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Thursday, January 21, 2010

District 9 Blu-ray and God of War III Demo Impression

District 9 Blu-ray and God of War III demo
The District 9 Blu-ray offers more than a unique sci-fi feature in full HD, it offers gamers the chance to play the God of War III demo for PlayStation 3 and watch a special making-of feature on the game. This is more than thrown in incentive to buy the movie as District 9 is so very unique and inventive and really lends itself well to the gaming audience to which God of War III will appeal. So why should gamers take notice of this particular Blu-ray, let’s take a look …

District 9 – Long story short, aliens arrive on earth, settle in over Johannesburg South Africa and eventually are moved from their ship to District 9, a shantytown slum where the aliens live in squalor. Due to rising tension between humans and aliens it’s decided to relocate the prawns (slang nickname, not nice) 200 miles outside the city to a new ‘settlement.’ Per local law eviction notices must be served and its one unfortunate MNU employee, Wikus, of the evicting company who happens across a device and is sprayed with a fluid that begins a rapid transformation that plunges him into a world he could never have expected to enter.

Sorry, no more story here as watching how it unfolds and the reasons behind the choices made is a huge part of the pleasure. The story and how it’s told is unique and inventive and begging for more back-story and a sequel. The special effects are outstanding and if this movie was made 5 years earlier it may have received the credit it deserves. The effects are absolutely incredible and it’s safe to say WETA has reached new heights even with their lofty portfolio. The way the story is told with reports in a documentary format all warp nicely at the end and will leave the viewer wanting more. Will it be long before games use the exact technology to create their in-game animations? Time will tell but watching the special features, including Alien Generation, gamers can begin to see the blurring of lines between film and game.

God of War III Demo – This demo, also available with the God of War collection on PS3, is not going to blow God of War vets away with major gameplay changes but it will amaze with truly next-gen graphics, settings that are gorgeous and quite a few encounters that will leave them salivating for the full game. The controls have not changed; weapons feel natural as do secondary weapons that are used with purpose. The few sub-boss encounters show off the new evisceration animations and techniques that now move into the baddies, literally. The end of the demo stops just short of what should be one hell of a boss fight but gamers do get a sweet making-of feature video. God of War is one of those games that nailed ‘it’ with its first release and has been perfecting the formula ever since and with part 3 it just keeps getting better.

Going Digital – First seen with the Godzilla Blu-ray, District 9 also features a digital copy for PSP, PC, MAC or iPod. This feature, soon to be the standard, helps justify the higher Blu-ray vs. DVD price and with so many advancements in handheld devices it’s great to be able to take such a slick feature on the go. It’s still a new concept to many so worth mentioning.

Overall District 9 on Blu-ray is a great film. It reminds of a time of Alien Nation’s and the arrival of a few other V … isitors form the 80’s. The online features and ‘extras’ not mentioned in this article are also becoming the norm with the very interactive Blu-ray format. Film makers can reward owners with extra content after the disc ship date and not be under the gun to fit everything they want into one disc. A very creative movie with excellent effects and a deep story told in a manner fit for the Discovery Channel or National Geographic. The game demo and digital copy of the film, icing on the cake and a true treat for gamers who decide to give District 9 on Blu-ray a spin.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Impression

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for PlayStation 3
Released in October of 2009 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for PlayStation 3 is an experience that any and every teen and up PS3 owner’s needs to play. High praises, yes, but by now most online and magazine outlets have given Uncharted 2 their top awards and recognition and it’s completely deserved. As discussed in interviews with Naughty Dog Co-Presidents Evan Wells and Christophe Balestra as well as Scott Rohde, VP, Sony Worldwide Studios America, the Blu-ray format allows for more of everything and the folks at Naughty Dog took this to heart when creating a gaming experience that rivals most Hollywood creations in it’s scope and creativity. What makes Nathan Drake’s second adventure so memorable? Let’s take a look at the reasons …

Gameplay – Two modes, the single-player as gamers assume the role of Nathan in his hunt for the lost fleet of Marco Polo and the multi-player which allows gamers to shoot and team-up with their online buddies. Both modes are carried out from the same behind/over the shoulder angle seen in most third-person adventure games. Aiming weapons and interacting with the environment is seamless and the character motions are very smooth. The game feels like a movie in its presentation and how it switches from cinematic to in-game action is excellent. The multi-player features are fairly deep and a welcome addition as the mixture of run-n-gun vs. co-op works well and does not feel thrown in.

