31 January 2015

Our Enemies: The Grey Aliens

Who is out there among the stars? Are there aliens looking out there at our little point of light with weapons at the ready? In the realm of science fiction, aliens have long been the enemies of spacefaring man, and in this blog series, FWS is exploring the varying types of enemies that sci-fi has created. Unlike the previous Space Tigers Our Enemies blogpost, this is not going to be a normal alien foe, because of the subject matter: the Grey aliens. Some believe they are fantasy concocted by fever-dreams of UFO theorists and barely sane fiction writers, other believe that the Grey are one of several intelligence alien species that have been visiting Earth for centuries. Unlike killer space tigers from outer space or other science fictional hostile alien species, the Greys could be real, and they could be reading this blogpost...please don't abduct me and probe my ass!

Who the are these "Grey" Aliens?
One of the biggest mysteries of these supposed alien visitors is who they are. Of course, the internet's various UFO/alien websites have a vast arsenal of theories on who these beings are. When it comes to the Greys physical appearance, the UFO community is mostly unified. Ranging from 3-6 to feet in height, (mostly seen in the 4-5 foot range), weighting in at less than 100lbs, their demure appearance is dominated by those over-sized black inky eyes that appear cool and forbidding (remembers me of an ex-girlfriend of mine). Their heads are triangle shaped with a rudimentary nose and mouth, and are the largest portions of their slim hairless bodies. Speaking of their bodies, they are very small, lacking any clear muscle tone and/or sexual organs, and mostly are seen naked. Their skins has been described as "dolphin-like", and comes in a various amount of shades, ranging from blue to a grey to an orange-tan. Most reports state that these aliens do not communicate orally, but via telepathy, making them just that more alien. When it comes to where they are from in the Milky Way, it was the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill that shed light on their homeworld's location: the fourth planet of the Zeta Reticuli (39 LYs away from Sol), called Serpo by some reports.
  • The Slave-Greys= Some UFO sites contend that the Grey aliens are actually an slave race of the more powerful and sinister Reptilian species from the Draco star system. The Greys were created for the purposes of harvesting other species for their "negative energy" and have been called an "worker bee" to the Reptilians Some sources say that the Greys revolted and have forged an exchange program with human governments. They give us technology and we give them access to our population to extend the lives of the Greys. This slave grey race is dying...and they need to hybrid themselves with Terran DNA to forge a new species. Some point to the story of helpers to the gods of the ancient Sumerians as proof. 
  • The Good-Greys= these are the Grey aliens that have involved themselves into human affairs for thousands of years, and helped established human civilizations. Some have compared these good Greys to interstellar hippies that make crop circles and give visions to human, not anal probes. Some stories point to the Greys protecting Terra from an full-scale Reptilian race. 
  • The Eben Greys=In another version of the Roswell story, the US government made contact with the Greys via a reverse engineered alien device, and returned the lone survivor of the crash. It is these aliens that the American government made contact with, and forged an exchange program with that humans now called "Eben", after EBE. According to UFO lore, in April of 1964 at Holloman Air Force, an UFO landed, and 12 humans (10 men and 2 women) boarded the alien craft bound for their homeworld. This was called "Operation: Crystal Knight" or " Project Serpo". 13 years, eight out of 12 returned home to Earth. 
  • The Robot Greys=Given their lack of realistic appearance with no sexual organs, nonworking mouths, no ears, and being naked; that the Grey aliens are an robotic species. This is linked to the rumor that the Greys are an worker race to another species.

Why Are Grey Aliens Popular Foe?
Since the 1961 abduction of Betty and Barney Hill, the Grey aliens have been the face of the fearful phenomenon of alien abduction and the resulting terrifying practice of medical examinations conducted onboard their saucer ships. Abductees speak of brutal sexual trauma and their lack of compassion by these beings all adding up to a race that doesn't give shit one about the human race. This alone is terrifying, and speaks to humanity's deep fears of being treated like a lab animal.
These abductions sounds like grounds for these Greys being viewed as hostile and worthy of the label of a foe to humanity. We have to also examine their appearance as another a reason for the Greys being viewed as hostile. Larger heads communicate the superior intelligence, overshadowing humanity's belief of being the most intelligence species. Couple this with the Greys psychic abilities and communication with telepathy that are completely "alien" to normal human behaviors. While the Grey aliens may have some similar physical features to humans, it is the eyes that also communicate an inhuman and sinister nature. Those almond-shaped black-within-black eyes that greatly oversized are wells of darkness, and we humans often uses blacks eyes in horror movies to show a body possessed by evil. All of these factors equal to a design of alien species that is easy to fear and hate.

The Society of the Grey Aliens

Within the UFO community, there is some, all be it, limited information on the society of the Grey aliens. They often appear in groups, and since the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, there is known to be a "leader" figure within the group. Since they are naked most of the time in these reports, there is no ranking pins or uniforms, also Grey ships appear to be sparsely populated. With the rumors within UFO communities of the Greys being cloned or manufactured, it may be that they are void of any society as we humans understand it. The human military astronauts that went to the Grey homeworld Serpo in 1965 and returned back to Terra in 1978 under Operation: CRYSTAL KNIGHT, told of a aerid world with no money, a council of rulers, and every adult member of the world has a job. All needs are met for the individual by the society...so, the Grey are space socialists? While this is just one story, most lore on the Grey speaks of a lack of individuality, and that the Grey are a hive mind, and they are linked into a common consciences, like the Borg.  

The Military of the Grey Aliens?
When it comes to an alien species that is bent on taking over the world, we think of aliens with fleets of warships and armies armed with ray-guns...but in all of the stories of the Grey, the is nothing resembling a military organization or even a ray-gun. Is there an military organization protecting the Grey and their society? Certainly, there has been an attempt by video games, tabletop war simulations and books to conceptualize an Grey military, but it seems that is a work of fiction when compared to accounts in UFO lore. If the Grey are after something here on Terra, they are not sending down shocktroopers with ray-guns and armed flying saucers. Instead, they come into the night, and abduct humans for invasive tests and sexual trauma. Even in The X-Files, they use proxy forces to do their dirty work. One of the rumors in the UFO community is that Greys once waged a war with another alien species for 100 years, and by the use of particle beam technology, the Greys won the war, but lost their original homeworld. Today, they avoid contact with the other hostile alien races out there.

