Yesterday I took advantage of a Steam sale to pick up The Bureau: XCOM Declassified and I’ve been playing it quite a bit. That said, I think I’ve almost beat the game and it’s only my second day of playing it.
I’ve noticed a few things about the games construction – mainly, it’s built with obvious inspiration from other games. Aside from the direct connection to the XCOM series and the obvious stuff that comes with that (Sectoid, Muton, Sectopod, Silicoids that don’t look like anything I’m used to, Laser and Plasma weaponry, the Vigilo Confido logo), there’s definite influence from Mass Effect (a squad of three people with different abilities and you can choose the two who go with you, as well as the dialogue wheel), but I’m also seeing a bit of Batman: Arkham Asylum in there (pretty linear storyline with a set progression of things you get to make your job easier) and a touch of Assassin’s Creed (mainly the later games where you can send assassins out to do odd jobs). The third person perspective is also evocative of the Mass Effect/Batman/Assassin’s Creed influence.
I’ve got a few small problems though. The main issue I have is that everyone seems to know what everyone else is talking about. It’s like everyone agreed to call the enemy communication network Mosaic, including the aliens. One of the major bad guys is named Axis. There was an Elerium-115 mine on Earth (which is a surprise to me and probably Doctors Shen and Vahlen in the XCOM Enemy Unknown game). Instead of this being a quiet background invasion, it’s full scale (as far as we in the United States know) and it feels… not rushed. Like, you have the time to walk around the base and talk to people and there’s no real sense of urgency except in the missions and even then I basically take my time. Much like in Mass Effect, every fight is kind of easy to predict since the battefield will be littered with cover objects. Oh, and the dialogues don’t seem to be scripted properly in some places… for example, the person you’re talking to will say one thing and the response just won’t fit right. Maybe that’s just me being weird.
A lot of things were nailed down pretty well. Combat is fairly robust (wish grenades were easier to use), the squad command system is pretty fluid and straightforward, the abilities do exactly what you think and tend to ignore terrain restrictions in a good way when it really matters (the sniper critical strike goes through terrain but turrets have to be placed properly). The guns feel powerful and the ammo is plentiful.
A note on the weapons: I like the looks of them and stuff, but why do the aliens have laser weapons? XCOM designs them in Enemy Unknown. I shrugged my shoulders while I played, but still. Also, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough difference between weapons, and for that matter, the backpacks you get. Seriously, I got the Guardian Pack that lets you have more ammo and (I think) do more damage and I haven’t looked at any other pack since. They’re too spread out, the ones you find in the field, and they’re not significant enough. Mainly, my issue is, I have a problem with not seeing numbers or quality comparisons between items and it makes it difficult to care about the different pieces of equipment. I know this was released for consoles, but at least you got some ballpark comparisons in Mass Effect 3 when you were equipping a different gun or swapping out an armor component.
Oh, and why don’t we have some body armor? That’d be cool. Maybe medkits for the support soldiers? I’m just spitballing here really.
I remembered the early work they were putting into the game when it was supposed to be during the 1950s and mostly happening in suburbia (shifted to the 1960s in the final product) and I’m seeing all that stuff still there. The black globs are Silicoids, the big dish thing that shoots lasers was actually a boss for a stage, and the stuff leaking out of peoples faces and the like is some sort of alien disease they’ve put in the water supply. Pretty awesome seeing that now after seeing it way back during the initial development.
Anyway, I’m enjoying the game and I’m looking forward to playing the Hangar 6 R&D DLC later. I really hope someone revisits this model for the XCOM franchise, mainly because being able to walk around in my own base ala wandering the Normandy in Mass Effect and talking to people on my team is really freaking cool. All the throwbacks to the TBS XCOM games like calling the helicopter you use the Skyranger and the experimental ship you’ll use to take the fight to the aliens the Avenger. Pretty sweet.
Until next time!
P.S. BTW, the voice actors for some Mass Effect characters are also in The Bureau. Namely, Brandon Keener (Garrus Vakarian) and Courtenay Taylor (Jack). No quote this week because I can’t think of anything super relevant.
I feel like I’m in the groove of balancing schoolwork and gaming right now. Further, I’ve pretty much got a good grasp on some of the idiosyncrasies of Windows 8. I need to figure out what to do about my formerly weekly vlogs. I lost steam when school started and now I’m not sure what to do.
I’m very close to the end of Mass Effect 3 right now. I keep getting distracted by other games though. A little Mechwarrior Online here, some Diablo III there, a touch of Batman: Arkham Asylum…
Last night I was up late playing Minesweeper of all things. They added this neat adventure mode where you’re a guy digging through some catacombs or whatever and you collect gold and so forth. It’s really neat and I’m impressed by it.
A note: I’m constantly befuddled by people’s perception of gamers like myself. For example, a friend recently was astounded to discover that at my age I’m still playing computer games. Why would it be strange? I still play with LEGO occasionally, why not games? I dunno, that’s just a recent thing (read: today). It’s almost like I’m expected to be glued to the TV or something for my leisure time. Please, I have to be DOING something, not just being passive. Admittedly, I do watch a lot of videos on YouTube, but a fair number are ones that inspire me to go do other stuff or encourage me to think.
Just something that came up today.
At any rate, I feel very comfortable with my mechanical Terra now. Not only does she help with my homework, but she works flawlessly to keep me entertained. Almost like the real one did.
