Xcom 2! a review of sorts!

Xcom 2 was the second game I was really excited for last year. Fallout 4 being the other. Well, it launched, and as expected I lapped it up. Here follows my thoughts on the game. Please be warned, it contains spoilers of sorts.

Pace.

From the outset, its obvious that for this game you’re on the back foot. You’re hounded from the word go, have inferior tech, and lower numbers. I’m not one for playing on easiest difficulty, but not enough of a tactical genius to play it too hard. From the word go, I was losing a trooper every mission. This made me sad, because I thought my tactics were perfect… but in hindsight, I think I was used to blowing the snot out of everything with a fully kitted out group. Splitting the group turned out to be a bad idea. Everything was frantic. Missions, over-world, research. Instantly I was hit with “Aliens have an end game, here’s your doomsday clock…” It really turned the thumb screws.

Research.

In the first (of the new versions) Xcom, you could be sneaky. If you researched the suggested topics, the game moved along, things got tougher, and you were hit with more varied beasties. If you ignored the recommendations, instead focusing on armour and weapons… you’d get the upper hand, and be ready for the tougher missions when you finally researched the recommendations. That doesn’t work now. didn’t stop me from trying though. My doomsday clock was four bubs from complete when I realised I couldn’t do the missions I needed to without researching the recommended trees. I’m still convinced that theres stuff I didn’t research. Things I may not have recovered or unlocked. In fact, whilst writing this, I’ve just had a text from my brother, saying he got a Blaster Launcher last night. God damnit, I want want a zing zing boom.

Engineering.

Thank god for the new engineering stuff. I bloody love it. Making something once, then having it available to everyone? yes please. using engineers to boost rooms in the base? Definately. Making drones that can act as engineering staff? Awesome. I also love the variant stuff you can make. different armour types, ammo types etc. Someone at Firaxis played far too much long war, and it shows (this is a good thing).

Psionics.

In previous games (all the way back to the originals) I’d have a troop completely psi-trained. They’d all be good at other stuff. Full on colonels, with amazing aim and will. They’d also be able to take over an alien with a snap of their fingers, and send them charging back against their friends. This time though, its a choice. You can either be a sharpshooter, grenadier, specialist, ranger OR psionics trooper. Not that this is a problem, just means properly balancing your troops. With six slots available, it basically means you take one of each, and a spare class. This extra for me was either a specialist or a ranger.

Classes

Guess I should have done this before Psionics, but… I love the new classes. They each feel ridiculously powerful, with sufficient options to twist them to your path of play. Rangers melee attacks are amazing, and if you spec them right, you can open up by charging in and stabbing someone. Then as everyone breaks away from you, you get a free stab on each of them. Couple this with Killzone for the sniper (oh god, the sniper…) and you can wipe three to four aliens in a single attack. The sniper though… Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to death. Every sniper has squadsight now. Meaning the best use of a sniper is at elevation, tucked away with view of as much of the map as possible. This is convenient, because this is how I’ve always used them. Delve into overwatch squadsight, killzone, and some other lethal fun toys, and you’ve got someone who can clean up nicely. Speaking of cleaning up… Specialists have a nifty drone now. This isn’t your standard ‘oh god, now I’ve got a robot that takes up a squad slot, and is pretty crap’ xcom drone. No, this one hacks from afar, heals team mates, provides cover to teammates, and (I’m told) can damage enemies. I wouldn’t know that last part, because all mine were specced to pop out, resurrect a fallen friend, heal them, the protect them. All while the specialist is shooting shit too. I’ve always had a problem with Heavy Weapons troopers. I don’t know why. Perhaps its their smaller movement range (rocket launchers are heavy!) maybe its the fact that they’re carrying a rocket launcher that can’t fire from one end of the map to the other? Maybe its that gatling guns really aren’t accurate? However, grenadiers sorted this out. With trees that helped boost the damage of your colleagues. allowed grenade salvo’s, and generally effed things up for the enemies. I always wanted one along.