Graphics – Best there is on PS3. While games like Batman: Arkham Asylum look outstanding it’s the realistic environments, lighting and little effects that really make Uncharted 2 shine. From Drake’s boot and necklace around his neck, it all look spectacular and gamers will be hard pressed to find a more photo realistic looking title on any system. Explosions, the way vehicles move, trees to doors looks so real, it’s (again) like a big budget movie. Talk about harnessing the power of the PS3 … and this is not even 50% of Blu-ray’s power!

Sound – Nolan North is fantastic, like a Indy in his youth he delivers lines that make even the tensest situations feel funny and normal. Nolan is just the tip of a voice cast iceberg that delivers an excellent script and story, breaths life into these characters and really shows games are more about shooting. Besides excellent voice work the musical score is on par with the Final Fantasy and Halo soundtracks available for purchase and download. The entire listening experience is top notch and will please any gamer’s ears.

Design - From sewers to the mountains every environment feels like a character and while the player is essentially guided it does not feel that way. Obstacles and settings feel natural, like they should be where they are. The developers did not create unneeded, foreign objects just to fit gameplay. Nathan is running around in the really real world here folks. Each encounter from taking out a guard to the opening sequence of climbing for ones life, each one feels like a scripted movie rather than one of the best games around. The textures and setting look great just like everything else about this game.

Miscellaneous – Really? Do you need more? Uncharted 2 takes gaming to new levels. Realism in setting, sound, characters and graphics. Levels of professionalism in voice acting and story telling. No miscellaneous needed, it’s all here in one great gaming package.

Overall, it’s really amazing that with three console systems and two main handhelds that the truly shining, great games only come around maybe once a year if that. When it comes to looking at a consoles history there are always a handful of games that help define that system and gaming age. It’s easy to say now that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves will join the likes of Mario Bros., Halo, Grand Theft Auto and a few more select titles as one that defined a gaming age. The heights that Uncharted 2 reaches will be hard for other games to follow but as gamers it’s great to have the bar set even higher. If this experience does not get you jazzed about gaming, then why are you playing?
Little disclosure, I still voted for Batman: Arkham Asylum as game of the year was close vote for both but as a Bats fan the tide turned a bit. While I say this, and Batman is an excellent game it does not have the timeliness and lasting ability of Nathans’ latest adventure.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dante’s Inferno comic Impression

Dante's Inferno Comic Issue 1
Dante’s Inferno from EA Games has received the comic treatment. Issue 1 of the Dante’s Inferno comic from WildStorm Productions, based on the game, is an interesting read and sheds light on the game that will draw many comparisons to the God of War and Devil May Cry of the world. The trend of comics expanding on a games story is nothing new but EA has taken this art, literally, to new levels as seen in the Dead Space prequel comic. No longer are these just direct ports of the source material, they are now expanded and required reading giving greater insight into the game and it’s characters. In order to better understand Dante the comic utilizes a unique art style and story angle so let’s take a look and throw in some points on the now available demo …

The Story – This series will span six issues covering Dante’s trip to the 9 levels of hell to recover the soul of his beloved. Written by Christo Gage of X-Men, Spider-Man and Wildcats fame, this telling, this issue takes a dark focus on Dante’s motivation for going to hell, the recovery of his beloved Beatrice’s soul. The story takes the beginning from Beatrice standpoint as she recounts her relationship with Dante, his departure to the Crusades and her family’s demise. Her bargain, spoken of in the game demo, is revealed as are other tidbits of info (can’t ruin the whole thing can we). As Dante makes his appearance the focus is shifted to his entry into Hell.

Imagine watching a movie from character A’s perspective then the same story from character B’s. In this case A is the game, the demo (go play) while B is the comic. Gage does a masterful job of showing moments from the game demo but with a slant of outside view and it works so well. While the story, at its core, remains the same it’s the art that is a true departure.

The Art – Incredible Hulk vet Diego Latorre’s art style oozes visions of hell, what gamers would expect when hearing the title Dante’s Inferno. This does not feel like a comic but rather art, epic, gothic art set to word balloons. The imagery is dark and tortured provoking thoughts of Hellraiser. There is no light or hope in these pages only the damned and tormented, just the way it should be. So how does the art relate to the demo?

