The best & worst Halo games, ranked

Here’s all of the best and worst Halo games ranked. This will be all of the main titles, so spinoff games like Halo Wars and Spartan Assault will be omitted.

With the release of Halo Infinite upon us, we thought we’d rank all of the Halo games from worst to best, so you know which games you should be playing if you’re a prospective player looking to get into the franchise, or a returning fan looking to experience the best games.

For the premiere gaming experiences, we recommend playing older Halo games on the Master Chief Collection on PC or Xbox One. You can always play the games on legacy Xbox 360 hardware, but the MCC is the best of both worlds, giving players the opportunity to change between remastered and old graphics on the fly for the first two games.

Games like Halo 3 and 4 will only give you the classic experience on Xbox 360, but playing on PC or Xbox One will give players a more high definition and smooth experience.

#7 – Halo 4

For the worst on the list, we went with Halo 4. This game was highly hyped, and upon release didn’t feel anything like a proper Halo game. The campaign was a bit lackluster, and the iconic multiplayer was revamped to play more like a Call of Duty title.

The custom loadouts and Spartan abilities were highly debated among the community, making Halo a much more casual game overall. While on paper this may have been a good idea to onboard more players, it, unfortunately, took away the classic formula with it, which drove away some hardcore players.

The only decent part for this title is the Campaign, which does have a few memorable moments. It starts off quite slow, but picks up as time goes on.

#6 – Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5: Guardians was a let-down to many, and offered a poor campaign experience, which came under scrutiny due to the dodgy marketing called “Hunt The Truth”. Players were led to believe there would be a huge showdown between Spartan Locke and Master Chief, which ended up as a huge disappointment. Since then, many fans have accused Microsoft of misleading marketing regarding the campaign.

While the campaign is by far the worst of the franchise, the multiplayer is better than 4. Most of the original formula is still present, rewarding players for well-placed headshots and removing loadouts. Halo 5 has drawbacks though, with spartan dashes, ground pounds, and sprint for every player, which made the game much faster when compared to previous titles. This game also introduced loot box microtransactions to the franchise, which also sparked heated debates.

#5 – Halo 3: ODST

Note: From here on out for the list, all of these games are stellar Halo titles made by Bungie. They are all great in their own ways.

Halo 3 ODST is a campaign only “DLC” of 3, that was released as a standalone game. It sets a much different tone than the other Halo games, opting for a gritty and dark open-world experience in the city of New Mombasa on Earth.

The story follows a group of ODST soldiers during the initial Covenant invasion of earth. As the main character, you’ll uncover stories of the elite soldiers who fell during the invasion and get to experience the fights and sacrifices they made while fighting for their home.

Overall, this game is a must play for any hardcore player interested in the story of the Halo franchise.

#4 – Halo: Reach

Following the success of 3 and ODST, Bungie doubled down on prequels and delivered fans Halo Reach. Players will experience the heartbreaking story of the fall of planet Reach, through the eyes of Noble squad.

The game also includes a revamped multiplayer experience, which was the start of the divide of the Halo community. Loadouts were introduced in this game, giving players the option to choose spartan abilities, which included sprint, which was never an option in previous titles. A wave-based mode called “firefight” was also introduced.

#3 – Halo 2

Halo 2 is the second chapter of Master Chief’s story, and arguably the best campaign. Take control of both the Master Chief and The Arbiter as their unique stories unfold. Play as both the hero and the enemy, and discover there’s more than just one side to the war…

As for the multiplayer, Halo 2 is the ultimate classic gameplay experience. The servers for the old Xbox system are shut down, but you can still play classic gameplay through The Master Chief Collection.

#2 – Halo: Combat Evolved

Play where it all began. Experience the game that put Bungie on the map. Halo Combat Evolved shows the legendary beginning of the Master Chief story, and the beginning of one of the most iconic franchises in gaming.

You can experience Combat Evolved on the classic Xbox, or get the remastered version on Xbox 360. Steam also offers Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary in The Master Chief Collection, where you can play the game with the updated graphics, or the classic graphics. Online servers are currently running for classic gameplay in the MCC.

#1 – Halo 3

Halo 3 is one of the most iconic games of the Xbox 360 era. Halo 3 was the first Halo released for the Xbox 360, and gave players online experiences that will last as memories for a lifetime. The campaign was masterful, putting players in the shoes of the Master Chief as he fights to finish the Covenant War.