If They Existed...Would We Fight the Grey Aliens?
 If we are to believe the more sinister stories about the Grey alien species, than one day, if not already, war will result. Any race that would do such hideous experiments to intelligence creatures has a dark core and that alone would spell future off-world military conflict. However, given some of the abilities of the Grey aliens reported by abductees, like disabling firearms and altering time, they could be simply beyond us, and perhaps even beyond waging wars.

Grey Aliens and Popular Culture
Today, the Grey type alien is the archetype alien species in popular culture, and even people that are not interested in UFOs know about the Greys. I was surprised to learn that elements of the modern Grey alien can be traced back to the very beginnings of science fiction with H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, when he discussed an food alien species, similar in description to the Greys. The trend would continue with an 1933 sci-fi novel called The Unknown Danger by Gustav Sandgren that also described an Grey alien like species. By the 1960's, there were aliens matching the Grey species profile appeared in pulp-era comics.
While Betty and Barney Hill's abduction case is the first with typical Grey aliens, it would take until the 1970's before it would enter into the common conscience after the Travis Walton Abduction and Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, and be propelled even further with E.T. and Communion by Whitley Strieber. By the mid-1980's, the Greys were solidified in the public's mind as the face of possible alien life, and the Greys became the species that crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico.
However, it would take the adventures of Mulder and Scully to push the Grey aliens into the realm of pop culture celebrity. By the time of the summer of 1996, the Grey aliens were on t-shirts, on the air waves, in the bookstores, and Will Smith was punching them in the face at the cinema. You could go to the mall and see "believe" merchandise everywhere. Yet, like many trends, this one died off. However, this trend did planted a seed into the common cultural consciences that allowed the Grey aliens to become an enduring culture touchstone, and the face of life out there to millions of Terrans. Another element of the Greys featured in popular media is alien abduction. This common fear of things that go bump in the night, has allowed the Greys to be some sort of New Age boogie man that take you and do unspeakable medical procedures on humans being treated like animals. This idea has propagated into films like Dark Skies and the Fourth Kind, that are all designed to scare the living shit out of you...and it works.
Science Fiction and the Greys
Long before the Greys became the face of the UFO community, a form of these iconic aliens were featured in early science fiction, dating back to the origins of the genre with the stories by H.G. Wells, who envisioned Grey-like aliens that were enslaved by the Martians food. Grey alien-like beings have been seen since, including in pulp-ism comic books of the 1960's. However, some believe that the Grey Aliens of UFO lore are actually connected to the 1961 "Bellero Shield" episode that Betty and Barney Hill admitted to watching before their abduction.
After the Greys became more common in UFO lore and terrifying abduction stories, science fiction took notice, and soon Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind became on of the harbinger of the modern era of alien stories featuring the Greys. While science fiction and the Greys were at a slow boil throughout the 1980's, it would take The X-Files to propel the image of the Greys into massive white-hot popularity. Capitalizing on this, sci-fi creators turned out books, movies, and video games all with the Greys being featured. For a time, the world of science fiction would fully embrace the Greys and place them in a variety of works, most notably, 1996's Independence Day. Some works were genuine in placement of the Greys, others cashed in on the crazy, cheaping the presence of the Greys. Often, the Greys behavior and abilities were drawn from common UFO lore, and given a twisted by the creators. Soon, the Grey alien crazy was over, and popular culture moved to other things, and the appearance of the Greys would reached a normal level.


The Colonists from the X-Files Universe
The X-Files is mostly likely the best television show that will ever be done about alien UFO culture and lore, and their treatment of the Grey aliens is one of the better sci-fi stories of these EBEs, even though it is a mess. Unlike many other Grey alien stories, the X-Files told a story of alien beings that wanted our world, and worked along side a group of powerful humans, the Syndicate, to pave the way for alien invasion and subjugation. This was partly due to the complexity of invading an world the size of Earth, and the fear of nuclear weaponry on the part of the aliens.
While these humans were called collaborators, the Syndicate was actually buying time for the human race to develop a plan of resistance, namely in the form of a cure for the alien plague that was designed weaken the human race for colonization (or inflecting them with alien DNA). Part of the plan was develop an alien-human hybrid that could be a workforce for the Colonists, but in reality the Syndicate was using their time to develop an alien-human hybrid that could resist the virus and be the survivors of colonization. The actually Grey aliens of these series are rarely seen, and this is for the best, giving the X-Files a creepy air. Only proxy forces were mostly seen, like the alien bounty hunters and the successful hybrids. By the time David Duchovny left the show, the basic concepts of the Black Oil, the Colonists, the Project had collapsed under their own weight and the show never did show the exposure of the existence of EBEs to the public.

The Taar from Dark Colony 

Dark Colony is an military science fiction real-time strategy PC game from 1997 that has the player taking control of humans or the Grey aliens, called the Taar. According to the game, in the 22nd century humans have colonized Mars, and found a new energy source. With the new interest and upscaled development of the red planet, it is terraformed. During this, an dying alien race, the Taar, view Mars as a good homeworld site, and engage the human colonists in a desperate war for control. The Taar are one of the few video games to feature the Greys as an fighting force complete with warriors and weaponry, and not just mental powers. The few cutscenes that were available online give the Taar a creepy language and some cool designs. This game embraced two trends of the late 90's: Grey aliens and RTS games, but managed to secure a place in the hearts of some gamers. There are two endings. If the Terrans win, the Taar portal system awakes an underwater city. If the Taar win, they open a portal between their world and Earth, sending a massive invasion force. Thanks to Sefert for the tip on including this 1990's computer game to the examples!

The Sectoids from the X-Com Universe
In another entry in the RTS category that involves the Greys is the much celebrated X-Com games. Throughout the games, their Grey aliens are called Sectoids, and use psionic abilities to wage war along with some plasma DE weaponry. Drawing on some UFO lore, the X-Com Sectoids were a hive species that desired an human-sectoid hybrid for military purposes along with boosting efficiency of their own race. The species survives by cloning, and lacks sexual organs. While physically weaker than other races encounter by X-Com soldiers, the Sectoids have deadly psionic abilities and can mind merge to create a deadly blast. From the 1994 game to the most recent release, the Sectoids have been a mainstay of the series, but have been altered to fit the time.