The Demo – It feels like God of War in the timed button sequences, weapons controls and look at feel (at times, Kratos was in hell for a bit). The art style comes through but the comic’s style would have been better served in the game in place of the animated scenes that feel more like something out of Heavy Metal or Aeon Flux. Having read the comic and seen this level of art is what prompts this to be said. While the animations in-game is good they cannot match the darkness of the comic. The demo plays great, shows off just a touch of what will be found in the full game and while I compare it to God of War (a true compliment) Kratos could never dream of the levels which Dante must traverse. Don’t believe head over to the website and check out the documentaries on each level of Hell. The story in the demo shows the other side, after Beatrice fall, seeing Dante’s encounter with death and his return home and trip to hell. Watch how the game story, action, ties to the comic art, quite excellent and like mentioned before its two sides of the same coin.

Overall the Dante’s Inferno comic is a great read for the art alone but having played the demo and seen the making-of features this will be one hell of a ride for Dante, gamers and readers. Great game tie-ins are as rare as great games so gamers, do yourself the service, practice some greed and lust for volume 1 of Dante’s Inferno now … and play the demo (rated M, so no kiddies).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Iron Man: Armored Adventures DVD vol. 2 Impression

Kron Man: Armored Adventures DVD 2
How’s the story go? Something like this. Popular comic gets the big screen treatment. Movie does well, comic company decides to cash in a bit more, enter merchandise, video games and of course an animated series. Spider-Man, X-Men, Hellboy (to DVD) and this articles subject, Iron Man. Tony Stark is a rich, genius, womanizing hero with a bit of a drinking problem and Robert Downey played him perfect in the first Iron Man feature which is getting a sequel in 2010. Unlike Spider-Man or the team of X-Men this type of personality may not transfer very well for a kids series, so what to do? Make him a teenager of course.

Iron Man: Armored Adventures released first on Nickelodeon and now on DVD was first shown back in 2008 and while it could have been cheap cash in; it’s not. The second volume picks up the adventure of a teenage, orphaned, Tony Stark as he takes on the challenges of school with best friends Rhodey and Pepper. They are the only ones who know of the armor and help Tony in his fights and school work. Even with Tony’s father deceased his legacy of technology lives on and the Living Laser is just one foe who manages to obtain this tech which Tony feels responsible for. One issue after another presents itself including have to stash is armor in the Stark International building which is under the control of Obediah Stane, not the nicest guy. The Field Trip ‘mission’ is a success but Obediah’s suspicion of Tony goes to new levels, but no time to worry as Tony joins his friend Gene in the search for another of the Makluan Rings, of which the Mandarin wields one (now two). Next foe, the group A.I.M. and The Controller who does just that, controls via technology. Not enough yet, how about an encounter with Madame Masque and the Crimson Dynamo Buster armor. Yes, Tony has a lot going on from school to these enemies and the fact he just unleashed a consuming, aware virus … well things are going to get very, very interesting and puberty isn’t’ even part of it yet.

Six episodes total, not too shabby for a DVD collection. The story is really solid as it touches on so many of Iron Man’s famous and not such much so foes. The risk with this series is the turning of Tony to a teenager, but it works. Tony has issues from keeping his grades up to retain the company to his budding romance with Stane’s daughter Whitney. The only complaint about Tony is he feels more like Peter Parker at times. Not a bad thing especially when the final episode shows the darker side of Stark fins know and love. The feeling of responsibility for his father’s technology is also a nice deep story point that shows this series has a depth beyond what most viewers would expect from Nick. Translated, this means the series is great for fans of all ages. The voice talent is solid, delivers great emotion and really gives life to these … interesting looking characters. Tony and Rhodey exchange barbs as only true friends can and Pepper, well she has a personality to match her name. The opening theme is also catchy. The character design is reminiscent of the comic broken down to the teenage look but it’s not traditional animation, its computer animation and feels clunky at times. This is the only knock on this series as it feels like a cell shaded game from the GameCube.