Beautiful set pieces, an amazing story, and a bittersweet ending await all players who experience the game. Once you finish the main story (or before), you can hop into the iconic Multiplayer experience and relive one of the best multiplayer games ever released.

Image Credit: Microsoft/343 Studios/Bungie

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Call of Duty 2021: everything we know

Here’s everything we currently know about the Call of Duty 2021 release date, leaks, and developers.

As always, a new year means a new Call of Duty game. The upcoming Call of Duty 2021 release is as mysterious as it is exciting, and we’re sure to get another year of Warzone updates combined with a brand new (or returning) setting for the franchise.

With the resounding success of Modern Warfare, Warzone, and Black Ops Cold War, the 2021 iteration of Call of Duty is sure to be a huge release. Let’s break down all we currently know.

Call of Duty Black Ops 4 Release Image

Release Date

Call of Duty traditionally releases in November. However, Modern Warfare and Black Ops 4 were both released in October. Ideally, Call of Duty targets the first Friday of every November, as we saw for the releases of COD WW2 and Infinite Warfare.

The Friday tradition started with Black Ops 3, where games before saw releases on the first Tuesday of November. Below you can read some of the recent Call of Duty releases.

  • Advanced Warfare: November 4, 2014
  • Black Ops III: November 6, 2015
  • Infinite Warfare: November 4, 2016
  • WWII: November 3, 2017
  • Black Ops 4: October 12, 2018
  • Modern Warfare: October 25, 2019
  • Black Ops Cold War: November 13, 2020

We could expect COD 2021 to release again on the first Friday of November. Black Ops Cold War was released on the second Friday of November, which could very well be due to the less than normal development time Treyarch had for the title.

Overall, we would definitely expect the new game to drop on either the first or second Friday of November.

Sledgehammer Games Logo, Call of Duty


The current main development studios for Call of Duty are Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Treyarch. Normally these studios operate on 3-year development cycles. However, Sledgehammer Games did not have the lead slot for their most recent planned 2020 release, which instead became Treyarch’s Black Ops Cold War.

Due to this, we can assume that Sledgehammer Games will be the leads for the 2021 Call of Duty title. This is also supported by a Tweet Sledgehammer posted at the new year for 2021, stating “Power off. Power On,” perhaps a cryptic tweet stating that 2021 is their year for a game release.

Leaks, Gameplay, Game Cover

Currently, we have no leaked info regarding the new game. We should get more teasers for the game in the coming months. Leaks, as always, will be tough to decipher, with plenty of community members posting fake leaks for each new COD game.

We’ll be sure to update this post with any new information, as it becomes available.

Image Credit: Activision

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Fortnite Baby Yoda back bling being called ‘pay-to-lose’

A new Fortnite bug is causing aiming problems for players with the Baby Yoda back bling and is rendering the cosmetic useless. Now fans are Epic Games to provide a fix for this problem.

The Mandalorian headlined the Season 5 Battle Pass for Fortnite. Epic Games introduced a ton of new Mandalorian-themed cosmetics such as skins, a glider, the Razor Crest, and Beskar armor. There’s also a Baby Yoda back bling that you can equip at Level 100.

Many players have started to unlock the back bling as Season 5’s end draws near, but they’ve come to discover that it’s plagued by an extremely irritating bug that keeps them from being able to aim properly. Now, fans are demanding a fix from the developers.

The Mandalorian and Grogu in Fortnite Season 2 Chapter 5.

New bug discovered in Fortnite’s Baby Yoda back bling

When you equip the Baby Yoda back bling it will block a good portion of the screen, and prevent you from seeing the game clearly. This happens after entering and exiting a car, which causes little Grogu to become static.

Reddit user SweggyBoi posted a clip of this bug in the official Fortnite: Battle Royale subreddit, and suggested that Epic Games either make the Child see-through when aiming, or move him more ot the left so that he doesn’t take up most of the screen.

One player added: “The view truly is awful with bulky skins and back blings. This one is super extreme though. Hope we just get some FOV settings finally so we can use more skins without having half the screen blocked.”

This post got over 10,000 upvotes at the time of writing, and other fans brought up a different problem with the back bling. The cosmetic tends to clip through walls or show around corners while you’re trying to hide from enemies.

