Tuesday, 28 July 2015

MAFIA III pre-announced

Apparently, announcing that something is going to be announced is now a thing. 2K Games have confirmed that they will be announcing the existence of Mafia III with a trailer on 5 August. Which is weird, but okay (and at least it's not a trailer for a trailer, which is even more annoying).



Mafia III is, shockingly, the sequel to Mafia (2002) and Mafia II (2010), both developed by Illusion Softworks (now 2K Czech). Mafia was praised for its graphics - a massive step up from the then-contemporary Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City - and its highly memorable characters and storyline, as well as its measured pacing the clever way the city evolved between missions if long periods of time passed. Mafia II took place in a bigger city and of course was graphically more impressive, but its story was less compelling and its cast of characters altogether less memorable.

Mafia III has been developed primarily by Hanger 13, a new studio formed by veterans of LucasArts along with a couple of ex-Illusion staffmembers. 2K Czech is providing support, although a lot of the talent behind the first two games in the series have now left to form a new studio, Warhorse Studios, which is working on the medieval roleplaying game Deliverance: Kingdom Come.

Not much can be discerned about the game, but the cars and hairstyles in the only image released so far suggests that it will be set in the 1960s or 1970s. That makes sense given that the original game spanned much of the 1930s and the second was set in the early 1950s. It'll be interesting to see what Hanger 13 can come up with.

1864

1852. Denmark achieves an unlikely military and political victory against the forces of the German Confederation and consolidates its formal control of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Twelve years later, Danish nationalism, reinforced by its victory and by the fervent ardour of the state council leader Bishop Monrad, results in a formal annexation of Schleswig and its large German population. The formerly disunited German states are now being unified by the Prussian statesmanship of the formidable Otto von Bismarck into an empire, the potential powerhouse of Europe. A considerably more powerful, larger and more skilled Prussian-Austrian army invades Denmark, changing the lives of millions of people forever.


1864 is an eight-part TV mini-series, filmed in Denmark and is the most expensive television series ever made in the country. Many of the actors and crew are veterans of contemporary Danish noir series such as Borgen and The Killing, but 1864 stands in contrast to them as a sweeping, epic war story spanning generations and taking in the lives of soldiers, politicians and civilians during the Second Schleswig War of 1864. This war, obscure today outside of Denmark, marked a vital moment in the transformation of Germany from a loosely-allied collection of small states into a powerful empire, setting it on a course that would lead, six years later, to the Franco-Prussian War and eventually the First World War itself.

The so-called Schleswig-Holstein Question was a bewildering political/ethnic controversy of the time which reduced even ardent European politicians (well-versed in the most tedious minutiae of bizarre border disputes) to bemusement. Very wisely, 1864 avoids getting too entangled in this mess. Instead, it presents the story of the war in the impact it has on the population of a small Danish village. The local baron is incompetent and his son Didrich was a coward during the 1852 war, avoiding conflict and traumatised by the brushes with death he did experience. Returning home, Didrich wastes no time in taking his frustration and bullying tendencies out on the local population. Among those is a war veteran, Thøger Larsen. When he dies, his two sons, Peter and Laust, are forced to grow up and work hard to help their family survive.

Peter and Laust soon befriend Inge, the beautiful daughter of the baron's new estate manager. Their innocent childhood friendship is complicated when, as adults, Laust and Inge fall in love and Didrich's violent temper gets more out of control. When the war starts, the brothers join the army and find themselves under Didrich's command, whilst Inge discovers that she is pregnant with Laust's child. However, the brothers are soon separated as the Prussian and Austrian armies sweep north, smashing everything in their path. The Danish forces fall back on Dybbøl Hill, where the most decisive battle of the war will be fought against overwhelming odds.


The structure of the series is interesting. First of all, there is a framing device set in the present day where unemployed delinquent Claudia gets a job caring for Severin, an old man who lives in the same manor house as Didrich and his father, now fallen into disrepair. An initially hostile relationship is overcome when Claudia finds Inge's journal and begins reading it to Severin. The series then uses the first three episodes to establish life in the Danish village and set up the key characters (Peter, Laust, Didrich, Inge and Sofia, the mute daughter of a travelling band of gypsies) as well as establishing the political situation through a series of subplots involving Monrad (the equivalent of a Prime Minister) and German historical figures such as General Moltke and Bismarck. The series does a good job of setting the scene for the war, establishing Denmark's nationalism and parallelling Monrad's own personal life (he loses confidence in his skills of oration and has to be coaxed back to competence by an actress) with that of Denmark's growing confidence and then disastrous overconfidence.