The Maraduaring Greys from ID4
When released in summer of 1996, Independence Day, it was a massive success with a Grey alien like species at the heart of the story. I can still clearly remember seeing the biggest movie of that summer in Wichita with my-then-girlfriend Becky. ID4's warring aliens where an slime Grey alien type species hell bent on conquering the Earth. In the film, these Greys are an maraduring species that subdue worlds to harvest the natural resources before moving onto another world and more victims. These Maraduaring Greys were based out of an 500 kilometer wide alien mother ship that deploys a number of smaller ships to take position around the globe. When the time came, these Greys attacked the cities with massive laser beams of death, and sent out alien fighters with pilots in organic exo-suits. As we all know, an Apple Macintosh laptop saves the day, bring down the shields of the Mothership, and allowing the nearly pornographic orgy of fighters and over-the-top music. Cheepy toys of the organic exo-suit wearing Greys were seemly everywhere in summer of 1996.

The Grey Aliens from the Area-51 Game

In the lore of the is 2005 game, the Greys are from the familiar Zeta Reticuli star system, and were first introduced to humanity via the 1947 Roswell crash. It is during this that the Greys make a deal with the Illuminati. In exchange for an terrestrial base and access to humanity, the Greys gave humanity access to their technology. The Greys themselves were enlisting the help of mankind to develop a biologically weapon to end the war on their own homeworld. This virus research breeds the Thetas, an badass alien species designed for spreading the virus. While some elements of these Greys was original for the game, most is mined from familiar UFO lore, but the game was quite was fun back in the day.   
The Furons from the Destroy All Humans! Video Game Series
While this game series plays up the comedy aspect of the Greys with healthy doses of Pulp-era science fiction, it is a solid fun shooter with elements lifted from UFO lore. In the game series, the Greys, known as the Furons, use cloning to reproduce and things are desperate. The cloning material is running low and it could be that Furons will no longer be able maintain their superior nature. Your Furon character, Crypto-137 goes to the planet Earth to rescue captured Crypto-136 in the year of 1957. His other mission is to harvest human DNA that has been seeded with Furon DNA, ordered by his commander Pox. The series ran from 2005 to 2008, and garnered positive reviews, but it seems to have ran its course.

The Streibs and the Vree from the Babylon 5 Universe
In the B5 universe, there are several species that draw from the Grey: the Vree and the Streibs. The Vree appeared before I really started watching the series, and from the screen captures I've seen, the Vree have some laughable Special Effects on the show. This half-baked race were rarely seen on the show, but during the B5 lead coalition fleet, the Vree saucer warships can be seen. When I started watching B5, the episode "All Alone in the Night" was a standout, featuring the abduction of Captain Sheridan by the Streib. Named for the author Whitley Strieber, the Streib gathered intelligence on alien species for their clients. They were only seen on-screen for a few seconds, it is pretty clear that the B5 costuming department ran down to the local Spencer's Gifts for their Grey aliens. There is debate if the Streib where in the employment of the Shadows (it is heavily hinted), and the Shadows themselves have Grey alien-like workers as well, and could be enslaved Streib.

The Grey Aqua-Aliens from The War of the Worlds (2005)
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise teamed up to update the grand classic of science fiction: War of the Worlds. Setting the tale in modern day America, outside of New Jersey. it once again shows the deadly tripods rampaging across the globe and spreading the red weed. Spielberg abandon the idea of the cylinders and blowing up iconic building, and instead focused on a more personal story. The Martians this time were similar to the Grey aliens, but were tripods themselves and evolved from an aquatic environment. To help with their invasion, these aliens buried their war machines deep underground, and used lightning to get the crews to their mecha. This means that these aliens were planning the conquest of Terra for a very long time, and they waited until Terran civilization was at a certain level to spring their invasion. Some believe that they waited until we were at a certain population level, to supply enough food. This is contrary to most Grey alien lore, whereas these aliens were interested in humanity as a food source along with the planet as their new home...the red weed was one part of the terraforming process. Everything in these Grey Aqua-aliens world seems to be based on three's.

The Greys from Fire in the Sky
Back in 1993 a long awaited film adaptation the famous Travis Walton 1975 abduction was released and it scared the utter hell out of me. In the film, logger Travis Walton is abducted and taking onboard an Grey vessel. During his time, he is subjected to a variety of cruel medical experiments by this small aliens that say nothing to him. Instead of grey, these aliens area more reddish color with more realistic proportions.
While some of the film is close to the actual events, the filmmakers played up the horror of the alien encounter. However, they included one element that has intrigued me: the alien spacesuits. In the film, Walton discovers that the aliens use spacesuits for EVAs, and the suits resemble the classic Grey aliens. Could the aliens that people around the world have seen are actually aliens in spacesuits?

The Grey Warriors from Signs 
Showing the Grey aliens as more of warriors rather than intruders was the subject of M. Night Shyamalan's last good movie and one of his creepiest. The Earth is invaded by an alien seeking humans as food(?), but normal water is toxic to these Grey warrior aliens (why would they eat a species that is mostly water?). These aliens used crop circles to coordinate their attack, but their attack was repealed only after thousands of humans are taken. These Greys have natural weapons with thorns that expel poison gas and have a natural camouflage ability. These Greys are something very different that what has been previously seen.    

The Hive-Slave Greys from the Dark Skies TV Series
During the 1990's, when the X-Files was white-hot and the whole Grey alien idea was a pop culture item, NBC jumped on the bandwagon with their own X-Files show, Dark Skies. This alien-themed show was set in the 1960's, and ran for one season comprised of 18 episodes. The Grey aliens, or "the hive", of this series were plotting to take over the Earth through careful manipulation of historical events and important people. Unlike many other Grey aliens seen in science fiction, these Greys were enslaved, and hosts for the real enemy, the spider-like Ganglions that invade the brain of the host, controlling them. These creatures used the Greys as shell to further their own plots and plans to take over the Earth. It seems that the 10th planet in our own star system is the home base for the Hive.

Next Time on FWS...
While the oldest profession is prostitution, the second oldest is fighting for money. While the mercenary is an historic figure, it was an distasteful symbol of proxy dirty wars in Latin America and Africa. That idea of white professional soldiers serving the wars of Africa was recently shake off and replaced by the modern mercenary, or the private military contractor that served in the private military company in all manner of off and on the battlefield. Join FWS has we explore the topic of mercenaries and private military contractors.

27 January 2015

FWS News Feed: HALO ODST Book Coming in March!

