Halo: Reach’s PC release is technically impressive, most of the time

Almost 10 years after its original Xbox 360 release, Halo: Reach has finally made its way to Windows PC. So how does it hold up, and is it competitive with other modern PC games?

Let’s dig in.

A visual upgrade

Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC only has a few graphical options. You can adjust the resolution all the way up to 4K, enable or disable v-sync, and set the frame rate to 60 frames per second or unlimited. The game also lets you choose between three graphics options: Performance, Original, and Enhanced.

The Original setting is exactly what it sounds like, recreating how the game looked on Xbox 360 back in 2010. The Performance setting actually degrades the visuals a bit, making it playable at a higher frame rate for those with older computers.

Halo: Reach’s Enhanced setting is where things begin to get interesting. Draw distances are longer, textures are improved, particle effects are more impressive, and the density of the foliage is higher. Comparing the Original and Enhanced images below, you can see grass appear on the cliff on the right side of the screen; increased density in the small gray bush between the gun and the tree on the right; and way more texture detail on the rocks to the right of the rifle’s scope. It doesn’t look like a new game, or even like a modern game, but it certainly looks better in just about every way.

And performance doesn’t seem to be an issue; I was able to choose the Enhanced setting and unlock the frame rate to experience the updated graphics at around 160 fps consistently, running Reach in 1080p resolution on an Intel Core i7-7700K and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. The game never dropped below 90 fps through hours of play, even during the most visually demanding, complicated areas. The only caveat is that the animations can get a little wonky — like shadows moving at a different speed than characters, or legs not quite syncing up with movement — once the game tops 100 fps, since Reach was designed with a target frame rate of 30 fps. Whether those issues are worth the smoother play is up to you.

Speaking of aiming, Reach handles itself quite nicely with a mouse and keyboard. The more accurate aiming lends itself to the jumpy enemies, and the often slow multiplayer action means making the most of every shot is always important. Unfortunately, the game’s bloom system, which makes weapons less accurate the more you fire them, feels significantly worse with the improved accuracy of a mouse. Since I know where every bullet should be going, watching them fly off in random directions was a source of endless frustration. The system was always one of Halo fans’ least favorite additions to Reach, and on PC it makes using the assault rifle feel downright random.

One of the most welcome additions is the adjustable field of view, an option that’s common on PC but rarely seen in the Halo series, which historically has always kept the FOV narrow. It’s set to the mid-70s as the default, but bumping it up to the 90-100 range improves your situational awareness and shows off the game’s gorgeous, often expansive environments. If the lack of general graphical settings bums you out, at least this aspect of the updated presentation is a big step forward.

The audio problem

For all the impressive improvements to Reach’s visuals, the PC port’s audio is something of a disappointment. The sounds often get muddled together, with music, character dialogue, and explosions all competing for your attention in a slushy mix.

The entire soundscape has been flattened out, and distinct sounds become nearly indecipherable even when heard through good headphones. It’s bad news during the campaign, but worse when playing against competitive players online — it’s tricky to try to hear where gunfire is coming from, or the direction in which a vehicle is moving.

The panting of the Spartans — which happens if you sprint for more than a second or two — drowns out nearly every other sound in the game, and that can include the gunshots themselves. It’s certainly next to impossible to hear the footsteps of incoming players or enemies.

The good news is that this is a known issue, and will hopefully be fixed in the future, although it could take some time.

“Players have reported various issues regarding game audio not sounding as expected (muffled, inconsistent volume, low quality, etc.),” the official blog post listing bugs and issues explains. “This is a known issue present at launch and the team is working to resolve this. Unfortunately, it is not a quick fix and is one that will require quite a bit of work and time to resolve.”

Despite the few minor complaints with the shooting that’s always felt a little off and the disappointing sound, Halo: Reach’s PC release is an impressive first foray onto the platform for The Master Chief Collection. According to 343 Industries, the other Halo games in the package should be headed to the platform sometime soon, and we can only hope they get the same kinds of impressive visual upgrades as Reach.

Source: Polygon.com

The Mandalorian fans think this infamous Star Wars character showed up

This week’s episode of The Mandalorian was heavy on the fan service, as Mando and everyone’s favorite little green Force-user traveled to Tatooine. In an episode full of references, including a trip to the Mos Eisley Cantina, nothing got fans online stirring quite as much as a brief tease that closed the episode. But was it actually Boba Fett?