The recent customizable superhero skin controversy led to the devs being accused of supporting “pay to win” cosmetics, and now the back bling is being called “pay to lose” due to its poor functionality in combat situations.

With Season 5 coming to an end on March 15, many Fortnite players have worked hard to get through most of the Battle Pass and unlock this cosmetic. Hopefully, we’ll see a fix for this problem before that time.

Image Credits: Epic Games / Disney

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Lara Croft could be coming to Fortnite Season 5

A recent rumor suggests that Lara Croft could be making an appearance as a playable character skin in Fortnite.

With characters like Master Chief and Kratos, it’s no surprise Epic Games is looking to expand the crossover cast of skins. Each of these skins come from different publishers and developers, so expanding to Tomb Raider would mean some communication with Square Enix.

This new skin would add to the long list of publishers with skins already in the game, such as Microsoft’s Master Chief, Sony’s Kratos, Disney’s The Mandalorian, and AMC’s The Walking Dead.

According to a Twitter post by popular leaker Mang0e, there are new strings in the game’s code referencing “Typhoon,” which will be a female character, with reactive styles.

Commenters under the tweet shared some of their speculations, stating that the character could also be Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn, or even Samus from Metroid.

Since this skin has reactive styles, it’s possible that as the player takes damage, the skin will get bloodier, similar to how the health system works in Tomb Raider.

Adding to the fire is an additional Tweet from the official Tomb Raider Twitter, which depicts a pickaxe, a girl (Lara Croft), and a bow, teasing a possible Fortnite appearance.

This could also just be a teaser of Tomb Raider in general, but the timing with this leak is definitely interesting. The current Season of Fortnite is slated to end March 16, 2021, so we’ll find out if these rumors are true very soon.

Of course, this is not confirmation Lara Croft will be coming to Fortnite, but we can still hope, as information points to her appearance coming to the game.

Image Credits: Epic Games

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JGOD reveals the best gun barrels in Warzone

Call of Duty YouTuber ‘JGOD’ uploaded a video in which he studied how each barrel affects the bullet velocity of most primary Black Ops Cold War weapons in Warzone and revealed the best ones to equip.

Call of Duty: Warzone doesn’t inform you of how much each attachment that you equip will affect your weapon. Unlike Black Ops Cold War; you won’t know the exact stats and percentages, so you’ll have to test your loadout in battle.

After a bit of experimenting, CoD YouTuber JGOD has discovered the effects of certain attachments on his guns. He made a new video, in which he went over how equipping different barrels in Warzone can affect your bullet velocity.

Barrels in Warzone

What are the best gun barrels in Warzone?

You have a much better chance of killing your targets if your bullets travel quickly. Plus, the speed of your bullet will help you determine how much of a lead time you should put in front of a moving target.

That is why it’s worth equipping certain attachments that will improve your bullet velocity before running out into combat. JGOD tried out all his primary Black Ops Cold War weapons in Warzone for the video, with shotguns being the exception.

He tried out every barrel in the game and checked the time taken for each shot to reach its target. He then recorded the results and discovered that barrels shared by different weapons affect each one differently.

This is also true for weapons within the same class since the Calvary barrel can greatly improve the bullet velocity on LMGs while having no real effect when equipping it on Assault Rifles.

His experimentation found that the best improvement to bullet velocity comes from equipping the Ranger barrel on ARs, the Calvary barrel on LMGs, the Titanium barrel on Tac Rifles, and the Reinforced Heavy on SMGs.

That only covers some of the discoveries he made, as his video is highly informative. JGOD put in proper effort to collect this data, and you can take a look at the full breakdown of his results here.

Image credits: Activision

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Two Modern Warfare weapons come to CoD Mobile Season 1

Activision has confirmed two weapons from the Modern Warfare franchise will be added to CoD Mobile in Season One of 2021.

CoD Mobile Season One will include more returning weapons from beloved Call of Duty games, with the Modern Warfare franchise being the first flavor of the year. Season 13 “Winter War” brought players holiday Raid & Nuketown from Black Ops, along with the Fennec, Razorback, and AGR 556.

The weapons were confirmed via the official CoD Mobile Twitter account, showing players two mysterious new weapons.