These opening three episodes are a bit weird, it has to be said. The first episode, which has child actors playing Laust, Peter and Inge, is a bit on the weak side and the actress playing the young Inge is painfully wooden. Monrad's crisis of confidence and regaining it by having an actress walk on him is also a bit strange. The idea here is to overcome the cliches of costume drama by showing the full range of human behaviour, including some eccentricities, and this is sometimes effective (Didrich is portrayed with more nuance than his one-note villain character summary may suggest). It's also sometimes just random, such as during a brief scene where a nobleman attempts copulation with a cow for no readily apparent reason. There's some brilliantly human moments in these opening episodes and they do set up the rest of the story superbly, but they're quite uneven.


Things take a massive upturn in the fourth episode. When the war finally erupts and the brothers reach the front, the series unexpectedly turns into Band of Brothers: Denmark. A host of supporting characters appear as other soldiers in both Peter and Laust's platoons, all very well written and acted. There's some very deft characterisation, so that when characters with only a few minutes of screen-time are killed the audience cannot help but feel sympathy. There's also Wilhem Dinesen, Peter's commanding office and a one-man killing machine (and a real historical figure, the father of Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa) whose workmanlike, stoic heroism stands in contrast to the cowardice and blustering of Didrich. The series also touches base with some recurring characters in the Prussian ranks, such as the Marx-quoting soldier who is dismayed at having to wage war on fellow working men.

The fourth through seventh episodes are all-out war stories, focusing on planning, sieges and visceral scenes of bloody combat that match anything ever done by HBO. Some of the cinematography and scenery in these sequences are breathtaking, as are the visual effects (with some very effective mergings of CGI and practical stunts). However, the series always brings things down to the human level and humanises everyone involved, even the generals (many of whom are horrified when they witness what modern artillery and rifles can do on the battlefield and start looking for a peaceful way out). The final episode catches everyone up on what's happened, explains the relevance of the framing story and generally wraps things up well, while still leaving room for tragedy and regrets.


1864 is certainly an unconventional historical series, but it's also a gripping, memorable one. The direction is uniformly excellent and the writing is effective, although sometimes the symbolism can be heavy-handed. The series sometimes meshes together spiritual and symbolic scenes (such as the prescient Sergeant Johan Larsen drawing ice out of the heart of a dying comrade) with much more literal scenes of combat in a way that is really confusing. The framing story also veers a little into cliche, especially the depiction of Claudia as a teenage rebel because she's mildly nihilistic and has piercings. These bumps in the road are overcome thanks to uniformly brilliant acting and strong, measured pacing that knows when to throw in a horrific battle scene and when to focus on the character drama. A special word must be reserved for the music, which is particularly excellent.

As a work of history it's a bit more of a mixed bag. The writer-director has taken a view of history rather different to the traditional Danish one, trying to show the conflict as a pointless one brought about by overconfident politicians in the face of reason. The German characters are depicted fairly sympathetically throughout (apart from the hard-headed and ruthless Bismarck), as are the generals on both sides. Monrad, a more complicated historical character, is reduced to a religious fanatic and buffoon in the series. This is more of a shame as the opening episode suggests he will be a more important and complex protagonist, but as the emphasis switches to the battlefield and he appears less, he becomes more of a one-note figure. For a series that attempts to engage more in the real complexities of politics and war (it does so far better than almost any other recent war series of note), these failings are shame.

They're also fairly minor. 1864 (****½) is at times off-beat, weird and clumsy, and at others is funny, heart-warming and painfully human. But during its four-episode depiction of the actual war itself, it easily matches anything produced by bigger American or British studios and becomes unmissable. The series is available now in the UK (DVD, Blu-Ray) and USA (DVD, Blu-Ray).

Friday, 24 July 2015

Audience pressure pays off: Update on Scott Bakker's THE UNHOLY CONSULT

A month ago I reported that Scott Bakker's sixth Second Apocalypse novel (and the concluding volume of The Aspect-Emperor sub-trilogy), The Unholy Consult, had been delayed for absolutely no reason at all.