At one time, HALO books were some of the finest works in new military science fiction literature. Seriously. HALO: The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund was one hell of a novel...HALO  or not. However, that is not the case today. The Forerunner trilogy was boring and suffered from not related to the central HALO stories that we fans cared about...The Thursday War was just okay. News breaking today may change that. It seems that for the next HALO entry into the world of literature will be centered around Orbital Shocktrooper Buck from the 2009 game. Gunnery Sgt Edward Buck, as we all remember, was voiced by uber-cool Nathan Fillion and modeled somewhat after Mr. Fillion's Firefly character of Captain Malcolm Reynolds. HALO: New Blood is being penned by Matt Forbeck and fills in elements of Buck's past and his future in the HALO 4 world. Yes, this does not take place in the Covenant War years. Pity. According to the publisher, HALO: New Blood is having Buck make a choice between retirement or helping in the SPARTAN-IV project. Of course, this news is on the heels of an upcoming remaster release of HALO 3: ODST as an apology to the fans for the fuck up with The Master Chief Edition. Author Matt Forbeck, who is known for penning an Guild War series book, has played through ODST twice and attempting to get the dialog correct for Buck...wonder if Matt is watching Firefly as well? I might read this because I've also loved the game, the character, and the ODSTs. Okay, back to work on the Our Enemies blogpost.

19 January 2015

Forgotten Classics: Battle Engine Aquila (2003)

Throughout the lifecycle of an video game console, hundreds of games titles are developed and published, all taking their changes among the other games on the shelves. Some will become fondly remembered, securing a place in video game history, much like HALO, Super Mario Brothers, and Tetris. Others will merely blip the gamers' radar and be lost on dusty disconnected shelves...doomed to a forgotten existence. In 2003, British game studio Lost Toys developed an transformable mech combat shooter set on an alien world at war called Battle Engine Aquila. Hopes were high for the title by the developer and the publisher: ATARI. This game was rolled on the original Xbox, Playstation 2, and the PC on January 20th of 2003, but failed to make an impact, and the title was quickly forgotten.. For this installment of Forgotten Classics blog series, FWS will be discussing this unique title in all of its 2003 glory.

What is Battle Engine Aquila?
With their first major game, Lost Toys developed a rather unique military sci-fi video game experience. This game can be best described as a hybrid of a shooter, combat flight game, with some giant robot goodness, topped with elements of an war strategy game and all wrapped up in a military science fiction theme. As Hawk Winter (haha), you pilot an prototype advanced war machine developed by the Forseti government called an "Battle Engine", and it can transform into a combat jet with limited flight ability and a GERWALKER multi-legged tank mode for ground combat.
Both feature unique weaponry to their mode and as the game progresses, you can choose from different Battle Engines loadouts for your style in combat. As pilot of the Battle Engine, you are often fitted into major island engagements between your Forseti allies and the enemy Muspell. Hundreds of units are in combat as you are sent in to alter the tide of the battles or accomplish a difficult special mission, and the Forseti need all the help they can get. In flight mode, your armaments are limited to two types as well as is your energy, which is burned off more quickly, forcing you to land. However, in GERWALKER mode, you are a metal green-blue god-of-war, casting judgement with your weaponry over the Muspell forces. If you are wise, you can change the course of the battle, and be the winning element towards victory.

The Plot of Battle Engine Aquila?
The planet of Allium is a desperate state, global climate change has melted the polar ice caps, triggering a massive flooding of dry lands, and wasting away the major cities. By the end, only a few islands were left on the surface of Allium along with two political groups that survived the apocalypse: the Muspell and the Forseti. The Forseti are more technologically advanced, who use green energy, and are governing over in a democracy, which is very much in deep contrast to their rivals: the Muspell.
The industrial dictatorship of Muspell have set their sights on the Forseti islands, and to accomplish this goal, the Muspell have cracking out war machines and genetically engineered soldiers from their dirty factories. They are greater militarily than the more peace loving Forseti. As the game opens, the Muspell are planning a major military operation to take Forseti lands as the Forseti are testing their new Battle Engine prototype mecha. Your character, Hawk Winter is a punk dock worker that conducts illegal races, and is drafted for his natural talent to pilot the Battle Engine, thrusting Hawk into a new war for the survival of the Forsteri  

The Historical Context of Battle Engine Aquila
2003 has been called the "year of sequels", and it was an important year for the Playstation 2 and the original Xbox. This year saw the release of Bioware's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic along with the beginning of the  mega Call of Duty franchise, and Xenosaga. Along with this, there was the release of sequels to notable previous titles like SOCOM, Time Crisis 3, Max Payne 2, and Silent Hill 3. This was also the apex of the PS2 and the Xbox lifecycle with quality games coming out on a continual basis, but the end was in sight, Sony and Microsoft were developing the next-gen consoles. We also have to remember that 2003 was the year that we got Dead or Alive...let that memory sink in. Yep, good times. During this period of gaming, there was a great deal less online presence and more time and energy was devoted to the single player experience, but is in a decline today, sadly.

What Happened to Battle Engine Aquila?

Given the fickle nature of the gaming industry and gamers in general, games either make an impact and give rise to sequels or they fade away to the resell shop with a few scattered fans raving on the internet. This was the fate of Battle Engine Aquila, fading away with a few fans, like me, fondly remembering this title and raving on sites like this one. ATARI tried hard with Battle Engine Aquila, marketing the title for success with playable demos on gaming stands at stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. In gaming stores, there was the arresting game art and posters, and this is how I was first educated of the game. Reviewers placed Battle Engine Aquila on "games worth waiting for" lists and when the game came out in January of 2003, reviews were solidly positive, with an average of 7 or even 8. However, the game had been delayed, and it was not shipped during the busy November/December release span, and instead was released in January. January was a bad month for games or anything, because of the Christmas exhaustion for consumers. Sales reflected this, and Battle Engine Aquila, despite the positive reviews, was unsuccessful, and prices dropped quickly. When I bought the game in 2004, it was brand new and more than half in original price.
Soon after this, the developer Lost Toys, closed their doors, and the title disappeared. Before the release of the game, Lost Toys had hoped that Battle Engine Aquila was going to be the first in a new franchise. Some of the game article of the time that featured Lost Toys discussing a sequel in the planning stages with Muspell having their own copy of an Battle Engine, and the possibility of an war strategy game based on the war between the Muspell and Forseti. This was the original concept by Lost Toys for the Battle Engine Aquila game, and would have been similar to HALO Wars.
Battle Engine Aquila Today
After the game was on the bargain shelves, and the next-gen home video game console came out 2005, gaming magazines and websites came out with their lists of the best games on the previous consoles. On these lists, Battle Engine Aquila was ranked in the 80's and 90's, and called a solid shooter title with interesting elements. This has helped Battle Engine Aquila from completely disappearing along with the internet and online articles (like this one). Battle Engine Aquila is like many of these lost and forgotten titles, remembered by few and forgotten by many.

