Steam Sale Games: Part 1 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown

So the steam summer sale is over, the dust has settled and everyone has less money than before. Well, I didn’t have much to begin with, but I picked up a couple of 80% off games, the first of which is XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I’ll start by saying I have about 4 hours into the single player, which seems to be enough to get a reasonable idea of how good the game is. And it is good. Very, very good in fact. For those who don’t know, the best way to describe XCOM is as turn based grid based strategy game, a la Final Fantasy Tactics (which I have played) where aliens invade the earth. You are the commander of the XCOM project, which essentially Area 51 without Will Smith and Jeff GoldblumI will admit I have a bit of a soft spot for these kind of games, but this is only a slight bias and if XCOM had been terrible I would have dropped it like Snoop. But I’m please to say it isn’t. It has a butt ton of customisation, decent cutscenes and multiple paths, although I have yet to find out how much of a difference your choices make. I’m guessing it’s a reasonable amount, as so far my choices have led to anarchy in Japan. Guess I’m not doing so well. There are two parts that really shine for me.

1. The atmosphere. There are alien abductions happening all over the world and you can only respond to some of them. It feels like whatever you do, you can’t save everyone. Someone is getting probed. Also, with cutscenes of alien autopsies and attacks from UFOs really make it feel like the earth is under threat and it is down to you to save them. The fact that your team members can perma-die only adds to this.

2. The combat. This is where the magic happens. The grid based combat is excellent, with cover and overwatch (the ability to tell your guy to shoot at anything that moves in the aliens turn) play a big part. It is occasionally frustrating when your team of expert soldiers repeated miss a guy right in front of them, that they are supposed to have a 75%+ chance of hitting, but this is rare and there isn’t much you can do about it. As your soldiers do missions they level up and gain new abilities. This progression means you start to get attached to them, making perma-death more than just a mild annoyance. Save often if you want to keep your favourite guys alive.

 

Overall this game is excellent, one of the best games I’ve played for a while and I have yet to touch the multiplayer. I’ll make another post when I have tried it out. If it had to rate it out of ten it would be pushing 9/10. There is very little wrong with it and I can’t really argue with the cost, getting it for 80% off. Slap this on your steam wishlists and hardscope your email for a sale, this is worth the cash. It’s up there with Skyrim, Borderlands 2 and Mass Effect 3.

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Things I have learn’t about the Modern metagame: Part 3

Okay, so the reason I’ve taken a while to do another one of these is simple. I haven’t played many different decks since last time. I’m played a lot of burn and RDW, and a lot of mono-black varients, neither of which are particularly interesting. No offence to anyone who plays burn, but it’s a really boring match most of the time. Either they draw the cards to kill you, or they don’t. Or I play t2 Kor Firewalker and ride it to victory.

The more interesting decks I’ve played against are as follows:

Grixis Control: Another control varient, but weaker than UWR I think. Electolyze, Cryptic Command, Bolt, etc, with additional hand disruption and Terminate, plus a different manland. Not worth the loss of Day of Judgement, Ajani, Elspeth, and Path in my opinion. One guy I played gets style points for Cruel Ultimatum, but  you really shouldn’t be maindecking it.

Domain Zoo. 5 Colour zoo, with the Kird apes, Goyfs, Loam Lions, Goblin Guides, Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant, Elspeth, Knight Errant etc, and Tribal Flames hit for 5. Was interesting to play against, but a 5 colour manabase dependant on fetchlands doesn’t like 8 strip mine effects and Leonin Arbiter. Not one bit.

Affinity: Only played against this once, but it didn’t go well. I play an affinity varient in paper magic, so I know how stupid it can get. I didn’t draw great hands and the other guy got empty your hand+thoughtcast t2 nut draws both games. I don’t have a great match-up against this anyway. The decks with Thalia do it slightly better, but I need some sideboard tech for it. Kataki, War’s Wage would be my go to guy.

R/G aggro: Modern version of the standard deck Naya Blitz. Probably has 5 guys down by turn three. Goblin Guide into t2 Burning Tree, Burning Tree, Tarmogoyf is something I’ve played against. My outs here are the pro red guys in the sideboard, as well as Mirran Crusader if it doesn’t get hit with Lightning Bolt.

Jund Aggro: I like jund aggro, but it has a horrible match up against this deck. Vengevine and Loltroll don’t like mirran crusader and it gets even worse for them post board when I can put timely reinforcements in. The manabase can be fragile too. And good luck casting demigod of revenge.