The first tweet reads “A new weapon is approaching, can you guess what it is?” with an image of a Famas attached below. This teaser hints at the return of the fan-favorite Modern Warfare weapon, which made its most recent appearance in the 2019 release under the name “FFAR”.

The Famas is well known to be a high-power, medium-range rifle capable of taking out targets in one to two bursts consistently. The Modern Warfare 2 iteration is by far the best of the franchise. For firepower purposes, let’s hope we see something similar.

Following the Famas teaser, a second one was posted soon after with the caption “Wait… there’s more?! Can you guess what weapon this is?” with an image of an SKS attached. The SKS appeared in Modern Warfare 2019 and was a marksman rifle.

The SKS offers modest firepower at long range for a semi-automatic rifle, which allows players to take out crowds with ease. The recoil is a bit extreme, but this weapon is meant to reward the most skilled players.

Following CoD trends, these weapons may not drop into the game with the same names. The Famas may be called the FFAR like in Modern Warfare 2019, and the SKS may have a completely different name.

We expect these weapons to drop with the CoD Mobile 2021 Season One Update.

Image Credits: Activision/CoD Mobile

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Apex Legends Season 8: Release date, new Legend, Repeater Rifle

Respawn Entertainment dropped the latest episode of ‘Stories from the Outlands’ which revealed the release date for Apex Legends Season 8, as well as the new Legend, Fuse.

As we approach the end of Apex Legends Season 7, players have begun looking forward to what’s in store for Season 8.

Season 7 introduced a new Legend, Horizon, who can manipulate gravity, alongside the new map, Olympus. There have been leaks and rumors regarding Season 8, but on Monday, January 18, Respawn Entertainment officially revealed the next season.

Apex Legends Season 8 release date

Apex Legends Season 8, titled Mayhem, is set to drop on February 2, 2021, as announced by Respawn Entertainment.

The Stories from the Outlands video, “Good as Gold,” revealed the official release date of the eighth season.

Season 8 comes two days before the second anniversary of the popular battle royale game, so expect this to be a huge content drop. Season 4 dropped on Apex’s first anniversary, and it offered players an Anniversary Badge and XP to celebrate.

New Apex Legends character

In a slightly confusing trailer, “Good as Gold” introduced Apex Legends’ 16th Legend, Fuse. This Australian Legend favors explosives, with leakers discovering that he will have a Projectile Grenade and Fire Bomb.

We see Wally, nicknamed Fuse, discover a golden grenade alongside his friend, Max. The two grew up together taking part in dangerous missions, repeatedly stealing the grenade off of each other. Max hero-worshiped a group of freedom fighters from their planet, Salvo, but Fuse wasn’t interested in them.

New Apex Legends character Fuse

Fuse gained fame in the fighting pits, much to his friends apparent jealously. Their friendship eventually ended after Fuse became the fighting pit champion and he revealed that he is leaving to join the Apex games. Max chucked the golden grenade at him, blowing off his arm. He didn’t seem to care and left Max behind.

A press release also revealed that the 30-30 Repeater Rifle will be coming to Apex Legends in Season 8.

As we receive more information about Apex Legends Season 8, we’ll be sure to update you.

Image Credits: Respawn Entertainment

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The Old Guard gets a star-studded anthology sequel in Tales Through Time

In a year when blockbusters were in short supply, Netflix’s The Old Guard made a massive impression, introducing millions around the world to the immortal warriors of Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’s comic book series. These characters have seen the world go through seismic changes, from the fall of ancient empires to the Crusades to the modern digital age. The Old Guard: Tales Through Time, a new six-issue anthology miniseries debuting in April, explores their expansive history with the help of a starry roster of comics talent.

“I’ve been there alongside Greg and Leo since the beginning, when we thought The Old Guard would be a tight five issues and done,” says editor and writer Alejandro Arbona, who joins artist Kano for a story set in 19th-century Paris. “Next thing we knew, each issue was swelling in page count, and we were plotting a sequel and a threequel, and it became a movie. We all got really attached to Greg and Leo’s immortals, and they inspired so much affection from us and from readers that we just couldn’t get enough.”

Rucka’s network runs deep after decades in the industry, and he views Tales Through Time as a celebration with writers and artists he admires, a sentiment shared by the contributors. “I love Greg,” says writer Brian Michael Bendis, who reunites with his Powers collaborators, Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma. “I love his worlds. His writing. His spirit. I have watched him build these amazing worlds with good-hearted envy. And now to be a tiny part of one, even for a few pages, is a huge honor.”