Tech.

I’ve already mentioned the awesome drone. But thats not all the shinies we got. We can now upgrade weapons with mods. Generally these are found on a single alien in missions, though you can also pick them up from the black market. Things like 1, 2, or 3 free reloads. Extra rounds, better accuracy. a chance of not using an action when firing etc. These mods are awesome. But, guns aren’t the only mod-able thing. Now there’s new armour options too. Yes you have your bulk standard armour types. (starter, improved, and awesome) but each of the upgrades has variants too. cut down with grappling hook, or heavy with built in weaponry. add to this the variable type of vest worn underneath, and you can get some pretty amusing (in a ‘hell yeah, you can’t keep me down’ way) combinations. Oh, and don’t get me started on the different types of explosives and ammo.

Aliens.

What xcom game would be complete without horrific beasties? Xcom2 doesn’t disappoint. straight off the bat you’re up against sectoids again. However these aren’t the same stunted kobold-healthed individuals. You won’t be one shotting these (at least, not just yet). Oh, and worse, these guys can mind control straight out of the gate. Fuckers. Sectoids got buff. Then we have Mechs, advent troopers, and snakemen. Why do mechs and troopers have that extra shield against their health bars? Oh, thats extra armour that detracts from every hit. Balls. And Snakemen can yank you across half the map and constrict you? This doesn’t seem fair. Then, suddenly, buff Mutons, Beserkers, and Faceless. All horrible. Though the Faceless immediately took me back to Xcom Terror from the Deep. I couldn’t remember if they were beasties in that? But its ok, I worked my way through them all. Tactics evolved. I was finally on top of them. All that was missing now was Floaters and Ethereals. Floaters appeared. They’re also buff now, though renamed and reskinned. (and bloody evil). Thats ok, focus fire on them, and all will be well. whats the worst that could happen? Whats that clanking sound? why does it sound like someones walking around in a robot the size of a bus? Oh, look. its a robot the size of a bus. Welcome to Sectopods. The aliens answer to ‘how much is too much?’ It goes on like this, each time you think it can’t get worse, it does. Crysalids, Giant metal balls of psychic death. Replicating cyber creatures. They outdid themselves.

Over-map.

This is where it fell a little short for me. I loved the idea of flying round in a giant base. I liked the idea of connecting with different resistance groups. But I was often hit with 4 or 5 different things I needed to focus on, to gather supplies, inventory, intel etc, and all while being constantly interupted with missions. It felt very messy. I would have preferred being able to send troops out or agents out to gather. Someone that would stay on that mission rather than needing to resubscribe to it each time I finished a fight. The doomsday clock was a nice touch, but to be honest it meant I was constantly focused on completing the game. There wasn’t a period where I could just sit back and enjoy the fighting without thinking “I should be taking down facilities and moving towards end game”.

End game.

This also felt a little off. It was staging area after staging area with preset mob numbers per room. I wouldn’t complain about this normally, but it felt very safe once I’d beaten each room. I had no qualms about using full movement to get everyone into position for the next room. Line everyone up, reload guns, step the ranger into the next room. Reveal enemies. Kill everything. Rince and repeat. The last room was admitted a bit of a challenge, though I’d saved all my healing specials, and explosives for this one, knowing it’d be tough. Making it 3 Psionics to kill rather than one single extended the fight a little, and I did spend a few rounds with some mind controlled troops. But the end game mission didn’t panic me anywhere near as much as some of the retaliation missions did. The end reveal though… It confirmed my thoughts on some of the new mobs, that I’d seen them in TFTD, and that we’d maybe be seeing underwater missions in our future.

So I’ve ‘completed’ it now. Which is just slang for ‘now I’m going back to play it again’. Did I enjoy it? hell yes. would I recommend it? hell yes. Are there things that could have been better? a few. Do I want to see what people come up with using the mod tools? Yes, yes I do. Only, lets avoid the people making dick monsters.