[Ed. note: this post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of The Mandalorian, as well as speculation about future episodes]

In the closing seconds of “The Gunslinger,” a fresh pair of boots enters the frame, and walks up to the corpse of Fennec Shand (played by Ming-Na Wen). Immediately, Star Wars fans scrutinized the boots, the only real details provided through the show’s dim cinematography, and concluded this masked character must be Star Wars’ most famous bounty hunter.

Fans quickly cited Boba’s appearance in the post-Special Edition versions of A New Hope as having a similar tracking sound to the one in the episode, and even called out the noises of the character walking as being similar to those in The Empire Strikes Back. But if this is Boba Fett, he would have to have gotten an entirely new wardrobe … and also cheated death by escaping a slow and painful demise in the Sarlacc pit.

Boba Fett and others stand around the carbonite freezing area Lucasfilm

We don’t get many shots of Boba Fett’s full cape in the series, but as we can see from this image of him in The Empire Strikes Back he’s only wearing a small half-cape that rests on his left shoulder. The Mandalorian’s new character wears a near body-length cape. And it’s not like Boba is the only one to wear something like that. Further muddying the fan theory is Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga, who wears a long duster in many of his scenes, and who we know is still on Mando’s trail.

But if we throw out the fact that the cape looks nothing like Boba Fett, and the fact that the sounds of his boots being similar could mean anything, the idea of him surviving the Sarlacc pit isn’t necessarily impossible. As C-3PO says, the Sarlacc digests its prey over the course of a thousand years. Thankfully, this means that you’ve got a pretty healthy amount of time to escape, especially if you’ve got a jet pack.

In the old expanded universe, now part of the retired “Legends” series rather than official canon, Boba Fett did exactly that. Despite being initially eaten by the Sarlacc the bounty hunter managed to activate his jet pack and fly out of the beast and survive. While this isn’t part of Disney’s Skywalker Saga continuity, it did seem like it might be in the cards early on.

The Sarlacc pit with its birdlike mouth and many tentacles in Return of the Jedi
The Sarlacc pit and the possible final resting place of Boba Fett
Lucasfilm

When Disney brought Fantastic Four director Josh Trank on-board to direct his own Star Wars Story spin-off movie, rumors swirled that the film would focus on Boba Fett — though based on the track record of Star Wars Story films, it certainly could have been a prequel. When Trank and Lucasfilm parted ways, the film was initially thought to be handed off to Logan and Ford v Ferrari director, James Mangold. However, after Disney changed its plans for the Star Wars franchise, the Boba Fett spin-off seemed to be all but canceled.

Boba Fett’s appearance in The Mandalorian would mean a significant new twist in the canon, and while there isn’t much evidence at the moment, his potential presence could serve an important purpose to the show’s story. As we learned in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Boba Fett is a clone of his father Jango Fett, who provided the genetic basis for the entire Clone Army created on Kamino. Jango wanted a “son,” and in return for offering his DNA, the Kamino scientists delivered.

While it hasn’t been explicitly talked about in the series so far, Kamino and cloning could both play interesting roles in The Mandalorian. Dr. Pershing, the Imperial doctor accomplice of The Client who hopes to extract some kind of material from Baby Yoda, has a patch on the arm of his uniform that set off alarms for Star Wars scholars.

Dr. Pershing from The Mandalorian cowers away from Mando Lucasfilm

The only other place in the Star Wars universe a similar patch has appeared is in the cloning facility on Kamino. The same symbol appears on the arms of each clone soldier being trained on the planet.

Several identical looking children, clones, sit at computers in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones Lucasfilm

The possibilities for bringing cloning back to Star Wars seem clear: either Baby Yoda is really a clone or even the Empire wants to replicate the genes of a lil kiddo who can wield the Force. Either way, it certainly seems like cloning is involved. In the extended universe of Legends canon, we know that Emperor Palpatine was a fan of the cloning process, even cloning himself multiple times as a way to outrun his own mortality — something that could be relevant to his return in The Rise of Skywalker later this year.

If Baby Yoda hails from the cloning labs, maybe even the ones on Kamino, then it could make sense to bring in Boba Fett, the story’s most famous clone, as a threat — existential or otherwise. This would also make for a very sensible way to resurrect the fan-favorite bounty hunter, while also giving him an important and interesting relationship to the story.

While all this cloning nonsense would certainly make the return of Boba Fett seems plausible, all we’re missing now is the evidence. Fans may want to believe, and Boba himself may fit The Mandalorian’s subtly teased cloning twist well, but we’ll just have to wait and see whether or not the show drags the bounty hunter out of the Sarlacc pit or not.

