Holy Crapola! Wild West XCOM? That’s a Backin’

Check out this Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1752350052/hard-west

How damn cool does that look? XCOM wildwest, with HOMM overland map? Oh god yes. Just check out that gunfight!

And the mechanics they’re espousing:

The combat is fast. The whole combat encounter takes no more than 5-10 minutes. It’s short, bloody, and decisive. All it takes is one well laid shot. It’s just not that easy to put yourself in the proper position.

No peeling off HPs. HPs represent the ability to withstand a shot or two, alternatively to sustain a powerful blow.

There’s little randomization: you either make good predictions and good decisions to land a kill, or you die. There’s no victory without risk, but it’s a well calculated risk.

BANGBANGBANG! Look at ’em go! I’m a backer. Maybe you should be too?

Last Day Steam Summer Sale

It’s the last day of the Steam Summer Sale, so if there were any deals they’re back and this is your last chance. Here is a list of games that are on special, and if you don’t own them yet – SHAME ON YOU.

(all prices are AUD. Click to jump to Steam.)

Tomb Raider – this was an amazingly good game, now only $5

The Stick of Truth – It lived up to the hype, now $37

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – One of the greatest games ever made for $13. Steam is crazy.

Civ V – the crowning jewel of the Civ series… and that’s saying a lot. $13.50

State of Decay – An amazingly fun, and unique, take a zombie apocalypse. It is a bit rough here and there, but for $5 it’s a bargin.

Banished – An extremely fun and challenging city builder. Nothing like starving a fledging village of outcasts during the winter! $10

Payday 2 – I’ve been getting a LOT of mileage out of this game. Get a crew together for an fantastic co-op experience that has great theme, depth, and RPG-like elements. You’ll get many hrs for your $6

Stanley Parable – I’m not going to try and explain this one… but for $6 you really should try it to see what all the fuss is about.

Batman: Arkham Origins – It was missing a little something-something from the other Arkham games, but it was still worth sinking 22 hrs into. $7.50

Dragon Age: Origins – A good RPG, you’ve probably heard of it. I go against the grain and claim the second was better. I mostly suggest this one now, because the upcoming Inquisitions is looking really good so for $7.50 you could catch up on the “story so far.”

Wolfenstein: The New Order – Just a straight up fun FPS. Captured “Wolfenstein with modern computing technology” really well. A-grade fun here, boys! $40 (expensive, I know, but that IS 50% off.)

Portal 2 – Who would have thought they could improve on the original? Well they did! Play it now. With a friend is a good option too. $5

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – a standard multiplayer FPS with a easy-to-use-hard-to-master melee system. Plenty of fun to be had here for $5.

XCOM Enemy Within: Everything You Want From DLC

I think before I dive straight into a review the new XCOM offering, I should clear a few things up. For the purposes of this review, and preferably for all purposes everywhere, the following needs to be defined:

1. It’s DLC. A lot of people are calling it an expansion, or are unsure what to call it. Make no mistake, the only reason people are leaning towards calling it an expansion is because of its price. It’s a lot more expensive than people expect for DLC; trust me though, it’s worth it.

2. So that means, the game is XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but if you play with the new stuff it’s called XCOM: Enemy Within.

With that out of the way, and my final conclusion spoiled, on to the review.

One of the reasons I wanted to clarify it was indeed DLC is so you know what to expect. That is: The exact same game from last year, just with tons of new stuff. This is great news! Last year’s XCOM was a triumph and I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it may just have been the greatest game ever made.

It would be close to my favourite game of all time, but even if it doesn’t take my number #1 spot it was a polished, technical masterpiece that simultaneously revived an old classic while maintaining modern mechanics, while ALSO thrusting turn-based strategy into the mainstream. As if that wasn’t a long enough list of accolades, it ALSO blended strategy and tactics  practically perfectly. Something I don’t think I have ever seen before.

So broadly-speaking, the gameplay is identical. You start with a couple rookies with assault rifles fighting weak aliens and work your way up to veterans wielding converted alien technology battling robotic behemoths and mind-melters. The differences are in all the new bells and whistles.

It’s hard to state which is the most significant addition, but certainly one of the top runners has to be the plethora of new maps. There is the long sort-after farm maps, as well as skyscapers, and plenty of twists on old classics: The service station, the convenience store, the woods, the cafe, the construction yard, the highway, etc. They’ve all got alternative, well-designed layouts.

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One of the other significant additions is a new class. Called a “MEC Trooper” it’s essentially a procedure where you amputate a soldier’s head and give them a robot body. The class they USED to be gives them a passive of some sort, and after that it’s fairly similar to any other class. Fairly  similar, not identical. They can’t carry items – instead as you discover new technology an augmentation tree unlocks – very similarly to leveling up – that lets you add different equipment to their robot suit. So to recap: The trooper gets a new skill to choose every level, and as you research certain projects you also get to choose from two pieces of equipment with which to augment.

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The MEC Trooper relies on a new type of resource called MELD. This new addition basically works as a “soft time limit” on abduction/UFO missions. There are usually two canisters scattered about the map and you have to get to them in a limited number of turns or you miss out on collecting the MELD. If you don’t have enough MELD, you can’t create or augment your MEC Trooper/s but if you push too aggressively, as everyone knows, bad, terrible, horrible things will happen to your soldiers. Generally collecting MELD happens within the course of running a mision and you don’t have to worry too much about it, but it was clearly designed as a soft nudge to force overly cautious players to step it up a notch.