The perils of a fun game.

Fallout 4 has come up once or twice on this blog. I hope I’ve given the impression that I enjoy it.

I checked recently, and I’ve clocked up around 80 hours of gameplay… Thats a lot.

When I first played through Final Fantasy 7, I finished it in 75 hours. At the time, I figured it was the longest time I’d ever spent on a computer game.

For someone who’s not partaken in an open world Bethesda game before, they’re HUGE. The play world taks a very long time to traverse from one side to the other. Everywhere in this world are side quests, interestin locations, and bastard bosses that want to kill you, corrupt you, or eat you. sometimes they want to do all these things.

Because of this, I’ve not followed the main quest properly yet.. I’ve one bits but then Builing safe settlements happened then companion side stories, then. Well, I’m quite high level, and thought I was tough but the game keeps throwing new things my way

I’ve not watched my tv shows in weeks..

Weekly routines

I’ve spent about half of my adult life glued to a PC. It certainly explains my pasty skin. These days though, I try to do more than log in to an MMO for a few hours then sleep.

My week (until a week or so ago) was as follows.

Monday night. Shadowrun group online (Roleplaying)

Tuesday night. (Every other week, D&D at a semi-local pub. I say semi-local, it’d be 20 mins away if I drove, but by bus its easily double that)

Wednesday night. DM a session of D&D with friends/family.

Thursday & Friday. Catch up with the weeks TV.

Saturday & Sunday. Play games with my daughter, play games by myself. Watch any leftover TV from the week.

Now, however, Fallout 4 has launched. This seriously wants to eat into my TV time, and pretty much my sleeping time too. I’m going to have to be careful it doesn’t eat into my everything else time too!

 

Last night was Wednesday though, and that was roleplaying night. I’m running a campaign with my old group (<Waves> just in case they’re reading) I’ve run campaigns previously, but as I’ve aged, I’ve found my game style has changed. In my old sessions (around 20 years ago!) It was all about having the Players being powerful, wielding powerful artifacts, and beating the snot out of fearsome beasties. Now though, I’m finding its much more fun to grow their power. watch them develop as they level. Enhance their back stories by dragging bits of them screaming into the campaign, and linking them together in ways they hadn’t yet thought of.

This week started the third adventure. The first two were action packed, and pretty much on-rails to get everyone involved and having fun. They fought beasties constantly, and danger was never more that a dagger away. This week though, they started up in the home of a friend of the family of one of the characters. He was sheltering them from another of the noble families, who wanted to see them stand trial for something that wasn’t their fault. The Lady of the house, together with half the servants had done a runner, blaming ghosts in the house. The idea of the mission is for the players to find out what’s going on.

I’ve written pages of notes for this adventure, because I know I’m going to need them. However its not a straight forward one to run, because outside of a few hints, the investigation is down to the players. Its not as simple as “make an investigation roll” because where’s the fun in that?

Some of my planning fell into “use these phrases in conversation, but don’t overuse them”. About half my verbal clues got picked up on, and that made me happy. Currently the players are secretly discussing things behind my back, trying to work out who killed the previous inhabitants. Were they human? vampires? Did the Butler do it™ Its all making me very happy.

So far though, not a single death. Lots of roleplaying, and surprisingly they’ve tried to loot their hosts house. Oh well, I suppose old habits die hard.

New game smell.

I just started my post with “When I was” again. I think someone should shoot me.

We have a sort-of running joke in my family. Well, between my brother and I. Its around the smell of plastic/freshly printed manuals that you get when you open up a new game for the first time. To be honest, it probably smells exactly like it does every other time you open the box, but to me it smells of New Game.

With the advent of download services like steam, I rarely get discs for new games. Mostly they just magically appear from the internet, and we speak nothing more of this wizardry.

Yesterday Fallout 4 released. I stated that it wasn’t really worth getting the collectors edition, because the Pipboy would be used once, then left on a shelf to gather dust.