Fortunately, the resulting noise (from here, other blogs and, most notably, the Second Apocalypse Forum and westeros.org) resulted in Overlook being contacted by fans eager to find out what was going on with the book. As a result Overlook have kicked the publication process into gear and we should soon have an idea of when the book will be released.
"I’ve finally spoken to my Overlook editor: apparently they’ve been deluged with emails and even phone calls! It has him excited about the book at least. We still have a couple more details to hammer out, and things need to be squared away with Orbit, but hopefully I should be able to make an announcement soon."
Good job everyone. Just goes to show that the Internet can be a force for positive pressure and change as well as unnecessarily cute animal pictures.

The White-Luck Woofter. The Canine Who Comes Before. The No-Walkies.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Wertzone Classics: Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance

The Rebel Alliance has been dealt a severe blow with the destruction of its base on Hoth. In the aftermath of the disaster, numerous factions sympathetic to the Alliance have been exposed and the Empire has taken vengeance. Caught up in the chaos are the Azzameens, a trading family supplying the Rebels. With the Empire closing in, the youngest pilot in the family elects to the join the Rebels and help in the fight. However, his loyalties to his familes remain strong...


X-Wing Alliance was originally released in 1999 and is the fourth and final game in the X-Wing series, following on from X-Wing (1993), TIE Fighter (1994) and the multiplayer-focused X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter (1997). The game opens during the events of The Empire Strikes Back and concludes with the epic Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi, with the player helping flesh out events in the background of both movies.

X-Wing Alliance is, technically, the most accomplished game in the series. The graphics are far superior to the earlier games and the fighter cockpits are now all fully-modelled 3D environments which you can look around in. The game has the widest variety of ships and stations in the series and bumps things up a notch by allowing you play small freighters, such as the YT-1300 and 2000-series Corellien freighters and, in the final mission, the Millennium Falcon itself. The game also unfolds over a larger scale, with many missions requiring multiples jumps through hyperspace to other star systems. The engine can handle far vaster battles than the previous game, with the concluding Battle of Endor involving over a dozen capital ships and hundreds of fighters. The game also makes excellent use of the movie soundtracks and sound effects to form the perfect backdrop to the game.


It remains controversial over if this is the best game in the series, however. For my money it is. It has the best pacing, the best difficulty curve (one or two insanely hard spikes aside) and a growing sense of menace and scale as the assault on the second Death Star approaches. There are 50 missions, which is a lot for this kind of game (the others only reached this size with their expansions included), especially since many of these missions are longer than the very longest missions in the previous titles. It's certainly a big, satisfying game which takes the previous mixture of spectacular space combat, in-battle tactics and larger strategy (through the ability to give wingmen orders, which they handle better than ever before thanks to much stronger AI) and tightens everything up a notch.

The biggest weakness - and it is not a major one - is the storyline involving the Azzameen family. Ignoring their silly name (and you even sillier designation as "Ace"), this storyline does get you involved in the game a bit more than in its forebears, which gave your character no backstory at all. However, the game forces you to sit through several fairly tiresome family-oriented missions before you get to the join the Rebellion and hop in an X-wing. The addition of freighters to the game is a good one, but these end up being a bit overpowered due to their auto-tracking turrets. This is especially notable in the YT-2000 Otana, which has two gun batteries and requires you to merely be pointed in the enemy's vague direction to scythe through entire squadrons - even of TIE Avengers and Defenders - with impunity. These missions can be a bit more fun as they involve characters not associated with the Rebels, such as your crazy sister Amon and even crazier brother Emon (not the most exciting names), and your psychotic droid co-pilot MK-09 (a slightly less homicidal forerunner of HK-47). They bring a bit more personality to a game series that was, until this title, rather lacking in personality.


One slight problem with this story is that it's not entirely concluded at the end of the game. The Azzameen storyline ends on a cliffhanger with a traitor being exposed in the family and doing a runner. Clearly, his pursuit would have factored into any expansion to the game. However, X-Wing Alliance suffered badly in the Great Space Combat Crash of 1999, selling disappointingly, and no expansion or sequel was made. Fortunately the game's core storyline finishes fairly decisively with the Battle of Endor, which provides more than enough closure for the whole game.

X-Wing Alliance's other big problem was one of timing. The X-Wing series had comfortably usurped the Wing Commander franchise's crown as Best Space Combat Series and worn it well through the 1990s, but just a few months before X-Wing Alliance came out another game was released. Conflict Freespace: The Great War was, despite a dodgy name, an altogether hardier and better game, with superior, more visceral combat, better visuals and far weightier handling. It left the X-Wing series looking a bit tired. Even worse was to come when Freespace 2 was released about six months after X-Wing Alliance. Freespace 2 was space combat perfected and pretty much killed the entire genre stone dead by not giving it anywhere to develop.

