Friday, August 26, 2016

Rebels Review

Ahhh, the new Disney Star Wars canon. Such a mixed bag. And what better foil for such a discussion than Star Wars: Rebels. I have very strong feelings about this cartoon. On one hand, I like to see a band of operatives cruising around, half-affiliated with the forming rebellion. An interesting time in Star Wars history to explore more fully.

Continuing with the positive vibes, I am thrilled that they chose to base their 'look and feel' on the extraordinary original concept art of Ralph McQuarrie. Some of the backgrounds in some of the scenes in Rebels look just like a McQuarrie painting. Wonderful stuff. As for characters, I am a fan of Hera. A bit of a fan of Kanan. 

Now for some negatives. In terms of the characters other than Hera and Kanan, I marginally don't care for Sabine and the concept of the street artist spray painter vandalizing for justice. I equally dislike Zeb, although he is easy enough to ignore. Ezra is bad, but not nearly as bad a Chopper. I hate that droid. And I am a droid lover!

The space whales and whatnot fit with the StarCave of ThonBoka, so I'll grant them a pass. Those silly ideas are grandfathered in, and Lando vouches for them personally.

The lack of third dimension to the character animation is odd. All of their clothes, including layers like vests, accessories, belts, etc seem to be printed onto one skin-tight surface. The characters also move weird. The run very slowly and disjointedly. Whenever they go into a "crowded" place, there are like 2 people around. Even (literally) aboard a Star Destroyer, they basically encounter nobody except 1 squad of stormtroopers...eventually. And don't get me started on the Wookiees. Or the shape of the Ghost. Or the firepower and capabilities of the Phantom.

The worst part, to my mind, is the flippant disregard for existing canon. Yes, I know, Disney can do whatever they want. They aren't bound by the old "rules". What irks me is that this leads them not to making up new stories, but to WRECKING OLD ONES. Why do they need to make wrong sized A-wings? They are not the same size as seen in ROTJ, I don't care what Lucasfilms incorrectly states as the ship's length. Why destroy the origin story of the B-wing, using the same system name (Shantipole), but replacing Commander Ackbar and a whole team of Verpine Engineers with a single mad Mon Cal tinkerer working alone? Even making the guy a Mon Cal just rubs it in our faces that these new idiots get to wreck whatever they want from the (at times) carefully crafted shared world. Why make up a THIRD, and different, Interdictor cruiser?  Why have fragile, bat-like TIE fighters land on the ground like dummies? And don't ask about Wedge Antilles. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

It's the same feeling I got from Jar Jar Abrams and The Force Awakens. The feeling of watching a moody and un-creative outsider smash someone's carefully painted models together over and over while filming the whole thing and adding lens flare. Why? Why? Add in another Death Star and turn everything up to 11. The essence of an old quote comes to mind: "What was good wasn't original, and what was original wasn't good."

Timothy Zahn wrote circles around these losers, and it isn't even close. Most of the WEG stuff I've read is better, too. And Stackpole. And Crispin. And Luceno.

I can't be too hard on Filoni et al., as Rebels is a kids show and I am not exactly the target audience. I guess I have to chalk this up to a Marvel-esque, good old fashioned comic book re-boot for Star Wars lore as a whole. Where we get to tread over all the same ground again. And re-hear the same origin tales, but with new twists here and there. Old villains come back. Etc. Etc.

I just wish we could thoughtfully add new, compelling content to the shared universe (with some pruning, here and there) instead of a wholesale sloppy re-write by amateurs.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Forged in Battle (P)Review

Presented here is an overview of what one can expect from the new Forged in Battle supplement.

Page 1: Opening crawl

Page 2: Inside title page

Page 3: Table of contents

Page 4: Fiction

Pages 5-9: Overview and summary

Chapter 1 (pages 10-39): Heroes of the Rebellion
This chapter presents ideas for soldier backgrounds and duties; four new species (Elom, Elomin, Kyuzo and Shistavanen); three new soldier specializations (the Heavy, Trailblazer and Vanguard); soldier motivations; and two signature abilities (The Bigger They Are... and Unmatched Courage).

Chapter 2 (pages 40-63): Weapons of War
In this chapter one can find ten new ranged energy weapons (including the BlasTech A280, which I was happy to see); three each of slugthrowers, explosive weapons and melee weapons; five new types of armor; three weapon attachments; perhaps a dozen other equipment items; and ten new vehicles, including the LAAT/i.

Chapter 3 (pages 64-96): Indomitable Courage
This chapter presents suggestions for using soldiers both in combat scenarios and in other types of adventures. There are suggestions for different types of objectives; rules for different combat environments; suggestions for ways to reward soldier characters; and rules for creating and using fortifications. 

All in all, this seems like a useful sourcebook, one that should see plenty of use during an Age of Rebellion campaign.