Seeing everyone opening their big chunky containers though, I’m starting to think maybe I missed a trick there. Maybe I missed the new game and pipboy smell… instead downloading the game the evening before release and waiting on activation.

A friend mentioned to me yesterday, that the game had had some mixed reviews. He was saying people were accusing it of being a bit tired, and too similar to the last version. To those people, I’ll say this.

Fuck off

There, I’m done 🙂

I love Fallout 4. I’m struggling at the moment, because I know I could spend my entire time setting up my settlement, making sure its perfectly set up, with everything as it should be. I also know I could be out doing side quests, earning xp, and boosting my skills/stats. And I also feel I should be searching for my baby (who was stolen from me whilst I was put into cryo sleep. Seriously, what a bunch of anus’s… Anii? anus’? pooholes!

I’m a bit torn as to what I should do. I’m also a little worried about taking my dog with me everywhere… He’s a bit dumb (as dogs often are) and will happily go charging into danger to protect me. Generally though, the danger hasnt spotted me hidden from view, and Muttface gives me away.

I’m loving the game, but I’m struggling to organise myself enough. So for now, I’ll just salvage this building, oh, and this tree, oh, and this burnt out wreck.

And with November, comes a loss of time.

November each year, Game publishers everywhere start to publish their big titles, ready for the Christmas period. Lets ignore for a second that with online purchasing, most people don’t need to go out and buy these games in advance now. What this means to us though, is that when November hits, not only do I have my birthday to look forward to, but also a release of big name titles.

This year though, two stick out. Two games that are pretty much going to wreck my sleep cycles, and eat in to my dreams.

The first of these, is Fallout 4. Heres the trailer, I’ll still be here after.

watched it? Good.

When Fallout 3 launched, I hadn’t paid much attention. Sure, I’d been aware of Fallout and Fallout 2, but hadn’t really been paying attention back then, as I was too addicted to Xcom. My brother purchased the Limited edition set for me, as a birthday present, and suddenly I had this game I didn’t know much about, and was a little unsure what to do with. Being a dutiful brother, I loaded up the game, and instantly realised I’d need to be using an HD cable, rather than the composite cable my Xbox had. 15 mins later, HD cable plugged in, I started to play. The game crept up a little on me, and while playing I could see Cal eyeing it.

This was November 2008. Since then, I’ve completed fallout 3 about 4 times. Its follow up, Fallout New Vegas I’ve slacked a little on, and only completed 3 times. In itself, this doesnt sound much. However,  each playthrough probably took me in excess of 40 hours. They’re both big old games. Cal, and my younger son have also put a huge amount into these games too. My son is completely invested in fallout lore also. So when Fallout 4 hits, this house is going to grind to a halt. I was thinking about taking the week off, but that may be a bad idea. Routine is probably needed to ensure the kids get fed.

That said, the second game launching at the same time would kill me. Remember how I said (a few lines up) that I wasn’t that interested in the earlier version of Fallout, because I spent all my time on Xcom? well… three years ago, they relaunched Xcom. It hit just before my Birthday, just as I was due to have an operation to remove my Gall Bladder (It was being a bastard). I played the shit out of it. Initially I played through on the Xbox version. then I purchased the PC version. I’ve just checked. My steam account says I’ve put in 153 hours on that game. Bear in mind I completed it on the xbox first. Since then, I’ve also purchased the Android version, and completed that one several times too. Its the perfect game for a train journey.

Xcom 2 was also due to launch in November. However, I’ve just found out its slipped to Feb 2016. I guess I get to eat in November after all. That said however, I’m still excited as hell at this. I think between the two games, I was more excited for Xcom 2, and this way, I get to spend February locked in a room somewhere, killing aliens.

I mean, how good does that look? I can’t wait!

 

 

Fallout Shelter

Whilst yesterday I mentioned that there was a long wait for the games I’m looking forward to. I forgot one of the small titles that escaped my Notice.