Two women on horseback battle an army in The Old Guard: Tales Through Time
A black and white ink drawing of the battle scene from The Old Guard: Tales Through Time Images: Leandro Fernandez/Image Comics

The concept of immortality opens philosophical doors for the writers on Tales Through Time, who pull different meanings from the cast’s endless struggles. “There’s been a lot of coverage calling [The Old Guard] a superhero story, but what is it that they do?” says writer Robert Mackenzie. “They don’t die, until they eventually do. Well, that’s true of all of us. So rather than living or dying, I think of it as a story about aging — and how age turns all of our lives into history, even while we’re still living them.”

Mackenzie’s story with co-writer Dave Walker and artist Justin Greenwood takes readers to a monumental moment at the end of the 1960s: the moon landing. “It’s a period of profound change and conflict,” says Dave Walker. “The Chicago Seven, Stonewall, Vietnam, Woodstock, Manson, and of course, the space race — seem such a great lens for these world-weary characters who have to feel they had seen it all.”

“The world of The Old Guard, especially when viewed through the specific lens of this kind of anthology, gives us all the chance to tell stories about these more-than-human characters throughout the totality of human history,” says writer Matt Fraction. “If what’s past is prologue, any story about where we’ve come from is ultimately a story about where we’re going. And I think these characters, in the specific, radiate out from a core of humanism: if dying doesn’t matter, then all that matters is how we live.”

“The characters are, by virtue of being immortals (and thus living through many cycles of beliefs), not bound by ‘regular’ human hangups (sexuality, nationalism, and to some extent racial bigotry), while still being deeply grounded in an empathetic moral code of their own,” says Vita Ayala, writer of a present-day heist story with artist Nicola Scott.

From 13th-century Japan to the Old West to post-WWI Berlin, Tales Through Time ventures across various time periods, settings, and storytelling genres. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who reteams with her Bitch Planet collaborator, Valentine De Landro, took the opportunity to veer away from the ’70s-influenced work on her previous book. “Val mentioned Kurosawa and we settled very quickly on 13th-century Japan. I think it was about 10 seconds after that that we both groaned audibly because of the amount of research we knew we had ahead of us.”

“I’ve always been a sucker for a good Western,” says writer Eric Trautmann on his collaboration with artist Rick Burchett. “There’s the mythology of it all, but with characters like the heroes of The Old Guard — sort of permanent outsiders — and with the benefit of hindsight, we get to tweak and twist that myth a bit.”

The Old Guard: Tales Through Time issue #1 cover - Nicky and Joe sit at a bar with a woman singing in the background during WWII Image: Jacopo Camagni and Daniela Miwa/Image Comics

“Germany between the wars was a vibrant time for queer culture,” says writer Andrew Wheeler, who follows lovers Nicky and Joe through post-WWI Berlin with artist Jacopo Camagni. “Our story is set at the twilight of that time, as the rise of fascism sweeps away the few institutions, supports, and freedoms that queer people had established for themselves. There is never a time for queer people when the victories don’t feel fragile.”

For the artists working on Tales Through Time, the dynamic between oversized action and intimate character work is a major draw. “The Old Guard is the kind of book that reminds me of how special comics can be,” says Justin Greenwood. “The story exists across many centuries, walks between massive explosions and stark violence, but never misses out on the small moments that remind us what it is to be human.”

“The privilege to observe their relationships change and evolve over the centuries opens several interesting paths on a narrative level,” says Jacopo Camagni. “This is not as common as we may think.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the capes, but sometimes drawing the everyday-looking people doing cool heroic acts is just as rewarding,” says artist Matthew Clark, who tackles the American Civil War with writer David F. Walker.

“The characters are a kind of guardian angel of humanity, and they take the work of justice further, trying to save humanity from itself,” says Kano. “The work of superheroes is usually quite poor, fighting local crime or supervillains, without getting involved in social plots. And this hardly makes a difference.”

The Old Guard: Tales Through Time: a snowy forest setting with a wood cabin

The Old Guard: Tales Through Time: a man hunts in the woods in the snow
Interiors from The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #1
Image: Image Comics

Other creators on Tales Through Time include Jason Aaron, Steve Lieber, and Horacio Altuna. All of the new voices bringing their own perspectives to The Old Guard impact Rucka and Fernandez’s approach to the world they’ve built.

