novel Good Omens, co-written by Neil Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett, is being brought to television as a co-production between the BBC and Amazon Studios, under the supervision of Narrativia, the production company set up by Pratchett before his death.

Gaiman will write the series and serve as executive produce and showrunner. Caroline Skinner and Chris Sussman will produce for the BBC and Rob Wilkins and Rod Brown for Narrativa. The series will consist of six hour-long episodes and will debut on the BBC and Amazon Prime in 2018.

The novel, originally published in 1990, tells the story of the Apocalypse, with the forces of good and evil preparing for the final showdown with Earth caught in the middle. However, both angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley have gotten used to life on Earth and decide to join forces to halt the Apocalypse. This means tracking down the Antichrist, who has gone missing. Much confusion and hilarity results.

Obsidian begins pre-announcing PILLARS OF ETERNITY II

Teasing announcements or pre-announcing things before announcing them or just plain announcing the announcement all seem to be the new thing, slightly tiresomely. The latest company getting in on the act is Obsidian Entertainment, who have begun pre-announcing Pillars of Eternity II, the sequel to their highly successful, Kickstarted 2015 computer roleplaying game.

Obsidian confirmed that Pillars of Eternity II was in development shortly after the game and it's two-part expansion, The White March, were released. However, that didn't officially constitute an announcement. They've now teased the game with a quote from the character Eder and some secret symbols in the game's fictional language. Sigh.

Pillars of Eternity II will, I strongly suspect, be an isometric, old-skool RPG like its predecessor. It's unknown if this game will be crowdfunded or not at this time. Their last game, the excellent Tyranny, was funded by a publisher, Paradox, so it'll be interesting to see which way they go this time.

I got about 20 hours into Pillars of Eternity (about halfway through the game) before I got a bit bored of it. I need to get back and finish it off. Unfortunately, the game suffered from being described as a "spiritual successor" to Baldur's Gate but featured inferior combat and a less-interesting story, both a problem when it's very easy to just go and play the updated version of Baldur's Gate instead. Tyranny showed more originality and flair, so hopefully Pillars II will be closer to that level of quality than the first game.

Guillermo Del Toro teases new HELLBOY movie

Guillermo Del Toro has confirmed via Twitter that he is holding active talks with actor Ron Perlman and writer Mike Mignola on the possibility of a third Hellboy movie.

The news comes after Del Toro held a poll on Twitter asking for fans to tweet their support. With over 100,000 positive responses, he agreed to hold talks with Perlman and Mignola on the possibility.

The original Hellboy movie was released in 2004 and was a modest financial success, although it had a strong critical reception. Hellboy II: The Golden Army, released in 2008, was a much bigger box office success. Del Toro chose not to proceed with a sequel, instead directing Pacific Rim (2013), Crimson Peak (2015) and the forthcoming The Shape of Water (2017), as well as producing the TV series The Strain and the Pacific Rim sequel, Uprising, due in early 2018.

The decision to proceed with a further Hellboy movie may have been spurred by Perlman saying he'd be too old to play the role in a few more years, along with renewed fan interest and Mignola bringing the comic series out of retirement a few years ago.

Del Toro has said that a new Hellboy movie would require a budget of around $120 million and this may be difficult to finance, but clearly he thinks there is a good chance it may happen.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

James Frain cast as Sarek in STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

British actor James Frain has joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery as Ambassador Sarek, Spock's father. The role of Sarek was previously played by Mark Lenard in The Original Series, The Animated SeriesThe Next Generation and four of the movies, whilst Ben Cross played the role in the 2009 movie Star Trek.

Frain has become a familiar face in genre television, having played Thomas Cromwell in The Tudors, Franklin Mott in True Blood, Azrael on Gotham and Eric Renard on Grimm. He currently plays the recurring role of assassin Ferdinand on Orphan Black, which returns for its final season in April. His past credits include Sleepy Hollow, The Tunnel, True Detective, InvasionThe Mentalist, Fringe and The White Queen.

The decision to cast Frain as Sarek is interesting for several reasons. Discovery, which is set about ten years before The Original Series, had previously been billed as more of a stand-alone story which would explore a conflict mentioned in the original series but not expanded upon, and the prospect for crossovers with The Original Series seemed unlikely. It's also interesting that the writers have chosen to recast the role rather than use Ben Cross again. Discovery is set in the original "Prime" timeline rather than the "Abramsverse" (or "Kelvin timeline") of the new movies, so it might be that this was a deliberate decision not to confuse the two franchises, opening the confusing possibility that we may get cameos by Kirk, Spock etc later on with yet more recast actors. Also, since Paramount own the movie rights to Star Trek and CBS the TV rights, there may be legal constraints on using the same actors in both projects.

After many delays, Star Trek: Discovery starts filming next week in Toronto. It will debut on CBS in May. Sonequa Martin-Grene stars as Lt. Commander "Number One" Rainsford, with Doug Jones as Lt. Saru and Anthony Rapp as Lt. Stamets, all crewmembers on the USS Discovery.