It’s a busy old gaming time at the moment. MMO-wise, I’m still on holiday; I’ve popped in to City of Heroes a couple of times since they announced it was to close, though I feel I ought to give it a proper good-bye, maybe one last run of the Positron Task Force or something. Guild Wars 2 is patched up, just in case the mood strikes, but it’s been Skyrim fulfilling my recommended daily allowance of fantasy questing.
There’s something of a tension, though, between my general meandering around the world, resulting in an overflowing quest log full of all sorts of interesting sounding things to investigate, and my slightly completist/OCD side trying to get everything ticked off. Even when absolutely determined to finish existing tasks before acquiring any more, it’s hard to avoid picking up a couple of new quests for every three you finish. Like both Morrowind and Oblivion before I’ve reached a sort of mid-point where there’s an awful lot I’d like to do still, but there isn’t a single thread that’s really got me hooked to yank me through, so it’s easy to get distracted by other things. Like Borderlands 2.
Borderlands 2 is a worthy sequel to the loot-spewing RPG/shooter of MOAR DAKKA original. As an operant conditioning chamber it’s incredibly effective, I almost subconsciously now run up to anything with a green light on it and hit the ‘open’ button, useful in the game for racking up stacks of cash, ammunition, eridium and gear, but quite hazardous when crossing the road at traffic lights. Crammed with pop culture references, I particularly enjoyed a three-way stand-off in a graveyard as part of “The Good, The Bad and The Mordecai” (no prizes for guessing which classic Leone film it references) (“Duck, You Sucker!”, obviously); it worked especially well to the sound of Short Change Hero by The Heavy, the song used in the introduction of the game, a gloriously Morricone-influenced piece that I went and bought and have had stuck in my head for the past couple of weeks.
Away from frantic gunslinging action, I’ve also been popping back in to a bit of Minecraft. I’ve seen bits and pieces about updates and improvements over the past year or so and keep meaning to check them out, but had never quite got around to it until Shuttler started talking about multiplayer servers, so I hopped on for a quick look around. Then, y’know, you have to have a quick dig, so grabbed a bit of wood, made a pickaxe… and then it started getting dark, so obviously you need to build a quick house, and pop a chest in it for storing things, and then a second level, digging down for coal, perhaps a quick mezzanine, oh and a wheat field of course, and then once you’ve got the wheat you might as well grab a few animals to start a farm, and… well, it’s like Yellow Car. Just as you never stop playing Yellow Car, you never stop playing Minecraft, it just happens that sometimes you’re not logged in to it.
With similar longevity World of Tanks has been kicking around for the best part of a couple of years, and I still hop in for a spot of armoured combat now and again. There was a big update, version 8.0, a few weeks back, overhauling the graphics and physics within the game; previously steep slopes had a sort of invisible wall that stopped you crashing over them, now you have to be a bit careful around cliffs. Not just at the top either, from force of habit on one map I was hunkered down at the bottom of a cliff, where previously I would’ve been out of the firing arc of anyone above, and got a rude surprise when an opponent plummeted down in a death-dive… I’ve got a few favourite tanks in tiers II, V and VIII that I mostly play, no real goals progression-wise for the moment, I might pick it up a bit more seriously when British tanks arrive in version 8.1.
In the meantime there’s another multiplayer update to Mass Effect 3, Retaliation, that’s just come out. It’s a pretty major overhaul, adding a whole new enemy faction in The Collectors, a Challenge system of some sort and Hazard maps with additional dangers, alongside the usual new classes and weapons. I’ve been firing up ME3 for the fortnightly “Operations” that set challenges with commendation pack rewards that offer you the chance to unlock Yet Another Rank Of The Sodding N7 Eagle Pistol. Some of the challenges (“Achieve full extraction in a mission in under 15 minutes”) are absolutely fine; others (“Achieve full extraction in a mission with all four players as the same non-human race”) are much trickier. Not so much in execution, but the matchmaker has no way to specify that you’re trying to complete these challenges, so forming a compliant team in the first place can be terribly frustrating.