Source: Polygon.com

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is an emotional sucker punch

The final shot of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is overwhelming. It’s a culmination of the two hours that have preceded it, but it’s more than just the end of a movie. It’s an entire life cycle of a love affair, as expressed on the face of actress Adèle Haenel, heightening the emotional ups and downs we’ve just seen through how quickly and intensely they’re played out in that single shot. It’s incredible, and a testament to just how well-crafted Sciamma’s film is; it’s thrilling to rush through the trees, but the film’s magnitude doesn’t sink in until she pulls back to show the whole forest.

Set at the end of the 18th century, the film stars Haenel as Héloïse, a young woman betrothed to her late sister’s ex-fiancé. She is expected to sit for a portrait to send to her future husband before the wedding is set, but has refused. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is hired in a ploy to complete a painting without Héloïse’s knowledge; Héloïse’s mother tells Marianne to pose as a companion, and to paint her daughter’s portrait in secret.

Marianne’s mission requires her to observe Héloïse as closely as she can, committing her features and mannerisms to memory so exactly that she can reproduce them without a reference. That visual familiarity becomes an emotional one, too, as the women open up to each other during their time together. Sciamma has Marianne’s deception come to light early on; what makes the budding love between Marianne and Héloïse bittersweet isn’t that initial pretext, but the inevitability of their relationship’s end.

The hem of Héloïse’s (Haenel) dress catches on fire.
Héloïse (Haenel) on fire.
Photo: Neon

Though both women are free-spirited, their seeming autonomy has its limits, as the day of Héloïse’s marriage creeps ever closer. Their affair is only possible because Héloïse’s family estate sits on an island, separate from the rest of the world. Marianne and Héloïse are in a capsule, allowed to create art and fall in love with whom they please, if only for a moment. The question of whether the portrait will be finished isn’t the driving force of the film. By virtue of the time they’re living in, Marianne and Héloïse’s relationship is doomed, and both of them know it.

As they fall into a routine of daily walks around the property, Sciamma uses Marianne’s duty to observe Héloïse as a window for the audience to get to know the characters as well. Through Marianne, we see the slightest shifts in Héloïse’s demeanor and her every little gesture. But that observation isn’t one-sided; Héloïse is watching Marianne, too, and the two are often framed together, side by side, or moving out of each others’ silhouettes as if they were a single figure being split in two.

Both women have their backs turned as they stand upon the rocks.
Two figures by the water.
Photo: Neon

Sciamma and cinematographer Claire Mathon make every frame of the film similarly beautiful, plunging scenes set at night into chiaroscuro — utter darkness, with occasional bright flickers of gold and amber — and allowing colors to pop during the day, from the fabric of Marianne and Héloïse’s clothes to the crash of the waves surrounding them. Every image could easily stand on its own, and they’re clearly meant as a representation of what Marianne and Héloïse see, rather than the projection of someone else’s desires.

There are no men upon the island, though the pressures of patriarchal society are inescapable, and Sciamma and Mathon restrict the male gaze to the purpose of Marianne’s painting. Once Héloïse’s mother leaves the island to give Marianne and Héloïse room to finish the portrait, they break down boundaries, dining and chatting with the housemaid Sophie (Luàna Bajrami) as equals, rather than following the expected norms. They briefly live their lives as they please, including falling in love for nobody’s sake but their own.

As their relationship progresses, they keep coming back to the story of Orpheus, who lost his love Eurydice after disobeying a command to not look at her until they’d escaped the underworld together. Héloïse says she understands him. He chose a single moment of certainty in that glance back at his lover over an endless uncertainty, just as Héloïse and Marianne are choosing an affair they know must end. Sciamma hones in on that bittersweet heartache in the film’s last shot, pulling closer and closer in on Héloïse’s face as she remembers watching her Eurydice disappear.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is in theaters now.

Source: Polygon.com

New Jesus sim will let you do all the best Jesus stuff in first-person

The publisher of Cooking Simulator, Car Mechanic Simulator, Thief Simulator VR, and other simulation-style PC games is releasing a sim of godlike proportions: It’s called I Am Jesus Christ and it puts you into the humble sandals of Jesus of Nazareth himself, letting you perform dozens of first-person miracles.