Freed from contemporary issues, X-Wing Alliance (****½) emerges as a still impressive, top-notch game. It is available now from GoG. Unlike the earlier X-Wing games, which were made before the modding scene took off, X-Wing Alliance allowed modding and the results include the impressive X-Wing Upgrade project, which improves the visuals massively of the whole game. I strongly recommend it as it both upgrades the in-game models to something far palatable for modern gamers, and also adds widescreen support for current monitors.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II gets a new update...ten years after release

Knights of the Old Republic II has, somewhat bizarrely, gotten a major Steam update today. Given that the game was originally released for Windows XP back in February 2005, this feels a bit late in the day. However, given the game's legendarily broken status on release, it is a bit of a special case.



The original Knights of the Old Republic, created by BioWare and released in 2003 for the original X-Box, is one of the greatest CRPGs ever made and one of the greatest instalments of Star Wars - in any medium - ever released. It's a character-focused adventure which channels the pulp sci-fi feel of the original Star Wars movie and nails it absolutely right. It's downright brilliant and you should certainly play it if you haven't already. It's also a bit of a prototype for BioWare's later Mass Effect games, although for my money Knights of the Old Republic is comfortably superior. It's been recently updated to run on modern PCs from GoG and is well worth a look.

Knights of the Old Republic II, developed by the then-newly-formed Obsidian Entertainment, is every bit the Empire Strikes Back to the original game. It's darker, more brooding, more morally dubious and has a bit of a massive downer ending (although not a cliffhanger). It presents a far more cynical view of the Star Wars universe, one of shades of grey where the very simplistic notion of a "Light" and "Dark" side of the Force seems laughable. It's far more conceptually original and interesting than the original game. It should have been even better, but for LucasArts rushing the game out before it was ready, in a buggy and not-entirely-complete state.

A couple of post-release patches did help correct the more general and grievous technical problems the game was suffering from, but the missing content could not be fixed without a massive update which LucasArts were curiously unwilling to let Obsidian undertake.

Fortunately, Obsidian were canny enough to include some of the assets and code for the missing content on the actual game CD, allowing modders to extract them and start looking at ways of filling in the gaps themselves. And after a decade they've done what is by all accounts a bang-up job, via the Restored Content Mod. This completes a couple of incomplete storylines in the original game, puts some more closure in the ending (previously a rushed voiceover explained the fate of many of the characters) and, most critically, adds an entire new location to the game: a droid production facility which comes complete with attendant quests and characters and much focus on the beloved, homicidal assassin droid HK-47.

The new update officially incorporates the Restored Content Mod and also adds native controller support as well as blasting the resolution up to 5K for absolutely no good reason other than they can. It's great to see this older, underrated game being updated and brought to a new audience as a result.

Trailer for the second season of FARGO

A trailer has been released for the second season of Fargo.


The first season was a surprise critical smash last year, winning plaudits in both the USA and UK for its offbeat, black humour and outstanding performances by Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and newcomer Allison Tolman.

The second season is set in 1979 and focuses on Lou Solverson, the father of Molly Solverson (Tollman) in the original series. Keith Carradine played Lou in the first season, but the younger and fresher-faced version in the new season will be played by Patrick Wilson. Ted Danson (Cheers) and Kirsten Dunst (the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films) will also have major roles. The second season will revolve around a disturbing and important case mentioned several times in the original series.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey

A mysterious alien artifact - a gateway - has been constructed beyond Uranus's orbit. Its purpose is unknown. Representatives from Earth, Mars and the Belt are rushing to investigate, among them, reluctantly, Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. The artifact holds the key to the future of the human race, an opportunity to spread mankind to the stars...but it is also a weapon that could incinerate the entire Solar system if it falls unto the wrong hands.



Abaddon's Gate is the third novel in The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), which is expected to run to nine novels (and "Will soon be a major television series"). This book picks up after the events of Caliban's War, although unfortunately some of the more notable characters from that book are missing. Instead, we have a number of new POV characters joining the returning figures of Holden and the Rocinante crew.