Why is Battle Engine Aquila an Classic?
Sure, in the realm of military science fiction games on the original Xbox, MechAssault and HALO: Combat Evolved are certainly the more classic titles that are still fondly remembered to this day. However, there is something special about this game. Battle Engine Aquila stands out as a classic on the PS2/Xbox due to its originality and how it stood out from the crowd of games in 2003 or even today...only Yager was similar, and it was released only after Battle Engine Aquila. The setting is unique, the mecha itself is a bold organic design, along with the overall design of the world of Allium. All of these elements connect in the crazy battlefield action that can be had in the majority of missions. Even after my Playstation 2 was stolen along with my copy of this game, I still wanted to own it. When I finally decided to write this blogpost, and bought the game (again), I could still see why I enjoyed Battle Engine Aquila all of those years ago. Even in 2015, Battle Engine Aquila is still a fun game, and one of the lost classics of that era in gaming.

The Modern Mini-Review of Battle Engine Aquila
Due to the length of time since the release of Battle Engine Aquila, I decided that I would write a mini-review of the game. Overall, this game is a fun experience with a unique setting and a fresh take on mecha, along with little touches in design that make this game a standout, even among mecha games. The controls are good, the weapons awesome, and being in the middle of massive engagements is a very nice touch, along with the combined arms approach to both military organizations. During the game play, the game sings. Crushing massive amounts of Muspell forces, unleashing grenades while performing an "death from above" tactic is the great moments of the game and never get old. But, when the game attempts to further the plot, it stalls. The basic plot of an Muspell invasion of the Forseti territory is simple enough and should be enough. However, the game attempts to tell a larger story and the result is very mixed, due mainly to the awful visuals of these cutscenes and poor dialog.
While no 2003 game is going to look "modern", much of Battle Engine Aquila is good, especially while you are fighting, however, the cutscenes are terrible, simply terrible. The human characters are more simian looking, and despite this being an alien world, they use common Terran names and other touches that betray the alienness of Allium. At times, it seems that the developers didn't even try to make an effort with this alien culture. This is compounded by the bad dialog and lack of an engaging "story" within the settling due to a simple lack of writing. However, the single worse element of Battle Engine Aquila is the weakness of the Forseti forces, and their endless bitching about it. During the majority of battles, the Forseti relay too heavily on the Battle Engine and your skills at the controls to turn the tide of them giving dominated by the Muspell. Trained soldiers will start to bitch and whine when they fall under attack, and scream for your help. This rapidly becomes annoying, and without your aid, the Forseti military will fail, and you flunk the mission. Thank the Lords of Kobol that the gameplay is so much fucking fun and that for a fan of mecha, this is a refreshing take, or else I would be temped to join the Muspell and end their bitching permittely.

Next Time on FWS...
For the next blogpost here on FWS, we will continuing the blog series Our Enemies, and the subject will the Grey Aliens of popular UFO lore. As someone who grew up with an strong interest in ancient astronaut theory and UFOs, the Greys represent something is both fascinating and terrifying to me. In some works, the Greys are the benefactors to humanity and this view is backed up by some UFO theorists. But then there are other works and theorists that believe the Greys are malevolent and here to push their own agenda on mankind.  It is my hope that I am NOT abducted for blogging about this and be sure to watch the skies. Got my shotgun and a tinfoil hat at the ready.

14 January 2015

FWS News Feed: AVATAR 2 Delayed and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell?!

In 2009, no one expected that James Cameron's science fiction message movie with military sci-fi elements would be the largest grossing film of all time, and since the massive success of the film, Cameron has been discussing a series of sequels that will take place in the oceans of Pandora along with a rumored possible a prequel for number 4. News broke today that AVATAR 2, rumored to be called "The Lost Ocean", will be delayed until at least 2017. Why? Cameron and his team are writing three goddamn AVATAR films that the same time and it is taking longer than expected. Not to mention his work on the upcoming live-action adaption of Battle Angel. Cameron stated that he wanted the next films in the series to be of the same quality.
But, the real question is...does anyone still care? I make no secret that I really enjoyed 2009's AVATAR especially in IMAX 3D...if FWS had been around then, there would have been a massive review. I have since enjoyed the film in its extended edition on DVD,  and discussed its military science fiction aspects many times on FWS, but the window for a sequel seems to be slipping, Also, to me, the 2009 film feels complete with the story told and the elements were nicely wrapped up, and unless Cameron pulls an Terminator 2 out of his hat...the story of Pandora should be left as it is. After all, the environmental point made, the blue cat-people kicked the evil human imperialists off of their Ferngully picturesque world. Everyone wins, the studio and Cameron made over two billion dollars in global ticket sales, and we fans get an AMP suit toy (yes, I have one...okay two). However, If  there is going to be sequel, and if James Cameron is reading this, please put Michael Biehn in AVATAR 2!
In other news around the sci-fi cinema realm, her hottest Scarlett Johansson has been offered $10 million by Disney and Dreamworks to play in the western live-action adaption of the much beloved Ghost in the Shell anime. Mrs. Johansson will be playing none other than Japanese cyborg Section-9 super-cop Major Motoko Kusanagi. Some fans of GITS are calling it an "white wash" of the original material and that this film slated for an April 2017 release, to be rethought and recast. This white-wash charge was also supported by Asian-American community groups that would like to see the original character concept honored. Look, I think Scarlett Johansson is very talented, makes a convincing kick-ass heroine, and is Texas-Summer hot with a sin-inducing body, but she is not right for Ghost in the Shell. Of course, I wonder if an GITS live-action film is something that should even be undertaken.

10 January 2015

Ships of the Line: Medium and Light Cruisers

Much like some classifications of cars, some types of naval warships often get ranked by popularity. Battleships, battlecruisers, aircraft carriers, attack subs, and the kick-ass dreadnoughts are normally the most popular in media and some of the most revered naval vessels. Making these popular naval warships similar to Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Bugatti. This creates a difference between those red-blooded exotics and the normal cars of us normal people, like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and the Mazda 6. This also creates a difference between the very popular types of naval warships and the vessels were are talking about today: the light and medium cruisers. These type of cruisers are more common than the battleship or carrier, but are often overlooked, and are outranked in popularity by their own bigger brother: the heavy cruiser. In this blogpost in the continuing Ships of the Line serial, we shall be looking at light and medium cruisers.