A new trailer for I Am Jesus Christ showcases a greatest hits of New Testament miracles: Jesus cures the blind, spawns fish until a hungry peasant’s bucket overflows, and even walks on water to command a stormy sea to obey him. The trailer even offers a first-person perspective on Christ’s crucifixion, as his sacred heart meter depletes, just as it was described it from the Bible. And of course, the resurrection.

On Steam, we get a peek of a few more moments from Christ’s life in first-person: Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, the Last Supper, brawling with Satan. While developer SimulaM focuses mainly on the miracles, it sounds like there will be some gameplay challenges here. “You can try to save the world as He did,” the game’s Steam description reads. “Are you ready to fight with Satan in the desert, exorcising demons and curing sick people? Or calm the storm in the sea?”

As first-person savior games go, I Am Jesus Christ looks pretty good, at least in the visuals department. Exactly how it will play remains to be seen. The Windows PC game does not have a release date beyond “coming soon.” Hopefully it’s very soon; someone’s got a birthday coming up.

Source: Polygon.com

Playing Destiny 2 on my vacation made me rethink Stadia

With Destiny 2’s Season of the Undying winding down — and Bungie soon to replace it with Season of Dawn — I knew I had some work to do over the Thanksgiving break. I had a limited amount of time to accomplish my Destiny goals.

Unfortunately, I had some family traveling to do over the long holiday. My Destiny plans looked grim. But I found an unlikely Destiny ally in my travels: Google Stadia.

Thanksgiving in Sin City

Hesitant to buy my own Stadia (especially given the worrying reviews), I used a friend’s Buddy Code the Wednesday before my big trip. This would let me test the technology without having to risk the expense. Without any hope that it would work the way I needed it to, I threw my MacBook, my Xbox One Elite controller, and a USB adapter into my backpack.

My first stop was at my parent’s house. On a whim, I sat on their old couch, hooked everything up, and connected to my father’s less-than-reliable internet.

I loaded into Destiny 2 and was amazed. The game’s cross-save worked flawlessly. I loaded my Guardian into the world, and entered what would become a three-hour grind fest in the Vex Offensive activity.

Despite the connection, my gameplay experience was mostly smooth. Occasionally I’d hit a lag spike that would last for a few seconds, but I was always able to recover. By the end of my play session, I’d made considerable progress toward my goal — the Undying in-game title. I logged off, impressed by the technology.

Not every experience hit that same high. My first foray into using Google Stadia in the airport didn’t go well. I was able to start a Vex Offensive run in LAX, but got booted out due to a poor connection a few minutes in.

My hotel in Las Vegas was both Stadia’s saving grace and my biggest frustration. My connection to the hotel’s network constantly wobbled from good to OK, meaning every second of gameplay lagged. Occasionally, I’d lose complete control of my character.

Despite that disruption, I was able to make progress toward the Undying title in the odd hours of my trip. Normally, I’d spend this vacation time playing something on my Switch or phone, wishing I was near my powerful gaming machines for grinding purposes. Stadia let me make serious progress.

Perfect for Destiny, not for anything else

Google Stadia controller being held Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon

With my connection issues — even the minor ones — I’d never commit to a Destiny raid on Stadia, or play ranked multiplayer. Anything that takes significant skill or reflexes into account is impossible if my connection is mildly unstable. But for mindless grinding? I can’t think of a better platform.

Unfortunately Stadia has a host of other problems with its infrastructure. It really only works with Destiny 2 because of the perfect storm of Destiny’s transition addition of cross-save and free offering as a part of Stadia Pro. Having to buy your games over again makes using the service for anything else a tough sell.

Destiny 2, despite being a two-year-old game, may be the best use case for Stadia right now — especially if you’re a longtime player like me who loves the grind and has made serious progress on other platforms. With the right game, and the right features, Stadia sings (mostly on-key). The thought of finally finishing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey via Stadia sounds great, but not when I consider having to start all over again — not to mention the cost of a second copy.

Despite the choppy service and the poor infrastructure, Google Stadia sold me over my Thanksgiving weekend. Being able to progress in my grindy space nonsense game anywhere is just too useful to pass up.

But I have no illusions as to what Stadia is for me. For now, it’s just a Destiny machine; a way for me to play Public Events in bed or on a family vacation. Even when Google Stadia doesn’t work perfectly, the kind of freedom it allows can make a big impact. It’s easy to look at my time vacation and see an exciting future for game streaming — even if that future may not be with Stadia.