The book initially opens with the different factions racing to the gate with their own agendas and goals in mind. There's a murderous character plotting vengeance on Holden in a (not very convincing) way of getting him involved in the plot. There's tensions on the Belter command ship between the psychotic captain and his more reasonable executive officer and security chief. There's a religious-but-non-fanatical leader who couples pious morality with hard-headed practicality. And so on. It's all reasonable enough, until the crew arrive at the gate and pass through it into a strange sub-pocket of space where physical rules can be rewritten and an ancient intelligence uses the form of Detective Miller to speak to Holden.

At this point things take a turn for the bizarre and it feels like The Expanse is about to break out into a fully-blown hard SF novel. The "slow zone" of the gateway space feels like a nod to Vernor Vinge, and the limitations of slower-than-light travel when the laws of physics keep changing is the sort of thing that would earn an Alastair Reynolds nod of approval. It's all nicely set up for The Expanse to move away from its MOR space opera roots and turn into something more than explosions and gunfights.

Except that doesn't happen. The novel soon falls back into its comfort zone of explosions and gunfights, with the major characters all forced into choosing sides between the psychotic captain of the Belter command ship and his other senior crew. This would have more resonance if we'd had the mad captain set up a bit better, but he isn't. It just feels like he's there and mad and antagonistic because, well, the book wouldn't have any conflict without him.

The action set-pieces are generally well-handled, there's some very nice zero-gee combat scenes and Abraham and Franck don't let up on the pace until the last page. There is no denying that there's fun to be had here. But it also feels a bit shallow, and it reinforces the feeling that The Expanse is SF with the training wheels left on. Abaddon's Gate feels like it should have been allowed to make a turn into crazy hard SF weirdness, but instead it's shoehorned back into being an action story. A very nicely-done action story, but there is military SF around that does this stuff a lot better.

As it stands, Abaddon's Gate (***½) ends up being just another readable, fast-paced and entertaining instalment of a readable, fast-paced and entertaining series. Which is fine, but there is definitely the prospect here, between the authors' excellent worldbuilding and solid prose skills, of elevating things onto another level. Hopefully later instalments will deliver on the promise of the series, which is so far tantalising but unfulfilled. Abaddon's Gate is available now in the UK and USA.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

England, the early 19th Century. The Napoleonic Wars are raging and the country is in danger from its great enemy across the Channel. But another man, Mr. Gilbert Norrell, has another goal in mind: he desires the return of English magic and the creation of a new form of "respectable" magic, rooted in experimentation and study. Magic has been dead for over three centuries, and Norrell wishes to bring it back...in the form he chooses.


Another would-be magician is Jonathan Strange, a former layabout and sop who takes up magic when his father and fiancee both demands that he finds something to do. Strange and Norrell's paths cross and they agree to join forces for the good of England. But it isn't long before their opposing philosophies and viewpoints come into conflict.

Published in 2004, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was an unusual debut. Almost a thousand pages of faux-Victorian prose, the book was littered with footnotes and festooned with footnotes explaining about the world and characters. Championed by fans like Neil Gaiman, the book became a massive, international publishing sensation and Hollywood soon came calling. However, adapting the book for the screen and retaining its storyline whilst also honouring its length and commercial sensibilities (the book is not well-suited to be turned into an action blockbuster trilogy) proved too challenging and the film rights were allowed to lapse.

Enter the BBC. Unburdened by commercial considerations and with growing confidence following a string of recent hit series, the BBC took on the challenge of adapting this weird, strange and brilliant book and did so by turning it into a weird, strange and brilliant series. They have form here, having taken Mervyn Peake's supposedly unfilmably weird novels Titus Alone and Gormenghast and turning them into a compelling (if perhaps a bit too ahead-of-its-time) mini-series in 1999.


The TV series, of course, can't match the complexity and depth of the novel, even with seven hours to play with. Instead, it takes avoiding action by streamlining some of the action, removing much of the interminable second half of the novel (there's a lot less faffing around in Italy and Venice in the TV version), and refocusing the narrative on Strange and Norrell's relationship, on the situation with Lady Pole and the menacing activities of the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. Some of the losses from the novel are grievous - the loss in the particular of the witty footnotes is a shame - but in the event are survivable.

The TV show succeeds through the strength of its casting, particularly the genius casting of Eddie Marsan as Norell and Bertie Carvel as Strange. The two actors spark off each other brilliantly and Carvel embodies Strange perfectly as he moves from fop to gentleman to soldier to tragic hero. The rest of the cast is superb: newcomer Alice Englert is superb as Lady Pole and feels like a future Doctor Who companion in waiting. Charlotte Riley is likewise compelling as Arabella Strange, aided by a script that gives the female characters a bit more to do than they do in the novel. Another absolute stand-out is Enzo Cilenti as Childermass, whose world-weary cynicism conceals a genuine sense of humanity that gradually comes to the fore (culminating in him giving excellent last line of the series). Marc Warren also imbues the Gentleman with requisite menace, although arguably he is less whimsical and changeable than the character in the book.