I’ll probably be playing Retaliation for a couple of days as thanks to slightly irritating staggered launch dates we don’t get XCOM and Dishonoured until Friday in the UK. Though Dishonoured looks deeply splendid in a Steampunk-Thief–Deus Ex-ish sort of way, with all the other games around at the moment I decided I’d only pick up one of the two big new games at launch, and the pre-order offers swung it. Dishonoured has (roughly) 904 different pre-order variants at different retailers offering slightly different perks, items and what-not; XCOM has, as far as I can make out, the same Elite Soldier Pack pre-order bonus everywhere, apart from Steam, which thanks to a curious tiered pre-order reward system also chucks in some TF2 bits, and a copy of Civilisation 5. As, shockingly, I don’t have Civ5 (absolutely loved the first game, back in the day, but just haven’t got around to any of the sequels), I figured I might as well go for that offer, making something of a mockery of the whole “too many games” business, but never mind. I’ve managed about four turns of Civ5 so far and really want to take a proper crack at it, should enough time somehow become available.
In readiness for XCOM I’ve been finishing off a run through Silent Storm: Sentinels, an excellent turn based tactical RPG in the mould of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown that recently became available on GOG.com It’s good stuff even if, like in the original, things go slightly downhill with the appearance of Panzerkleins. I don’t think I’m ready for the Ironman mode of XCOM with no reloading, though, I’ve been saving quite a lot during missions. Mostly when using grenades. Confronted with a basement full of enemy troops, a grenade seemed like the perfect solution, but a slight error in trajectory resulted in the grenadier lobbing the Mills bomb into the head of his own comrade, from which it bounced off, then detonated, taking out the three members of my squad storming down the staircase, the staircase itself, and most of the hallway and kitchen floor above, resulting in two more of my squad ending up in the cellar rather sooner than planned, slap bang in the firing line of four rather cross Hammer soldiers. That’ll be a reload, then…
Time to re-think some strategies if you like grenades! One of the major complaints I have about the new X-Com is the lack of any kind of inventory system at all. In what can only be an appeasement for the console version there is no inventory! You can take a single grenade per soldier…..or a scope…..or a medi-kit. One extra item per soldier is it I’m afraid and if that wasn’t bad enough every time you blow a lot of shit up the Research people make a point of telling you to stop.
The game is fun, don’t get me wrong. I’ll sink loads of hours into it but I’ve never encountered a squad/turn based game with no inventory system. It’s very irritating, especially to a micro-managing player like me. This game really feels like it was made for the console.
No inventory? Tsk! Most vexing.
I am reminded of a scene from ages past that unfolded for a compatriot playing through an early Tom Clancy/Rainbow Six/whatsis game (I suppose the first) way back in the day.
Deep into a dangerous mission presumably revolving around the snuffing of terrorists, elite squad leader “Ding” Chavez assessed the arrangement of unsuspecting foes in the next room and ordered of his demolitions expert: “Filatov, grenade the room!”
One tactical moment later, a small, quite grenade-like object deflected off the side of the squad leader’s head, caromed off the door jamb, and settled on the floor between the squadmates.
It is in such a moment, when Death appears in all its possible clarity, and the ledger of his life presents its final summation in the fate at his feet, that a man accesses the choicest of curses.
Sounds like Filatov might well have been a descendent of my Silent Storm grenadier. That’s the problem with quickloading, it means natural selection doesn’t get a chance to work…
I never played the first but I cut class to play Xcom yesterday…the first time I blew something off to play a game since Moria.
The game is so annoyingly brilliantly fun…something mmorpg’s in their race to monetize in new and creative ways seem to have forgotten.
Xcom is my goty. Firaxis hit a homer for this gamer and thank god because I was at the end of my rope.
Good stuff! If the original turns up dead cheap on Steam or somewhere it might be worth checking out, be interesting to hear how it plays for someone coming from the new game. Interface is probably a bit clunky, though, and distinct absence of an in-game tutorial (go properly old school and print the manual for the full experience…)