Source: Polygon.com

Phoenix Point only available on the Epic Game Store because developers ‘dropped the ball’

Phoenix Point, the new game from the co-creator of the original X-Com: UFO Defense, is out now and reviews are mixed. The developer announced earlier this year that Phoenix Point would be coming to the Epic Games Store instead of Steam, and there were also plans to release it simultaneously on Xbox Game Pass for PC and the Windows Store. But developer Snapshot Games now says it “dropped the ball” and can’t say when those versions will be ready.

“We know that some of you are waiting for our release on Microsoft Xbox Game Pass for PC and the Microsoft Windows Store,” wrote a member of the Snapshot Games staff on the game’s official forums. “The fact is we dropped the ball. We were exceedingly busy getting the game itself ready, and being inexperienced with Game Pass and the Microsoft Store, we simply had not properly prepared the groundwork to get the game released on time on these platforms.”

The post goes on the state that the complexity of Microsoft’s certification and a legal review surprised them, and have created unforeseen delays. That’s why the game isn’t available there yet.

“We are currently unable to make the same content available on Microsoft’s platform that is available to players on other platforms. Since we want to make sure all players have access to all versions of Phoenix Point regardless of where they choose to play, we need to get this working before we can release.”

They added that there is no expected time of arrival at this time. That makes it a de facto Epic Games Store exclusive.

Of course, Phoenix Point was never supposed to launch on the Epic Games Store in the first place. The original Fig crowdfunding campaign promised a Steam release for the strategy game. Polygon has reached out to Snapshot Games, Microsoft, and Fig for more details.

Source: Polygon.com

I’m being stalked by a passive-aggressive lich

Warframe recently introduced a new system: the Kuva Lich, a nemesis who stalks you from planet to planet and can only be permanently ended via complex secrets held by powerful minions in the lich’s territory.

That sounds pretty great on paper, but so much of Warframe is about lateral progression. Instead of moving from mission to mission, I tend to bounce around the Origin System. Sometimes I’m in the Void, farming Argon Crystals to make some neat new Warframes. Or sometimes I’m on an older planet because I need to get a whole bunch of nano spores to build beautiful plants in the dojo I share with my friends.

And so, while I’ve spawned my very own Kuva Lich named Halidd Sorr, I haven’t progressed too far down the path of beating her. From her perspective, that’s pretty rude. I show up, gank her larval form with a very impressive and lethal stab, and then when she revives as a dark wraith of vengeance and takes over an entire planet as revenge, I just kind of leave her on read. In the Warframe universe, this is the ultimate neg.

Am I the baddie?

The Grineer are kind of a tragic bunch. They were once the working class of a vast, galaxy-spanning empire run by a bunch of expansionist sociopaths. When that empire was overthrown, the Grineer rose up. The only problem is that they were genetically modified by the empire, and without easy access to that technology, they are continuously deteriorating. The Grineer salvage whatever tech they can, clone themselves en masse, and swear allegiance to a pair of evil queens.

At this point in Warframe, I’ve mowed down thousands of Grineer. In general, I haven’t thought too much about it. With the exception of Tyl Regor, an absolute daddy of a Grineer general, and the noble Steel Meridian faction, the Grineer are nothing to me. They may have a tragic backstory, but the world of Warframe is grim. Nobody’s doing well! It’s no excuse for trying to murder me!

a Kuva Lich spawns and sends the player a message in Warframe
Hey … I’m really sorry about setting you on fire and stabbing you. My bad.
Digital Extremes

Because I am in the state of having a nemesis yet not having triggered her higher aggression levels, the two of us are caught in a little bit of a cold war. Here’s how a day of playing Warframe goes now that Halidd Sorr is all up in my business:

I log in, and Halidd Sorr sends me a little bon mot, calling me her Adversary. It’s usually something about how she’s going to destroy me, and crush my weak, brittle tin skull. I go adventuring on some completely unrelated missions, chuckling to myself about her idle threats. Then, she steals a chunk of my quest rewards!

C’mon, what the hell? Am I not entitled to the sweat of my brow?

At this point, I’m not afraid of Halidd at all. I wish she would stop calling me at work so much, because that’s unprofessional, but she stays on her side of the system and I stay on mine. Everything’s fine, up until it changes.

Halidd Sorr shows up in one of my missions to beat my ass.