Overall any fan of Iron Man should check out this series, either on DVD or online. The episodes are fun, full of adventure and the teenage setting works. Seeing the settings and villains of the franchise brought to life in a new light is a lot of fun, something the movies have helped to re-establish and comic fans should not miss out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Impression

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on DS
When link comes to play, as a kid or adult, gamers need to pay attention. His latest adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS, does not stray from this creed. What makes the Spirit Tracks is the train gameplay, explained a bit more below, but what’s not changed or lost is the Zelda magic that hooked so many of us at a young age. What’s to love about Link and Zelda’s team-up … lets take a look.

Gameplay – Two games in one and then some. Gamers get the typical dungeon crawling sword slashing, boomerang throwing adventure expected from Link but they also get a simplified train simulator. Well, maybe simulator is too strong a term but gamers get to upgrade and equip their train, used to traverse Hyrule, as they see fit and can set the course, change the speed and fire off weapons … even catch bunnies. At first the train may seem like a gimmick but it’s a great way to get around. The traditional dungeons and boss fights are back as are the selection of weapons and puzzle solving devices. This game requires thinking, talking and backtracking but nothing feels forced. Zelda joins the adventure in a few levels as she takes control of a suit of armor which Link must direct and work with in order to advance in the tower levels. There are tons of side quest typical of a Zelda title and plenty of heart containers to collect and this is only the single player campaign. Gamers can now buddy up and take on friends in a very enjoyable 4-player scrum with guardian armor thrown in.

Graphics – Simple, very simple. Spirit Tracks follows Link’s younger, much cartoonier, almost anime SD look. The graphics are actually one of the games weaker points as there are more impressive looking DS carts but when there’s this much content some storage power has to be scaled back. That being said the train levels look nice with expansive landscapes but overall it just feels very choppy at times.

Sound – Another area that feels very old school, but when it’s a lot of memorable Zelda tunes this is a strength. The music is not CD quality and weird beeps and blurbs make up the vocal cast but man oh man are these tunes nostalgic. For the newer, more recent scores, not too much to compliment but they do the job as BGM’s should.

Design – Excellent from the new train mechanics, puzzle solving with the Princess to the traditional feeling dungeon crawling. Bunny collecting, music playing, tower battle and more side-quest wait in a game that raises the bar for game design. Yes, it’s that good and that deep. Some of the best design is seen in the limited levels that require Zelda to join the fray, which gamers must direct a massive suit of armor while figuring out where to go. Puzzles and levels, worth the purchase alone. Utilizing the microphone for a new weapon that feels very natural (fan, blowing weapon for puzzles) and for the magical flute also shows that this design team really gets the DS and what it can do.

Miscellaneous – Zelda is a go! The game touts that Zelda requires not rescuing but for the first time she will adventure with Link and yes this is true but she has no body. So get this, Zelda does require a rescue, her body that is. The Princess’s displaced spirit sticks with Link and proceeds to talk his ear off at times and jumps into suits of Armor to assist link in getting the track maps. She feels a bit limited in her interaction but it’s a welcome change. The second item is the story as this is a Link who sets out to be a conductor and finds himself wrapped into a plot to unleash an ancient evil. It’s crazy and kooky but it works which is a testament to the games design.

Overall, a great game for young kids and the most grizzled vet gamer. The mixture of tried and true gameplay mechanics established back on the NES mixed with new features, touch screen and microphone features create a game that no DS owner should miss. This is what the pure joy of gaming is all about.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shadow Complex on Xbox 360 Impression

Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex on Xbox 360, a downloadable title, has ties to the 16-bit era of gaming but bridges the gap to the current generation in a downloadable package that any true gamer will enjoy for the gameplay experience alone. While this gamer has a preference for traditional games, ones purchased in retail, the amount of downloadable content cannot be ignored especially as prior generation titles make it into the digital realm. Shadow Complex does not fall into this genre but upon playing it gamers will feel that if this game out 1-2 generations ago it would have been a best seller. The reasons; lets take a look …

Gameplay – Shadow Complex takes so much of what was great about games like Contra and brings it into a new age for a new generation. Gamers run around, left to right, right to left, up and down, down and up … wherever through levels that feel like a distant cousin of Super Metroid. The levels break into grids as outlined in the on-screen map and besides running and gunning, gamers must pick the proper route. Go through a ventilation system with flashlight to avoid troops or go in with guns blazing. The quazi-linear pathing and insane boss fights are what make Shadow Complex such a great download.