“I’m always a little stunned when people want to come and play with our toys, to be honest,” says Rucka, who reunites with Fernandez for stories in the anthology’s first and last issues. “And it helps me with my own writing. It’s easy to get set onto a track with a character or an idea — having someone come in from outside for a visit, so to speak, allows a fresh perspective, and pushes me to rethink my own assumptions and conclusions about these characters.”

“It’s amazing, and a beautiful exercise, to see how other minds conceive, understand and even suggest something over what we’ve done from scratch,” says Leandro Fernandez. “This opens a new way to understand how these characters could be seen from other eyes. All of a sudden, they have a life, a voice of their own.”


Apex Legends season 8 introduces a new character next month

Apex Legends’ eighth season, Mayhem, will go live on Feb. 2, and it will feature the debut of the battle royale game’s 16th Legend: Fuse, developer Respawn Entertainment announced Monday.

Respawn introduced Apex Legends players to Fuse with a new Stories from the Outlands short on Monday. The four-minute video tells the tale of Fuse’s love affair with explosives, which dates back to a childhood episode in which he and his best friend uncovered “a bloody beautiful grenade” that once belonged to the freedom fighters on their home planet, Salvo. Fuse and his pal go on all kinds of adventures together — to the tune of an ’80s hair metal-esque song — but their relationship begins to fracture when the Australian-accented macho man enters combat in Salvo’s fighting pits.

Salvo eventually joins the group of Syndicate planets, much to the dismay of Fuse’s friend, who grew up revering the aforementioned freedom fighters. Right then, Fuse walks up and announces that he’s leaving Salvo for the Apex Games. He proposes a truce, but she’s frustrated and angry — and starts a fight. At the end of their tussle, Chekov’s grenade goes off, and Fuse awakens to find his right arm blown off.

Data miners have previously uncovered files that suggest Fuse has a tactical ability called Airburst Grenade, in which he can use a launcher on his mechanical right arm to fire a grenade, and an ultimate ability known as The Motherlode, which allows him to use a cannon on his back to launch a missile that leaves flames in its wake. There’s no information yet on his passive ability.

Season 8 will arrive two days before Apex Legends’ second anniversary. In addition to introducing Fuse, Mayhem will change up the look and feel of the game’s initial map, Kings Canyon, for the third time. Finally, season 8 will bring a new weapon to Apex’s arsenal, a lever-action rifle called the 30-30 Repeater.

Apex Legends is available on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version is also in the works, with a release now scheduled for sometime this year.


Netflix’s live-action Winx Saga goes all in on the magic, but not the Magical Girls

Cartoons made specifically for girls often emphasize friendship. Whether that means powerful fairies teaming up to save the day or glamorous super-spies on a covert mission, these shows are usually built around the kinds of fulfilling relationships between young women that are all too rare on the big screen. While cartoons made for boys, which are more likely to emphasize adventure and independence, frequently get adapted to live-action versions for older audiences, that’s been rarer for girl-focused shows. And it’s high time that changed.

Winx Club, the long-running Italian cartoon about a group of best-friend fairies, is one of the few expressly girl-focused shows to make the leap to live action, through a darker, edgier series from Vampire Diaries creator Brian Young. Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga casts the same spell over the bright, visually vibrant cartoon that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Riverdale did for their family-friendly Archie Comics counterparts. It has a surprisingly nuanced plot that dives into the ramifications of war across generations — but it comes at a cost, for the characters and for that familiar sense of friendship and mutual support.

[Ed. Note: This review contains slight spoilers for Fate: The Winx Saga]

bloom at a magical fairy stone circle Photo: Jonathan Hession/Netflix

Fate: The Winx Saga follows fire fairy Bloom (Abigail Cowen) as she enrolls at the Alfea school for fairies, a magical boarding school that trains high-school-age fairies all over the Otherworld. Fairies live in a separate realm than humans; different types of fairies have different powers, usually involving a natural element or tapping into psychic abilities like sensing others’ emotions. Bloom spent her whole life thinking she was a human, until a tragic accident revealed her fiery powers.