Warframe - a Khoura Warframe aims her weapon
How could you possibly want to murder this robot and her nice cat?
Digital Extremes

I am being bullied online

I’m not going to lie: It was a humiliating encounter. I’m on voice chat with my friends, and I’m in the middle of explaining the way a certain kind of upgrade works when I cut myself off with an “OH NO!” My Kuva Lich has arrived, and her health bar takes up a massive chunk of my screen. She’s screaming at me, I’m trying to get out of the elevator shaft I’m currently in so that I can start a fight, and my friends are reassuring me that everything will be alright.

We chip her down to about a third of her health, and then Halidd Sorr grabs me, breaking my spine over her knee à la Bane. After I revive myself I complete the mission, she steals even more of my loot! I haven’t experienced such a vicious act of bullying since high school.

I can’t stress enough how alarming this is. Warframe is a power fantasy where I can spin-jump 80 feet into the air, slide down a catwalk, and murder a dozen dudes without breaking a sweat. Now I know how those guys feel, because that’s how easily Halidd Sorr dispatches me.

Suddenly I realize that the day that I immolated and stabbed a Kuva larvling on Saturn was the most important day of Halidd’s life.

I don’t deserve this

The worst part about all of this is that Halidd Sorr sees me as an enormous threat to the Origin System and the Grineer way of life. She’s technically correct, but I’m not killing Grineer out of a mission or set of ethics or anything. I just need Nano Spores and Plastids so I can build koi ponds in my dojo. But then my day is interrupted by an immortal nightmare demon. It’s a little distressing, and I’d like to issue a formal apology to Halidd Sorr. I’m really, really sorry about the time that I detonated an explosive barrel, shot you in the face, and then stabbed you to death.

Please be nice to me. I have so many individual shrubs to build, and a big space dog to feed. At the very least, can you stop calling me every day to tell me how much you’re going to relish murdering me?

Source: Polygon.com

Destiny 2 players can buy more cosmetics without real money in Season of Dawn

Bungie continues to experiment with Destiny 2’s store of cosmetic items, the Eververse. And the store is changing again in the upcoming Season of Dawn — this time in an effort to be a bit more friendly to players.

Destiny 2 offers two currencies for the in-game store: Silver, bought with real money, and Bright Dust, earned by playing the game. Over Bungie’s first year as an independent studio, it’s moved more items over to Silver-only status than ever before. Players can only use their Bright Dust to purchase items on a weekly shop rotation, while most Silver items are available all season long.

According to a new blog post from Bungie, only 50% of new Eververse items went on sale for Bright Dust during the Season of the Undying — Destiny 2’s fall season. If players wanted to purchase one of the many items not on sale for Bright Dust, they’d need to pony up $7-8 worth of Silver. Moreover, players didn’t have any idea which items the studio would eventually sell for Bright Dust, and which items were Silver-only.

Bungie agrees with players that the number of items available for Bright Dust was too low in Season of the Undying, and the store’s lack of communication led to frustrating situations. Starting in Season of Dawn, the Eververse store will feature around 80% of the season’s items for both Bright Dust and Silver. And the studio will clarify on their social channels which new items will never go on sale for Bright Dust.

The studio also stated it needs the Eververse store to fund Destiny 2’s development. “Offering some amount of Eververse content for Silver-only is part of ensuring we are able to fund our ability to keep creating and maintaining Destiny and supporting the team that makes Destiny,” said Bungie. Silver-only items are mostly new to Destiny in 2019, with players previously earning a random loot box filled with new goodies by just playing the game.

All of these Eververse changes hit Destiny 2 on Tuesday, Dec. 10, alongside Season of Dawn.

Source: Polygon.com

Is Playmobil: The Movie just a reskinned Lego Movie?

When the trailer for Playmobil: The Movie first debuted, it seemed to elicit one universal reaction: “Wait, isn’t this just a cheaper-looking version of The Lego Movie?” Those who can’t tell their Playmobil klickies from their Lego mini-figs can be forgiven for thinking Playmobil is just another downmarket Lego spin-off, like The Lego Ninjago Movie. But, nope, it’s a separate film franchise, designed to do for the German Playmobil company what The Lego Movie did for the Danish Lego corporation.

Yet can this suspiciously similar looking new film possibly hold a candle to the sky-high standard set by Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s modern classic? I set out to answer that question, but Playmobil: The Movie wasn’t screened for critics. So I showed up at an opening-day screening, where I was the only person in my entire theater, much to the ushers’ bafflement. (The man who took my ticket said, “Oh, I thought this was a kids’ movie.” I could only respond, “It is.”) That bit of social awkwardness out of the way, I deployed a five-point criteria to figure out how alike these two movies actually are.