MELD can also be used to genetically enhance your soldiers. These are straight-up buffs for your soldiers and you can slot up to five of them. There are just two downsides: It takes an otherwise perfectly healthy soldier out of rotation for 3 days, and it costs MELD. I found that the MELD costs was not my greatest concern. Taking my best and brightest out for something like a +10 Aim bonus was a nerve-wracking ask. It certainly meant I was very cautious about enhancing multiple soldiers at once. It’s an interesting strategic choice Firaxis has presented and reflects everything they have done right with XCOM so far.

Note: Soldier participating in Movember

Note: Soldier participating in Movember

Beyond that, there is a ton of new mission variety. There are whole new storylines sewn into council missions (you might have seen some of it with the Slingshot DLC) as well as at least one new standalone council mission. This new mission is a heart-stopping affair and if you’ve played it already, you know what mission I’m talking about. Enemy Within also includes the titular EXALT human faction. They’re an interesting new take, using weapons and tactics similar to your own troops. They also require you to regularly send a single soldier on a covert mission.

Again, it’s an interesting strategic choice you are presented with. You send your soldier on a mission, and they are never in danger but they are unavailable for 2-5 days. After which time, you will then receive an extraction mission to retrieve them. It is in these missions you fight EXALT and you get one extra soldier over your normal limit – the covert soldier you previously sent. Unfortunately, they only get a pistol and they usually have to personally complete the objectives (hacking a terminal, for instance) so they are more of a liability than they are a help. So who do you send on these missions? Someone good with a pistol? Someone who you can afford to be out of your rotation? Or someone who is less likely to die when the lasers start flying during extraction? It’s a tough call.

On top of all this content, there is also a ton of other more minor additions: Lots of new equipment to research. There’s nothing like new weapons or armour which would really shake up the tech trees, but there are lots of new toys to equip and foundry projects to complete. Also most of the current class trees have been tweaked in some way making the skill choices harder than ever to make. Also, there are two new aliens to tangle with. They’re interesting, but I found them to be a fairly minor addition.

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I think most of the additions subtly improve your chances of succeeding – particularly in the early game when MEC Troopers are very tough. This is probably supposed to be off-set by EXALT to some degree – and it does – but I think on balance the XCOM unit gets the better deal. This is probably a good thing, since Classic difficulty is a pretty harsh task master, especially in the early game.

So there you have it. Firaxis has hit the nail on the head once again with the Enemy Within expansion. It is worth every penny. It is, in fact, stand alone. So if you haven’t dived into XCOM yet, skip straight over Enemy Unknown and get Enemy Within. Now’s a great time.

Though, I admit, an even better time is when Steam puts it on special.

Steam Sales Bounce Back

Some good looking deals today…

Farcry 3: Farcry had an annoying protagonist, terrible storyline, and what must be the most over-hyped villain of all time (I was surprised, after playing, that people actually thought Vaas was a good bad-guy.) Having said that… the game was a lot of fun. Not the gunplay, it was ho hum, but the wingsuit and open world were pretty decent. The stealth machete kills are what elevated this game from average to pretty damn fun. 40% is a damn good price (though I would forgive you for waiting until next year when it’ll probably be 75% off.)

XCOM: Didn’t this pop up a few days ago? I’m pretty sure yes. If you missed it, don’t miss it now. Seriously. Don’t.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Hmm. Diablo clone. Looks pretty good though, I have to say. It was already a budget-priced game with high-price quality. Now it is less than $10 I think I better find out how good it is for myself. (And 3 mates.)

Torchlight II: Speaking of Diablo clones… Torchlight is arguably the best of the lot. The only problem for Torchlight II was releasing after Diablo 3. It was a good game, I know some of my friends even liked it better than D3, but it suffered from “Action RPG burnout.” We had flogged D3 so hard, we couldn’t make it past the first chapter of Torchlight II. It was not the fault of the game.

Magicka: Another game I burnt out on, but boy did I love it before I did. The magic system is one of the best in gaming, and the guaranteed hilarity that ensues from the emergent systems makes the $2.50 a ridiculous bargain. The best description of this game ever is here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/01/24/spell-check-5-mistakes-to-avoid-in-magicka/

Left 4 Dead 2: I’ve been playing this lately and loving it. I played the hell out of the first one, but refused to buy the second because it is censored in Australia. Now Australia has the R18+ at long last, and L4D2 was a ridiculous $4 (now $10) I decided to bite the bullet. Unfortunately even with the R18+ rating we are still lumped with the “low violence” version. Fortunately it is only a matter of changing one value in a text file to get gore back. Unfortunately this means you can’t play on Australian servers. Fortunately, I was only planning on playing on a local server anyway. If you’re Australian, and don’t have 4 friends you will definitely play with, avoid. Otherwise, get!

Antichamber: I have bought this game. It is less of a game and more of an “experience.” Well, perhaps that isn’t fair. It’s definitely a puzzler… but not really puzzles like you’ve experienced before. It’s a trippy, mind-bending experience that I certainly can’t describe here. I picked it up cheap and consider it worthwhile as something different.

Massive Chalice. A Kickstarter Game I Need to Back

Crowd-sourced funding for old-school genres is all the rage lately, and I love it! Tim Shafer and Double-fine started it all with Broken Age. Now, I love the idea of crowd-sourced games, but that doesn’t mean I fund every one that I see. In fact, I didn’t even back “double-fine adventure” because although I might play it if it is good, I’m not so enamored with the genre that I want to be an early adopter.

Massive Chalice, on the other hand, I will definitely be backing. It sounds just awesome! I loved the kickstarter video – it would not be nearly as good without the stilted acting – but if you want to just get down to the ideas skip to 3:50. I can’t explain it any better than Brad Muir does on the page itself. My favourite bit is the artifacts that heroes leave behind when they die, that their ancestors can then weld! Check it out! Back it if you dare!