Graphics – Better than most downloadable games with decent cut scenes and 3D-ish graphics in a 2D game, it looks really good. The use of light, the flashlight in caves, explosions, characters, weapons all looks really good. A bland description I know but this game is anything but and will entertain the eye and mind.

Sound – The voice acting is good but the lines are oh so cheesy. Background music is decent but overall the music experience is forgettable and does enough to serve its purpose. Weapons and explosions sound good and adds up to a sound experience that was created with today’s technology and does not sound as bad as some of the older generation of downloadable games.

Design – Levels are reminiscent of Super Metroid with various paths outlined in a basic map format. Running, jumping, swimming is all mixed into levels pulled from a spy/sci-fi thriller and are not bland or boring. The characters are generic but the boss designs are unique and again tie back to older titles like Contra. Well done on the level design.

Miscellaneous – Well it’s not the way to cheesy story, it’s gotta be the gameplay. Shadow Complex proves that the core of great gameplay will win out in the end, but it never hurts to have solid graphics, decent sound … and a story that is passable.

Overall, when it comes to downloadable games Shadow Complex is one of those titles that gamers just have to purchase. For the price it’s a slam dunk and the gameplay is so solid. After playing there is no doubt older gamers will remember the titles that made them love Nintendo, Genesis, SNES and PlayStation (to name a few) and for the younger generation of gamers you’ll see what solid gameplay without millions of bells and whistles is all about. One of the finest downloadable games of 2009 … actually of any year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Halo: Evolutions Novel Impression

Halo Evolutions

Halo: Evolutions, the latest Halo novel from Tor Press is like an expansion pack for fuller novels already released. These eleven stories are not meant to fill in the gaps of the larger plot points but rather they show different experiences during the Halo wars from the average marine to the iconic Master Chief. Knowledge of the fuller story is beneficial but won’t detract from the full enjoyment of this novel. The short stories break into four sections one which takes a look at the everyday troops, the next the Spartans, third Master Chief and finally one legend and one Covenant well after the conflict ends. Let’s take a look at each story.

Beyond – Think of this as level 1 for the novel. The stories contained cover some of the lower level characters, the grunts and regular troops in the Halo universe.
  • Pariah by B.K. Evenson – The story of Soren, a Spartan candidate with an unusual background and end results shows a depth and side of Dr. Halsey not often seen and also shows a side of the Spartan program never talked about. A great story of one who did not become all he was meant to be.
  • Stomping on the Heels of a Fuss by Eric Raab – The Brute society is, well brutal, and this isolated pack shows a side of the Halo universe that is gory and repulsing. There are worse things than being killed in battle, just ask the survivors captive to these Brutes. An interesting look into the Brute society and what they are capable of.
  • Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian by Frank O’Connor – If not for great sacrifice by individual marines how much sooner would the Covenant have found Earth? That question is answered in part in a story of an ambushed ship and one lone survivor who does his party to keep the Covenant away.
  • Dirt by Tobias S. Buckell – As one enlisted Marine, an ODST at that, sits dying he tells his story from his life on Harvest as a farmer to fights with Innies and then the Covenant and eventually a confrontation with his own. This story is excellent and shows so many levels and layers not touched on in any game and mentioned in many novels. This is the true grunt story not to be missed.

Acheron-VII – Two Spartan stories and one about the dreaded Flood. A step up in character profile and one this reader has been wanting as the stories and missions of the Spartans are so riveting.

  • Headhunters by Jonathan Goff – Two Spartans, one planet way behind Covenant lines and some good old seeking and destroying. The stories of the non Master Chief Spartans deserve telling and while they all may not end well seeing these incredibly powerful soldiers in action is worth the purchase by itself.
  • Blunt Instruments by Fred Van Lente – Speaking of Spartans this team of four finds themselves disrupting an entire Covenant fleet’s energy supply and their help comes from an unexpected source. From two to four, seeing a larger team of Spartans in action shows that the dynamics don’t actually change that much, it’s a well oiled machine of destruction.
  • The Mona Lisa by Jeff Vandermeer and Tessa Kum – This tale feels more like a Dead Space or Sci-Fi horror flick than a Halo adventure. The Flood is front and center and the fate of The Mona Lisa is revealed in a nice post-Halo story dealing with the remnants of Halo.