While at school, she meets four other girls: light fairy princess Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), athletic water fairy Aisha (Precious Mustapha), aloof mind fairy Musa (Elisha Applebaum), and plucky earth fairy Terra (Eliot Salt). Bloom just wants to learn more about her past and her magic, but the more she discovers about her mysterious origins, the more dark secrets she uncovers.

Unlike the brightly colored animated series, the new show takes a more grounded visual approach, but fails to define a distinct look of its own. The characters are more mature and edgier than their animated counterparts — in the same way that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina warped the plucky sitcom lead into a stubborn, defiant witch, Fate: The Winx Saga gives the family-friendly heroines harder edges. Glamorous Princess Stella deals with her controlling mother, Aisha’s confidence turns into nearly abrasive brashness, and Bloom’s plucky protagonist attitude pushes her to incredibly reckless decisions. It’s what the more dramatic plot demands, but it’s a stark contrast to the generally nicer characters of the cartoon.

Two remaining characters have been whitewashed: Musa and Flora, whose original animated designs were inspired by Lucy Liu and Jennifer Lopez, respectively. In Netflix’s live-action version, Flora isn’t even a character anymore — she’s now Terra, a sweet yet awkward earth fairy. Terra does add some body diversity to the otherwise stick-thin cast, but it would be more meaningful if she wasn’t the butt of every damn joke. A lot of her story revolves around her being an awkward loner, which could’ve been empowering had the rest of the cast extended a hand to her. Instead, the other girls laugh at her long rambles and constantly view her as a source of annoyance, even though she’s infallibly kind to all of them.

Hannah van der Westhuysen as Stella, Eliot Salt as Terra, Abigail Cowen as Bloom, Elisha Applebaum as Musa, Precious Mustapha as Aisha in Fate: The Winx Club Saga Season 1 Photo: Jonathan Hession/Netflix

That generally antagonistic attitude between the girls marks the deepest contrast with the original show. The pleasure and power of magical girl shows comes from the camaraderie between characters. In Fate: The Winx Saga, the friendship feels obligatory. There are occasional touching scenes, like the girls joining Bloom to eat outside the cafeteria when she doesn’t want to face the gossiping students. But even in those scenes, it feels like the protagonists barely tolerate each other. Because so little groundwork cementing their friendships was laid, the teasing doesn’t come off as playful banter, but instead as catty and mean-spirited. A shoehorned-in love triangle between Stella, Bloom, and bland sword-wielding Sky (Freddie Throp), a student at the nearby school, only makes things worse. When they save one another, it’s not because they care, it’s an obligation: “Ugh, I probably shouldn’t let my roommate get killed.” Young’s writers seem to think that evolving girlhood friendships means turning them into thinly veiled rivalries.

But while the characters and their relationships suffer, Fate: The Winx Saga does create a compelling, nuanced plot. The worldbuilding is exciting, offering a spin on the animated series’ world of fairies and non-magical, sword-wielding Specialists (a fancy way to say knights, basically). Magic school is a tried-and-true story setup, and using the fairies’ classes to explain how their world’s magic works is efficient and intriguing.

the specialist boys training Photo: Jonathan Hession/Netflix

Once the plot gets rolling — ancient, dark creatures known as the Burned Ones have resurfaced, decades after they supposedly became extinct — it weaves a compelling theme about the older generation rectifying their mistakes. But by trying to move on, the older characters have sheltered the younger generation from the truth. The younger characters know little about their world’s dark past, but the more they uncover, spurred mostly by Bloom’s quest to find more about her own history, the more they doubt the motives of their professors and mentors. The plot focuses on the scars war leaves across generations, adding layers to each character’s motives. By the end of the first season, the younger characters are left wondering whether the heroes they trusted did the right thing, whether the villainous figures had a point, and what that means for their own path going forward.

But that arc would be more compelling if the characters were likable or interesting, or if they shared even half the bonds of their animated counterparts. As it stands, while the darker and edgier plot elevates the cartoon into a story for a young adult audience, the darker and edgier characters detract. While the girls declare they’re good friends by the end of the first season, that claim never really feels earned. Still, the evil they face — not just some malevolent overlord, but societal trauma no one knows now to navigate — makes for a nuanced story that the characters could grow into, if the show continues.

The six-episode opening season of Fate: The Winx Saga premieres on Netflix on Jan. 22.