The series also has mind-boggling production values. It is, simply put, the best-looking drama series ever put out by the BBC. It has a confidence and swagger to its use of effects that outclasses the likes of Doctor Who, not to mention wit and imagination. A sequence involving a ghostly fleet, the famous scene where the statues in York Cathedral come to life and another scene where horses are summoned out of sand are all fantastically realised. The Battle of Waterloo is convincingly brutal and ugly, even on what was reportedly a fairly small budget. Another scene where Strange has to summon Italian soldiers back to life, only to find them speaking the language of Hell and having to find a way to get them back to speaking Italian, is both a stunning technical achievement and also a profoundly weird one. The book has a feeling of offbeat strangeness which I assumed the TV show would drop, but if anything it doubles down on it.

There are minor weaknesses: the key subplot revolving around the Gentleman's relationship with the manservant Stephen Black is not given a huge amount of development, and in particular lacks Black's interior characterisation. On TV, Stephen comes across as being far too acquiescent in the Gentleman's schemes rather than fighting against them more, and this makes some of his later character development feel a bit unconvincing. Norrell also gets a little lost in the mix as the emphasis moves to Strange for much of the middle and latter part of the series, although this is also the case in the book.

The BBC's version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (****½) is superbly-cast, well-written and faithful to the book even as it has to streamline elements from it and improve other elements. It is an elegant, bizarre and compelling adaptation of the novel, and is well worth watching. It is available now in the UK (DVD, Blu-Ray) and USA (DVD, Blu-Ray).

Saturday, 18 July 2015

New TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER trailer

Creative Assembly and Sega have released a new trailer for Total War: Warhammer (sadly, still not Total Warhammer or Warhammer: Total Waaagh!), this time featuring actual in-engine battle footage.



The trailer depicts Emperor Karl Franz leading the forces of the Empire of Man into battle against various enemies. The trailer shows both magic and flying units in action, both new additions for the Total War engine.

News of a new game set in the Warhammer Fantasy world came as a surprise. Earlier this year, Games Workshop officially retired the setting after thirty-three years of supporting it. Sales of the game and models had fallen to an all-time low, so the Old World of the Warhammer setting was obliterated in a game and novel crossover event known as End Times. A new fantasy game called Warhammer: Age of Sigmar has been introduced to replace it, although its reception has been lukewarm so far. Retiring the fantasy setting before the video game's release may have been a premature decision; the Dawn of War video games (starting in 2004) are credited with helping build the brand, success and sales of the Warhammer 40,000 SF sister-game, especially aiding the growth in the franchise's success in the United States. The Total War game could have done something similar for the fantasy setting, but clearly not if it no longer exists.

Total War: Warhammer will be released in 2016.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Tatiana Maslany finally gets an Emmy nod for ORPHAN BLACK

Showing that there is some justice in the world, Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany has finally gotten a Best Actress Emmy Nomination for her SF series, Orphan Black.



Maslany plays a group of clones on the show, portraying no less than five "regular" clone characters (Sarah Manning, Cosima Niehaus, Alison Hendrix, Rachel Duncan and Helena) and numerous smaller roles. Maslany's ability to completely inhabit each role to the point where you forget you're watching the same actress has been heavily praised by critics. Maslany's failure to be nominated for either of the previous seasons was seen as a misjudgement by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Maslany features some stiff competitions for the statue, with two-times winner Claire Danes getting another nod for Homeland, Viola Davis getting one for How to Get Away With a Murder, Taraji P. Henson being nominated for Empire, Elisabeth Moss picking up a nomination for Mad Men and Robin Wright getting some love for House of Cards. However, all of those actresses are only playing one role each, possibly giving Maslany a leading edge over the rest.

The stand-out show in the nomination stakes is Game of Thrones, which picked up 24 nominations including Best Drama and acting nominations for Peter Dinklage (who has already received one win for the first season), Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke. Thrones's showing may surprise critics who seem to have largely found it the weakest season to date (episodes like Hardhome notwithstanding), but may show that the Academy is listening to the zeitgeist.

The winners will be announced on 20 September.