Fallout 4 was announced a few months ago (Dont worry, this wasnt the small title) and within the announcement, they also announced (and released on iOS) Fallout Shelter. I don’t have an iOS device myself, but my better half does. I borrowed it a number of times before I realised I was better off holding off, and waiting for it to be released on Android. It was either this, or continue to steal her phone for several hours at a time.

So after building a medium sized vault, I put the iPhone down, and walked away.

Today, Fallout Shelter hit the Google Play store. I’ve downloaded the app, run out of battery, and downloaded an Android emulator.

Lets see, whats the best way to describe the game?

Fallout shelter puts you in the role of a vault overseer. You manage the day to day running of the vault. You make sure enough people are working in the power plant, providing electricity. You make sure enough people are purifying water, and you make sure theres enough food. Once you have the basic resources in line, you start adding medkits and radiation kits into the balance. then training rooms, and it carries on from there.

Its free to play, with no “buy stars to complete things faster” mentality. The only in game purchases are lunch boxes, which basically give you free gear, and the possibilty of extra characters. These lunch boxes are available in game too. the purchase ability is just for those who want more, straight away.

 

I know I’m going to spend too much time, playing a ‘pointless’ game, but something about controlling the lives of several hundred vault dwellers appeals to me.

You can find the app at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bethsoft.falloutshelter

 

FalloutShelter_ScreenShot

 

PC & Console games? meh.

I’m a bit gamed out.

I should probably clarify that a little more, I guess.

I’ve entered a ‘meh’ phase on computer games. I used to state that I wouldn’t buy games and leave them to rot, every game I purchased would be played, or at least tried. There are currently 67 games on my steam list. Its a small list when compared to some I guess, but I’ve played (for at least an hour) over ninety percent of the games.

I think my downfall happened when I started getting humble bundles. That said though, I’ve at least tried some of them. I was pleasantly surprised by Deux Ex Human Revolution. Yes it was very much an on-the-rails shooter, but it was enjoyable enough. Thief, on the other hand, I found quite dull. I guess it depends on my mood, but I’m not really a stealth gamer (unless I’m playing fallout).

All that said, though, I’m struggling to find anything that I really want to play at the moment. I’ve several games on the go, but none that scream “Play me! you’ll not realise its 4am, and work is in 4 hours!”

I’ve spent my quota of gaming time on MMO’s (its no secret if you’ve read my older posts) But even they have paled for me. ‘The Secret World’ is one I often return to, if only to run a mission or two before logging off. However, I’ve never really been that interested in the end game. Its a real shame, because I’m finally in a Cabal (guild in any other game) which carries out raids and nightly dungeon runs. I just don’t seem to have the interest that I did before though.

In World of Warcraft, we’d do dungeon runs each night, and Raids twice a week. It just doesnt appeal though at the moment. I think my issue is that there’s no new big MMO, and all the people I historically played with have moved on to other things.

That said though, I’m starting to interact more on other things. Board games, and pen & paper RPG’s have made a resurgence. It’s still a struggle to force myself to leave the house, but if I’m out for work anyway, I can almost trick myself into going.

I think that may be the secret to socializing for me. Tricking my brain into not knowing what I’m doing till I’m there. It’s a good thing my brains stupid. I can get away with murder*.

 

 

*not literal murder… honest.

Stepping back through time.

Its 1999 (roughly) and I’ve gone out and bought my first PC. I’d made a mistake that I wouldnt recognise till several years later, and bought a ‘future proof’ PC from PC world. It was a Pentium PC, a whopping 133 mhz processor, with a 6 gig hard drive, if I remember correctly. It had a 33k modem, which meant I could connect up to the internet. Something I’d heard friends mention. I used it mainly to post bad jokes on message boards, and help myself through final fantasy 7 when I got stuck. One of my dastardly ‘friends’ and my brother were trying to convince me to purchase a game called Ultima Online. I was resisting, because I knew I’d be hooked, and couldnt afford the phone bill it’d entail.