What is an Light Cruiser?
During the heyday of warships around World War One and World War Two, there was a number different types of warships, and light cruisers were among these, rounding out the more popular Dreadnought battleship. Light Cruisers were classificated by the London Treaty of 1936 as an cruisers with 6.1 inch guns and were sometimes called "light armored cruisers" that were designed for speed, and not a naval slug-fest. The first of the light cruiser was the 1878 HMS Mercury of the Royal Navy, and the German Gazelle class further defined the light cruiser classification in the 1890's. By World War One, most Light Cruisers were under 5,000 tons and mounted six inch guns as the main armament. The 2nd World War was the last gasp of glory for the light cruiser, were the demand for warships was at fever pitch. However, once the war was over, the demand for these types of cruisers dried up, and during the Cold War, the missile cruiser and the Destroyer classes took over.

The Light Cruiser of Today's Navies
Sadly, there is only a single light cruiser still in active naval service as of the writing of this blogpost, the Peruvian BAP Almirante Grau. This warship was sold to Peru in 1973 by the Royal Netherlands navy. The BAP Almirante Grau was originally the De Ruyter, built in 1939 and commissioned in 1953. This light cruiser has been modernized several times during its service life in the Peruvian Navy. Why are light cruiser no longer in service? This is due to the change in modern naval surface warfare which is more dependant on aircraft carrier and missile cruisers, and not an array of cruisers and battleships. The traditional role of the cruiser can be fulfilled by the frigates and destroyers.

The Curious Case of the "Medium Cruiser"
In the history of naval warships, there are a number of different types of cruisers, but none are classified as "medium cruiser". However, in the realm of the science fiction, medium cruiser do exist, and they are often seen in RPGs and fleet simulation games...so what's the deal with the disconnect? It could be that medium cruisers grew out of ignorance of standard naval classifications by the creators, and the title "medium cruisers" sounded good to them. Also, it seems logically that since there is heavy and light cruiser classes, it makes sense that there could be an medium cruiser classes sandwiched in between the light and heavy cruiser classifications. Certainly,  Star Wars and Star Trek wargames were the ones that put these types of fictitious warships into the minds of future creators, and they soon riffed off these creations, like myself.

The Future Combat Role of the Light/Medium Cruiser Classes
In any "normal" sci-fi space fleet organization, the heavy and missile cruisers are the most respected and valved among the cruiser warship classification, while the lesser two (light and medium) are regaled to patrol duties and border security. However, like much of the cruiser classes of any space navy, they are flexible and able to take on a variety of missions. These warships would be a multi-role, being retasked for patrol, escort, flank security.
In peacetime, light and medium cruisers could be used for patrol duty, short-range science/exploration missions, and even escort duty. Some of these cruisers could be used a training vessels for cadets. Then there is another use of light and medium cruisers: the wolf in sheep's clothing. Given the attitude towards light and medium cruisers, it could be possible to use their diminutive status as an advantage. Light or medium cruiser could be used to conceal a naval experimental testbed project vessel. Much like the Star of Milwaukee from the Dynamo Joe comics or the USS Pegasus from ST: TNG "The Pegasus". 

Would There be an  Hard Science Light/Medium Cruiser?
While most science fiction fleet based war-simulation games occur in a soft science universe (*cough* Star Trek *cough* Star Wars), and there can be any number of warship classes with all manner of jobs. But, if we examine the real world with real rules set down by Newton and Einstein, would there be light and/or medium cruisers in our future? I very seriously doubt the existence of medium cruiser. I guess you could up-arm and up-armor an light cruiser of some sort of civilian vessel to be an "medium cruiser", but it would not exist as its own independent class.
I could see a light cruiser class of warship that was designed to be an inter-solar system patrol and first-responder warship to hostile actions and disasters. By design and limitations, the light cruiser would be bound to a solar system, unlike its longer range brother, the heavy cruiser. Light Cruiser could compose the bulk of the "coast guard" of the colonies. These would be a cheaper warship, lightly armed with a limited armory of smaller KEW/DEW systems, and be able to be serviced by local resources. When and if an military action was undertaken inside the star system, these light cruisers would be serve along side the expeditionary taskforce. I've read that light cruisers could be vessels assembled by colonies for their own defense from material left over from their colony ships.    

What is the Hell is the Deal with Star Trek and Cruisers?!
When one examines the bulk of starships in the Star Trek universe, they are mostly cruisers, especially in the Federation, but why? Being a former Trekkie, I can only guess that cruiser classes offer a flexible platform of an agency like the Federation's Starfleet, where their main aim is not a military organization, but one of keeping the peace and exploration. Plus, the word cruiser is not committal and does not sound immediately military or aggressive like an Dreadnought or battlecruiser. Most of the Federation ships in service are classified as "starships" to dilute the waters further, and even pressed, canon Trek sources simply say, "oh, they're cruisers."  Some of it has to do with the attitude of Trek to not be about conflict and space battles, but a hopeful vision of the future. It took FASA and other Trek wargames to further develop the Federation line of starships. Either way, there are a shit ton of cruisers in Trek.    

The Light/Medium Cruiser of Science Fiction
Like many of the ship classes discussed in the Ships of the Line blogpost serial, the majority of the light and medium cruisers found in science fiction are in RPG, video games, and the occasional mainstream work. While light cruisers were an actually combat naval vessel that since has all but disappeared due to the changes in naval surface warfare, the medium cruiser of sci-fi is all but fantasy. Often the light and medium cruisers are used as fast attack elements of a space navy flotilla or as protection for more critical vessels, like space carriers and troop transport. Some RPG and video game players I know used these types of smaller warships similar to chess pawns, using them to push the offensive line and test the plans of the enemy.
While they compose most of the bulk of any large space fleet taskforce, these lower classification of cruisers are seen as unimportant and expansible. I often used light and medium cruiser as flanking units while my larger heavier warships engaged the enemy vessels. I won several Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator engagements with that tactic, but I lost much of my Reliant and Durrett class cruisers in the process. This is not just in the realm of Star Trek, but also in other works, and the smaller cruisers often are the foot soldiers of the fleet, and languish in the shadows finding little respect, while their bigger brothers, the heavy cruiser get the starring roles.     