Until next time!
P.S. “Welcome to the madhouse, Batman! I set a trap and you sprang it gloriously! Now let’s get this party started.” – The Joker, Batman: Arkham Asylum
As you can tell from my scientifically derived title, I’ve come up with a rather rudimentary scale for action games that shows a spectrum of difficulty for me. If I may, allow me to define a few things first, and then the scale.
So, the action category contains a wide variety of games. Just looking at the Steam Store, I can see: Scrolling Shooters, First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters, Action/Adventures, and even some Role-Playing Games. I mean, case in point, on Steam right now are 22 single-player games with a metascore of 90 and above AND are under $20. Here’s that list:
Battlefield 2: Complete Collection
Call of Duty
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Company of Heroes
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Grand Theft Auto 3
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
Street Fighter IV
The Longest Journey
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Unreal Tournament 2004: Editor’s Choice Edition
Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition
Now, ignoring iterations on the same game (because there’s not exactly an appreciable play difference between some games and their sequels) we’re seeing a few different types defined as action. You have your third person shooters in Splinter Cell, first person shooters in UT, Quake, BioShock, and a few others, there’s the sandbox third person shooter/RPG in Grand Theft Auto, a platform beat-em-up in Street Fighter IV, and… I don’t know enough to say anything about The Longest Journey, but I do know the graphics look a bit funky (it was released in 2000, so I don’t really know).
So, I made that list to make another list… here’s my spectrum of action games that I find fun, interesting, and captivating all in order of the difficulty it provides for me:
Mass Effect Series
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Assassin’s Creed series
Splinter Cell series
These four games/series share many common mechanics and are all third-person with varying levels of environmental navigation, puzzle solving and so forth. For me, I think when Mass Effect landed in my home it became akin to catnip and I never wanted to stop playing it (my first run through the original Mass Effect was so thorough that a second playthrough later that month actually put me to sleep, but ME2 didn’t have that effect on me because it was more action oriented – something that Steam doesn’t really notice and has put the original Mass Effect in the Action category, but not ME2, which is odd considering the faster pace of the game). Assassin’s Creed requires a certain level of skill and drive to complete each game and contains a variety of methods for handling every fight and navigation puzzle thrown at you. Batman is some sort of hybrid between Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed in the way that you can navigate the world in pretty much any way you want, you can fight however you wish, and (unlike Assassin’s Creed) you can beat the game in rather quick order thanks to having a lot of free time and three days (tops).
Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed, being made by Ubisoft, are exceptionally similar in gameplay. Hell, if you look at Prince of Persia too, you can see all sorts of things being used between the three games. Prince of Persia aside though, Splinter Cell is a more difficult Assassin’s Creed. For one, you can’t just walk out in the open in Splinter Cell and expect to survive your stroll across the room and for another, Splinter Cell is a stealth-based game that relies on you solving puzzles through a judicious application of stealth and stealth-based kills whereas Assassin’s Creed relies on you solving puzzles by using a judicious application of terrain negotiation and any weapon that comes to hand. Further, as Batman contains stealth mechanics and the ability to track enemies, the Splinter Cell connection is obvious here.
However, I did point out that my scale was built on difficulty for me to play. Mass Effect just came easy to me. I pick up science fiction based worlds very quickly (but I’m a big fan of that sort of stuff and there isn’t a lot of really truly good sci-fi that gets made into a successful gaming franchise). Batman was one of those games where I played it on the console, didn’t do too well, ignored it for a while, then on a whim picked it up via Steam and beat the crap out of it in less than three days. Easy, but I did have some issues with certain fights and the game really did a good job of creeping me the hell out.
Assassin’s Creed games have always been difficult for me. I’ve never actually finished the original all on my own (it was too slow paced and a lot of the side quests seemed kind of frivolous to me). I have finished the second installment and I’m about halfway through Brotherhood (even though I know how it all goes and so forth). Assassin’s Creed bridges the work/play dynamic a lot. Sometimes I just suck at the “being publicly stealthy” mechanic that AC has and it frustrates me and forces me to put the game away for a few months. Likewise with Splinter Cell. SC is a case of “too much stealth” sometimes. If you screw up once, you’re done for, whereas in AC if you screw up once, you’ve got a good chance of recovering from your mistake.
I greatly appreciate the four franchises I’ve outlined above in my spectrum. They cover different periods, different genres, and take different approaches from each other (more or less) while maintaining a high sense of self/world. If I had to pick, I’d take Mass Effect any day over the others, but I’m silly that way. I’m quite happy ME3 is coming out in March (reportedly) as I dunno if a 6th playthrough of ME2 would be capable of sating me again. Further, now I’m looking forward to even more the release of Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Initially, I’ll just watch my friends play those last two, but once Steam gets its paws on them (and runs a sale of sorts possibly) then I may indeed jump in.
Until next time, keep enjoying awesome game experiences!
P.S. My playthrough of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic continues! Considering that I’ve spent 30 hours playing it before, it’s going to be quite a few videos if I intend to finish the game and post it all online. Something like 180+ 10 minute videos. Sheesh, at least I’ll have plenty to post! Should keep me busy through the very near release of The Rise of Isengard expansion for LOTRO and the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic.
P.P.S. “Experience needs distance and what you write of at a distance tells not so much what you were like as what you have discovered since.” – David Wade