Party like your parents are tragically gone.
ON Animation Studios

1. The real-world/animation juxtaposition

One of the things that makes the first Lego Movie so great is the big third-act reveal (spoilers ahead!) that the animated story up to that point is an adventure being acted out by a creative kid playing with his perfectionist dad’s Lego set. Playmobil similarly mixes live-action and animated storytelling, although it’s more akin to The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, where the live-action portion opens the film, and focuses on a brother/sister relationship. In this case, that’s 18-year-old Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her kid brother Charlie (Ryan S. Hill).

However, unlike in The Lego Movie franchise, where the animated world is a representation of the stories the humans are acting out, Marla and Charlie actually get sucked into the world of Playmobil, where they’re trapped inside plastic figurine bodies. (Marla mostly looks like herself, while Charlie is transformed into a super-strong bearded Viking warrior.) In that way, Playmobil feels more like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, or any number of 1990s kids’ films, like Macaulay Culkin’s The Pagemaster.

Verdict: Sort of the same, but with a major difference.

Nobody dispenses life lessons better than a guy with a van.
On Animation Studios

2. The emotional themes

The Lego Movie has a moving emotional core about a dad who needs to learn to loosen up and understand his son. But that’s nothing compared to the emotions at play in Playmobil. Within the first five minutes of the movie, Marla and Charlie’s parents have been killed in a car crash. Four years later, Marla has had to put aside her dreams of traveling the world, so she can serve as a single parent to her little brother (now played by Gabriel Bateman). Charlie is mad that Marla has lost her adventurous spirit and is becoming a boring adult, which is harsh, considering how she’s upended her life for him. But the whole movie is about Marla learning to recapture her youthful zest for life while still being a responsible guardian for Charlie.

Verdict: Very different.

Everything is awesome. And shiny.
On Animation Studios

3. The music

The Lego Movie gave the world the almost unbearably catchy tune “Everything Is Awesome,” but it isn’t actually a full-on musical. Playmobil, however, opens with Marla delivering an upbeat live-action musical performance straight out of a lesser Disney Channel original movie. Anya Taylor-Joy is a master of silent intensity in films like The Witch and Split, so it’s a blast to watch her throw herself into something so purely joyful, especially when she turns out to have a surprisingly capable set of pipes.

Unfortunately, most of the songs in Playmobil are generic and forgettable. (Sample lyrics: “This is rad!” / “It’s mad.”) And while this would seem like a clear-cut case of Playmobil at least doing something different than The Lego Movie by more clearly foregrounding the music, The Lego Movie 2 also stepped up the musical commitment from the first film, so even that element feels less unique. Still, the Lego Movie franchise has yet to tackle live-action singing, so Playmobil gets some points for originality. And at least a couple of the film’s songs — including one written by Meghan Trainor — have a few toe-tapping qualities.

Verdict: Different than The Lego Movie, not different than The Lego Movie 2.

Watch out, most Bond women don’t last long.
On Animation Studios

4. The pop-culture references

On the surface, Playmobil isn’t nearly the same IP smorgasbord as The Lego Movie, since The Lego Movie had access to DC Comics and Harry Potter franchise characters, while Playmobil’s biggest franchise tie-in toy lines are Ghostbusters, How To Train Your Dragon, and the NHL. Instead, Playmobil emphasizes the world-building of its play sets. Charlie is kidnapped by evil Emperor Maximus (Adam Lambert), who runs a gladiator competition in the Roman-style kingdom of Constatinopolis. Charlie’s fellow captives include a pirate captain named Bloodbones (Kenan Thompson), a caveman named Ook (Kirk Thornton), and an Amazonian named Valera (Paloma Michelle). Elsewhere, Marla teams up with laid-back food-truck driver Del (Jim Gaffigan) on a mission that takes them to the Old West, a futuristic science-fiction world, and on an espionage adventure with a suave, self-important spy named Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe).

So while Playmobil technically doesn’t name names, it’s has its own take on pop-culture references. Rex is an overt James Bond parody (Radcliffe is hilarious in the role), and a lot of the creatures from the science-fiction world look suspiciously like Star Wars characters. A trip to a fairy-tale kingdom is a chance for first-time director Lino DiSalvo to pay loving homage to his long career at Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he served as the Head of Animation on the first Frozen film. Playmobil has a little bit more of a historical angle than The Lego Movie (plus way more Vikings), but the zanily mishmashed world-building is definitely the place where the two films feel the most similar.