The Republic Consular class Light Cruiser from the Star Wars Universe
Can you say, all style and no heart? The weakass Republic Consular class light cruiser was a symbol of a different time in the galaxy prior to the rise of the Sith and the Clone Wars when the Jedi and the Republic were still in power. This Corellian Engineering Corporation built government staship were designed specifically to transport Jedi and Republic personnel to hotspots around the galaxy in the spirit of solving intergalactic crisis peacefully. These were painted in the red hue of their diplomatic immunity status, and were lightly armed, if at all. In a crisis situation, these Republic cruiser could be used as neutral ground in negotiations with specialized salons, meeting rooms for all types of environments. After the Clone Wars broke out, the Consular class light cruiser was retrofitted for combat duties, from troop transport to being a frigate.
The Cruisers of the Citadel Council Members from the Mass Effect Universe
Cruisers are the defined as "middle weight class combatants" in the allied navies of the Citadel Council member races, and the Alliance Navy and the Turian cruisers were considered the "infantry" of any naval flotilla. These cruisers are mostly in the 500 meter length range with light armaments and are mostly used by the navies for patrol and security for the larger and more expensive Dreadnoughts. Losses of light cruisers were heavy during the Battle of the Citadel during the first Mass Effect game, and during the all-out Reapers invasion, Cruiser class warships were slaughtered.
When Shepard is attempting to make her way through the wreckage of Alliance HQ on Earth, an Systems Alliance light cruiser attacks an Reaper ship with little effect. This speaks to the ability of the light cruisers of the Systems Alliance Navy to be dual-atmosphere, and is could be used in planetary operations. All of the Alliance Navy light cruisers are named for Earth cities, but oddly, there is no class name known of these cruisers.

The Federation Constellation class Light Cruiser from the Star Trek Universe

One of the few Starfleet classes of starships seen in TNG that speak to the "in between years" spanning from the movies to TNG is the Constellation class light cruiser. This class was based around a modified saucer section from an Constitution class heavy cruiser, and was an "cheaper" design by Starfleet Operations and the production staff of TNG. This class of light cruiser was designed to be an short-range explorer vessel and serve as an light cruiser in military operations, which was rare in those years.
During military operations, the warp nacelle pylons could be mounted with twin torpedo launchers, allowing for the shaky class of starship to be an artillery vessel in a taskforce. As per most of the Starfleet during the Dominion War, these old vessels were pulled out of mothballs, and placed on the secondary line of fighting, as patrol and early warning vessels. Of course, the Constellation class came to fame due to the Stargazer mission under Captain Picard. This is one of the Federation starship classes that was different in the FASA RPG manuals and other more official publications. Some of these was design related, there was a difference in opinion about the role of the ships and their numbers. In the non-canon FASA ST:TNG Officer's Manual, there was 126 Constellation class built, but less than ten were construction according to the Star Trek: The Magazine.  

The Federation Saber class Light Cruiser from the Star Trek Universe
This is one of the more odd designs of Federation starships, and it very much of the modern Starfleet design that grew out of the bloody Battle of Wolf 359 and the continued Borg threat. The Saber class light cruiser looks different from the dorsal and side views. From the side, the Saber class looks more like some sort of large shuttle, and not in the typical Federation starship design. However, from the dorsal view, the Saber class was more compact, and reminds me of the old Soyuz class, an subclass of the Miranda class, this is more dramatic from the angled view, especially with the forward mounted shuttle bay. It is uncertain what happened to the Saber class during and after the Dominion War, but we do know that the class served during the war, and it suffered along its brethren

The UNSC Halcyon class Light(!) Cruiser from the HALO Universe
The first official class of UNSC Naval warships seen in the HALO universe was the massive Sulaco inspirited Halcyon class light cruiser that was seen in the original 2001 HALO: Combat Evolved game opening scenes. That vessel was the Pillar of Autumn and it was the vessel that escape the slaughter of Reach and carrying Cortana and the Master Chief to the discovery of the  first Halo ring. The Halcyon class was classified by Bungie as a light cruiser despite being 1170 meter long and 414 meters tall, and containing enough UNSC forces to mount an ground and air assault on Installation 04 against the Covenant. In addition, the Pillar of Autumn was heavily armed with an MAC cannon, Archer missile pods, and a number of 60mm point-defense cannons.
I was seemingly unaware that the Halcyon class was an light cruiser, and during a recently replay of the excellent HALO: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition over the holiday, I was shocked at the resources, size, and abilities of the Pillar of Autumn, and the rest of the Halcyon class for only being a light cruiser! I cannot believe that the Halcyon class is a light cruiser in the minds of most sci-fi fans unless the rest of the UNSC Navy has some seriously huge warships other than the common Charon class frigate. My guess that these vessels were misclassified by Bungie due to ignorance.    

The Klingon K'vort class Light Cruiser from Star Trek Universe
Since ST likes to create mottoes for their starships, the K'vort class should be "Necessity is the mother of invention", because its entire existence is owed to the lack of SFX budget on TNG. In one of the best TNG episodes of all time, "Yesterdays Enterprise", the alternate future Federation and Klingon Empire are at war, and for the studio to pull of the ship-to-ship combat scenes in the episode with the added expense of constructing the "C" Enterprise, the studio recycled the familiar Bird-of-Prey class scout, and renamed it the "K'vort" class cruiser. According to later information, the K'vort class was a larger, combat-minded variant of the familiar and smaller B'rel class scout, and was christened a light cruiser. This would allow the studio to pepper the old Bird-of-Prey ship in any episode that required a Klingon warship. This new aggressive and fast light cruiser was developed to fill the gaps between the old D-7 and the new Vor'cha class "attack cruiser" in the Klingon fleet.
During massive Klingon naval engagements, especially at the battle of Deep Space 9, the K'vort class was the rapid assault element, operating in packs. The speed of this small warship was to offset the unpowered shield grid and the light hull armor. When an enemy was able to lock on to the K'vort class, they were taken down with minimum effort. This factor made the K'vort class the assignment of newer warriors to the fleet, and/or warriors in disfavor of the high council. It is believed that the K'vort class is the most produced Klingon warship in service to their fleet during the 24th century. In the real-world, the K'vort class light cruiser was a creative answer to a familiar porblem on sci-fi TV shows: money. It is believed by Trek sites, that the K'vort class represents the majority of appearances of the Bird-of-Prey model in Trek shows. Since there is no really difference between the B'rel and the K'vort classes, they often referenced to as just "the Bird-of-Prey class".