Icon – Master Chief and Cortana; need more be said? Two tales, one for each, both should be familiar to gamers.

  • Palace Hotel by Robt McLees – Like playing the first Earth level of Halo 2 but from a narrative standpoint. The best thing about this story is the play between Cortana and Master Chief and a little surprise at the end which gives a glimpse into John’s past.
  • Human Weakness by Karen Traviss – Gravemind vs. Cortana. She was broken down and stripped of so much of what she is but seeing how the battle plays out, not this is a well told story.

Connectivity – An interesting section as the story of Cole and The Return don’t share much in common other than they enjoy ability.

  • The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole by Eric Nylund – Told in a very unique manner this collection of mission reports, letters to family and speculation is an investigation into the life and mysterious end of the legendary Preston J. Cole. The universe is a big place, so big even a legend could hide if he wanted too.
  • The Return by Kevin Grace – This tale of a lone Elite Shipmaster is essentially the only true Covenant story. The greatest part of this story is the ending which leaves a very big question mark on ‘what if’ the Shipmaster succeeds in what he’s searching for? It could mean more games, novels, toys … the point is of every story this is the most open ended for the franchise a very interesting read.

Overall Halo: Evolutions offers some great story telling. The way each tale is told is reflective of the variety of players that have made the Halo universe so successful. From an enlisted grunts tale as he dies to the legendary Preston J. Cole, all angles are explored from the first Halo through Halo 3. Pieces of the game feel fleshed out, pieces of prior novels explained a bit more. Gaps are filled in, information revealed but it’s all done in a manner that stands by itself as a read, not needing to have the background. The few pieces of included artwork beg for coloring as they are pretty, oh so pretty.

Bottom line, Halo fans need to get this novel for its short and excellent stories that span the whole of the Halo universe from start to finish.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

StarCraft: Ghost Academy vol. 1 Impression

StarCraft Ghost Academy manga volume 1
StarCraft Ghost Academy volume 1 from Tokyopop is the latest entry in the line of StarCraft manga and like the recently released World of Warcraft: Death Knight, Ghost Academy takes a deeper look into the world, training and life of a specific character class in the series. The art is excellent, a mesh of East and West and the format, while in manga size, does not read in the traditional manga direction. Why should fans of StarCraft and Sci-Fi manga in general care? Let’s take a look.

The Terran’s most powerful weapon against the Zerg, Protoss and even in-race traitors are the highly trained, deadly Ghosts. Identified at a young age these telepathic capable youths are trained to infiltrate, disrupt and destroy as needed but in order to become such a fine killing machine they first must go through the Ghost Academy. The academy serves two purposes; first to train newly ‘recruited’ candidates and second to serve as a PR face, a picture of normal school life to alleviate the public pressure for so many abducted kids. One such candidate is Nova, a level 10 psychic, the most powerful. She is part of a five man Ghost team created to offer greater support in the field and also avoid a Ghost going rogue. Nova must learn to work with a team as well as adapt socially, something her past has made difficult. With team lead Tosh, Kath, Aal and Lio, Nova must prepare to become the Dominions ultimate weapon that is if she can make it through the Ghost Academy and infighting it carries.

We’ve already touched on a few points about this manga and its format. The cover is beautifully crafted by Fernando Heinz Furukawa and it continues into the book. The emphasis is on the characters as the background art is present when needed but not too complicated if present at all. The most detailed background seems to be of the metal corridor and ship variety. Each character is unique looking, no cookie cutter here and the style is a mesh of traditional manga with a more comic book look. Overall the art is really a strong point of the manga which leaves the story to look at.

Keith R.A. Decandido has created a world that does indeed feel like an academy with student grudges, drug additions, high scores and studying but this is a bit of an issue. The book cover hints at a shadowy institution, which we see a bit of, but for the first volume in this series it’s more Harry Potter than a military training facility. Each character is provided an adequate background in the larger StarCraft world and there is a foundation for the shadowy conspiracy background mentioned but just not too much in this first volume. Overall the story is off to a decent start as the characters, players and settings are established but where the series goes from here is a coin toss. Will it be more schooling as the title implies or will there be field action for Nova and team? These questions are why fans should check out volume 1 and check in for volume 2, after all the art is good and the world of StarCraft is always worth exploring more.