Verdict: Exactly the same, and The Lego Movie does it better.

Welcome to the jam.
On Animation Studios

5. The humor

The Lego Movie went for a manic, laugh-a-minute style, while Playmobil only elicits a polite chuckle every now and again. It’s not nearly as funny, but it’s also not really meant to be. Playmobil is aimed at a younger audience, and the filmmakers are less interested in delivering the winking all-ages appeal of The Lego Movie. Instead, they offer up a low-key, non-judgmental message about seeking out adventure and fun where you can find it, even if it’s just through imagination and play.

And there are advantages to that “Be anything you want to be” ethos. For one, the film doesn’t need to strictly define Marla as either a tomboy or a girly-girl. She gets to appear as both a gown-wearing princess and a knight in shining armor, not to mention a spy, a science-fiction heroine, and a comically unconvincing cowgirl.

While a lot of modern kids’ movies (especially those based on toys or apps) feel crass and cheap, Playmobil is heartfelt and earnest. It doesn’t have much to offer childfree moviegoers, and it does mostly feel like The Lego Movie with the serial numbers filed off. But it’s the sort of film that will keep kids entertained without driving their parents crazy. Plus, perhaps due to panic over a potential box-office bomb, the film is being released at a discounted $5 rate at theaters across the country. So while it isn’t the best kids’ movie in town, it just might be the cheapest.

Verdict: Different, and that’s okay.

Playmobil: The Movie is in theaters now.

Source: Polygon.com

Destiny 2 Xur location and items, Dec. 6-9

If you played Destiny, you may be familiar with Xur, the weekly Exotic item merchant. In Destiny 2, he’s back, and he now appears all over the map. This week, you can find Xur on Titan, taking shelter from the rain in a small building east of The Rig.

Destiny 2 Xur location July 6-9, 2018 Bungie/Activision

Xur’s inventory this week consists of the following:

  • Black Talon, sword: 29 Legendary Shards
  • Wormhusk Crown, Hunter helmet: 23 Legendary Shards
  • Stronghold, Titan gauntlets: 23 Legendary Shards
  • Lunafaction Boots, Warlock boots: 23 Legendary Shards
  • Isochronal Engram: 97 Legendary Shards
  • Invitation quest: 9 Legendary Shards

Xur’s inventory caps out at 931 if you’re 950. He also offers specific rolls on each armor piece each week, giving out different perks for the same pieces.

Black Talon

Black Talon is a powerful Exotic sword from the Forsaken expansion. Its Exotic perk, Crow’s Wings, allow it to fire a Void projectile after two subsequent heavy attacks. Its trait, Tireless Blade, regenerates ammo on certain powerful blow kills.

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The Black Talon isn’t the most useful sword in late-game activities, but it is a fun weapon. Adding a ranged attack to a sword takes away a lot of the weapon type’s usual danger. Instead of slamming your blade into enemies in their face, you can blast at them from a safe distance. If you don’t have Black Talon, you should add it to your collection. Just don’t expect to pull it out more than a couple times a year.

Wormhusk Crown

Wormhusk Crown is one of the campaign Exotics from Warmind, and you can earn the helmet from completing the campaign. Or you can buy it from Xur this week. The Exotic perk is Burning Souls, which heals you after dodging.

This is a powerful helmet in the Crucible, so if you’re a PvP player you should pick this up.

Xur’s roll this week is Void, and comes with 50 total stats.

Stronghold

These gauntlets have the exotic perk Clenched Fist, where guarding with with a sword increases movement speed and doesn’t drain sword ammo. Well timed guards that block damage also heal the Titan. Until swords are useful, these Titan gloves aren’t really worth using. Pick them up for your collection if you’re a Titan main, but don’t expect to use them anytime soon.

Xur’s roll this week is Arc, and comes with 52 total stats.

Lunafaction Boots

Lunafaction Boots are very powerful Warlock Exotic boots, and have been since the original Destiny 2. Their Exotic perk is Alchemical Etchings. This perk grants a reload speed increase while standing in a Lunafaction-empowered Rift. This Exotic got hit hard in Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, but it’s still very powerful and worth using. You need these.

Xur’s roll this week is Solar, and comes with 48 total stats.

Invitation

If you haven’t completed the Invitation quest yet, Xur is still offering it for nine Legendary Shards.

Source: Polygon.com

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