The Imperial Strike class Medium Cruiser from Star Wars
To most, the Fleet of the Imperial government of the Star Wars universe, is comprised of Star Destroyer class warships and TIE fighters. However, there were other warships in service of the Empire, and one of the best was the Loronar constructed Strike class medium cruiser, coming in at 450 meters and armed with turbolasers and ion blasters. These vessels can carry a company of soldiers, some AT-ST and AT-AT walkers with some TIE fighters. During the reign of the Empire, the Strike class medium cruiser were patrol vessels and rounded out Imperial Fleet taskforces. While the Star Destroyer class was heavily expensive, the Striker class was cheaper and easy to produce, making it a common sight during the days of the Empire.

The Federation Centaur class Medium Cruiser from Star Trek: DS9
During the devastating Dominion War in the Alpha Quadrant from 2373-2375, the Federation was desperate to put starships on the frontlines. Losses had been great due to the Starfleet's philosophy of being an agency of exploration and not a military organization. During the war, the powerful Dominion had shown them the error of their ways. During the operation to retake Deep Space 9 space station and control the Bajoran Wormhole, Starfleet needed all ships, completed or not, into the fray. 
The Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards above Mars responded with a motley kitbash of medium cruisers, and one of them was the temporary Centaur class. This medium cruiser classification was armed with the normal array of phasers and photon torpedoes, and the vessel was assembled out of parts from the Excelsior class battlecruiser and possibly the Akira missile cruiser class, and  it was christened the "Centaur" class medium cruiser. During the Dominion War, Centaur class medium cruisers were on the line, and filled in the gaps in the Federation naval taskforces. It is believed that after the war ended, these kitbashed classes were disassembled.       

The Narn Regime Th'Loth class Light Cruiser from the Babylon 5 Universe
Given the budget of the Babylon 5 show, there was a limited amount of CGI starships that could be seen on-screen. The Narn Regime mainly used the excellent G'Quan class heavy cruiser, but if the starship combat computer game, Babylon 5: Into the Fire had been released by Sierra, than we would have seen more starships of the Narn, including the Th'Loth class. After the Narn were able to repel the Centauri Occupation, they attempted to get a fleet into space to defend themselves from another threat, and the Th'Loth light cruiser was one of the first. The only element developed by the newly formed Narn Regime was the shell that housed alien technology, from the weapons to the hyperspace drive, the Th'Loth class was a symbol of the Narn turning their enemy's weapons and tools against them.  

The Federation Steamrunner Class Light Cruiser from the Star Trek Universe
Here is a funky little design, and one of the more interesting Federation starships in a long time. The Steamrunner class light cruiser that was developed for the Battle of Sector 001 scenes in Star Trek: First Contact, and it was just another class of Federation starship in the chaos. Alex Jaeger at ILM developed the Steamrunner class for the movie, and was named for a song from the Fold Zandura band (never heard of them personally). After the Battle of Wolf 359, Starfleet Operations had to replace the losses and develop new ships in case the Borg came back.
While ships like the infamous Defiant class escort was underdevelopment, Starfleet Operations also saw the need for replacing the aging Miranda class light/medium cruiser class, and the Steamrunner was developed for that purpose. However, the vessel was called "ugly", and Starfleet Operations preferred the much more beautiful Intrepid class heavy cruiser. One element of this oddball class that is debated is if its an "heavy frigate" or light cruiser. The DS9 Technical Manual clearly states that the Streamrunner class is an light cruiser. In the Star Trek Armada game, the Steamrunner class is used as a long-range artillery vessel armed with tricobalt torpedo.

The Federation Norway Class Medium Cruiser from the Star Trek Universe
After the revolution of CGI SFX and the lower of costs in using these in productions both on TV and in the movies. This created more Starfleet starships began to show up on-screen, and the Norway and the Steamrunner were both forged out of the computer and not the model shop, both by the talent of Alex Jaeger. Once again, the Norway class medium cruiser was born out of the devastating Battle of Wolf 359 and the Borg Threat. Originally, the Norway class was designed to replace the aging Miranda class cruisers, but that aging vessels served along its replacements during the Dominion War.
The Norway class medium cruiser was first seen in the Battle of Sector 001 in the Star Trek: First Contact, and it had an powerful phaser beam emitter on the dorsal bow, and was seen used against the Borg cube. This class was used throughout the Dominion War, and it is possible that Federation designers took the inspiration of this class from early smaller Starfleet starships that were in use prior to the Earth-Romulan War.

The Federation Miranda class Light/Medium Cruiser from the  Star Trek Universe
During the days when there were few official canonized Federation starships, the Miranda class cruiser was one of the few, and had a starring role in the best Star Trek movie of all time. This caused the Miranda class to be a favor design among wargamers, comics, and game manuals, and the ship became known by a number of names. This caused the Miranda class to be shoehorned into the TOS time period. Officially, the USS Reliant was a member of the Miranda class medium cruiser, however, the FASA RPG listened the class as the "Reliant", and the noncanon 1991 Ships of the Starfleet: Volume One, there are several classes based around the Miranda base, including the Avenger and Knox, and some of them are light and medium cruisers. Most of them are different classes based on the "roll bar" used or if there is one at all.
Since the formation of Starfleet, there have been Miranda class type cruisers populating the ranks, like the 22nd century Intrepid class and the 23rd century Anton class. During the refit of Starfleet during the 2270's, the Miranda class was developed and became a fixture of Starfleet and Federation Space. While Starfleet wanted to replace the Miranda class cruiser during the 24th century, the Dominion War caused the Miranda class to be saved and put into another conflict. However, by the end of the war, the Miranda class survivors were few, and this was the last duty of the old lady.

Next Time on FWS...
In the next installment of the blog serial Forgotten Classics, FWS will exploring a hidden lost gem on the original Xbox and the Playstation 2: Battle Engine Aquila. This was 2003 mecha first-person shooter developed by the British gaming studio Lost Toys and published by ATARI. While the game was given solid reviews at the time, and placed on some of the "best of" lists for the PS2 and Xbox, the game was a commercial flop, forcing the closing of Lost Toys. I decided it was high time FWS cover one of my favorite titles on the original Xbox, so, I got onto Amazon, ordered a copy and dusted off my original Xbox for some retro fun.