I tried it.

I was hooked.

First phone bill after was 400 quid.

Shit.

Two years later, Approximately. I’m contacted to say that cable modems are trialing in my area with Ninex. who later became Cable and Wireless (who later became Virgin). Did I want to upgrade, and get a 512k connection? Duh…

First thing I did, was download an MP3. it no longer took ten to fifteen minutes. It was done in about a minute. I was amazed. Gaming on it was blisteringly fast. I ran circles around everyone else in UO.

Two years later, and I’ve moved on from UO. I’m playing DAOC now, and my main machine was a 500Mhz processor. the Hard Drive was around 40 gig. We’d upgraded to a 1 meg line. Patching the game from scratch though meant we’d leave the PC on over night, and hope for the best. patching could take around 24 hours. this was for a 3-4 gig patch. We tried not to reinstall often if we could help it.

I’ve just rebuilt my PC, and I’m reinstalling The Secret World. its got a 10 gig patch. started the patcher off ten mins ago. It reckons it’ll be done within the hour. God bless technology. I’m just going to sit and play games on this thin screen I’m holding in my hand, that has 3 times the processing power of my computer from ten years ago. It doesnt have a massive 19 inch screen that could kill a person, nor does it while like a helicopter taking off.

Sometimes I forget I’m living in the future.

We are VR (sorry, the 90’s want their theme tunes back)

This month (November) was my brithday. Often, as my birthday approaches one of three things happen. Either I’ve an idea of what I want, and we get it, I’ve no idea what I want, and my wishlist from Amazon arrives, or we’re broke, and we put off my gift for a month or so.

This year, we fell into the former camp, and we ordered an Oculus Rift DK2. (DK2 stands for 2nd Development kit). In 2015 I’m sure they’ll release the final product, and pricing will probably be the same, or a little less. However I didn’t want to wait, and its incredibly shiny, so I’m glad I didn’t.

In nineteen ninety something-or-other (probably 1993) We visited the local laser tag place, and they had two new VR machines set up in the lobby. You could play an arena game against a buddy, and navigate around shooting each other. It was cutting edge graphics… and looked something like;

hqdefault (1)

I can tell you’re blown away with the graphics!

I sucked badly at it, and lost the game to a friend, who NEVER beat me at ANYTHING!

I aslo felt rather queasy, and resolved never to use it again.

21 years (bloody hell) later, and I’ve bought my own VR rig.

Being a dev kit, theres not a huge amount of games with out of the box support for it yet. Halflife 2 has support for it. Valve specifically modded it for Oculus Rift support. Alien Isolation was developed with it in mind, but they removed the settings just before shipping. Some clever buggers re-engineered it, and it works pretty well with it. Too well some may say. (Its bloody pantswettingly scary).

Theres a huge pile of demo games to try too. Lots of rollercoasters (the queasiness is there again) and arcade style shooters. All good fun, but the best demo I’ve found is a star wars space combat game called “The Battle for Endor”.

You pilot your Xwing around, shooting down TIE fighters, and blowing up bits on a star destroyer, before finally entering the incomplete death star, and blowing up the reactor. The game, in itself is fun to play, but when you work out that you fly the ship, but can look around while doing it… At one stage, I was flying over the trench , and couldn’t quite make out a detail. I leaned over to my left, and looked over the edge of the x-wing. Then, I realised what I’d done. Its something you’d do if you were actually flying it, but wouldn’t expect to be able to do it in a game. It was amazing.

A game that I hadn’t even considered trying with the Rift, was Minecraft. Some Dev’s had already modded the client to output to the rift, so I grabbed it, and started playing. It added a whole new level to the game. Not only do I build higher ceilings now (2 blocks high was never a proper height) But I also listen a lot more for monsters. You never want to turn around to find yourself face to face with a skeleton…

I’m very impressed with the function of the Rift, and can’t wait until more people start developing with it in mind. For now, I’ll keep building away, and watching out for creepers.