That’s all folks. I don’t have more things to say, because of the silly amount of times I’ve played against burn in the last week or so. Things I have learned are that I really need path to exile and the curving Mentor of the Meek into Hero of Bladehold is awesome.

Here is the deck I’m playing. Since last time I took out the Ring of Thune and put a Flickerwisp into the sideboard. Needs Thalia, Linvala, Path and some more sideboard tech, but those are kinda expensive.

4 aether vial
1 flickerwisp
1 ajani, caller of the pride
2 eight-and-a-half-tails
3 hero of bladehold
1 judges familiar
4 leonin arbiter
3 mentor of the meek
4 mirran crusader
4 serra avenger
2 student of warfare
4 honor of the pure
4 sunlance
1 oblivion ring
4 ghost quarter
4 tectonic edge
13 plains
1 ethersworn canonist

2 burrenton forge-tender
2 celestial purge
1 flickerwisp
2 kor firewalker
1 mentor of the meek
1 rule of law
2 tempest of light
4 timely reinforcements

Things I have learn’t about the Modern Metagame: Part 2

Warning: This post contains serious Magic: The Gathering talk and will probably make me seem lame in the extreme to anyone who has never played.

Okay, so here is part two of my adventures into the world of modern. I’ve been getting better at piloting my deck and have learned more things, played some of the more common archetypes. I’ll list some of the things I’ve played against in vague order of how much I have played against them

1. UWR. This thing is a monster. Card advantage from Think Twice and Sphinx’s Revelation, Ajani Vengant, Path, Burn, Countermagic. For those who have never played it, it’s essentially the most insane Counterburn deck. It’s kills all your guys, draws a ton of cards, then beats the crap out of you with Manlands. Then it plays Snapcaster and does it all again.  My match up isn’t as bad is it could be, as I have Tectonic edge and ghost quarter to kill Celestial Colonnade, then 4 things that are Pro Red in my sideboard. I tend to be able to get damage through in the first couple of turns and then it all comes down to whether I can get a threat to stick. Most of the times I have beaten UWR come from flashing in a Hero of Bladehold off an aether vial when they tap out to deal with something else. Vial is very, very important in this match up. It is beatable, but I cannot afford to misplay against this.

2. Eternal Command. This is similar to UWR, but instead of the white and the manlands it has Tarmagoyf and Eternal Witness, Aether Vial and Thirst for Knowledge. And Clique. While it is a little weaker on the straight up control, it has a bit more punch and has the possibilty of reccuring Cryptic Command over and over. Vial is important but vulnerable to bounce. The All-Stars here are Serra Avenger and Mirran Crusader. If I can get either of these to 4/4 it become difficult Eternal Command to deal with them. Honor of the Pure+ Serra Avenger has beaten this deck almost singlehandly before. Easier to beat than UWR, but that just because I can go up to 4 Pro greeen and 4 Pro red cards at once. Still, it’s another monster of a deck.

3. Kiln Fiend. From monsters of a deck, to something that is just kinda bad. An all in deck that wants to play a crap ton of spell and either exile them to Nivmagus Elemental or 1 shot kill with a kiln fiend. If I can get a blocker or two down they run out of steam. Flickerwisp takes the counters off Nivmagus and unless they double Kiln Fiend I can usually get enough blockers down to prevent an early demise. Or just killing their guy works too. I see a lot of this deck and rarely lose to it. .

4. Dredgevine. This is difficult, doubly so because I have no graveyard hate at all (need some Rest in Peace), but modern dredge is currently very inconsistant from the bannings of a couple of key cards. When I played they have had hideous turn 3 boards with 6 or 7 guys sometimes, then others they have no guys at all. They all seemed to be running City of Brass too and did a lot of damage to themselves. Not much to say here, other than that Mirran Crusader craps all of this deck. Just gotta hope they don’t nut draw and deploy some threats that bypass all the vines, zombies and other crap that get vomited out from the graveyard.

5. Weird, Elf, ritual combo thing. I’ve played a few versions of this. I didn’t even know it was a thing. Some used storage lands, others just rituals. The aims seems to be to create a bunch of mana and all seem to use Bogardan Hellkite as their threat. I lost to this a few times, just from not knowing what it was, but if I can pseudo-strip mine their lands and kill elvish archdruid, it’s all good.

6. Crypt of Agadeem cycling thing. Cycle a bunch of black dudes, make loads of mana with Crypt of Agadeem. Not good against 4 Ghost Quarter, 4 Tec edge.

7. Burn. Only played this once. Boarded in lots of Pro red stuff and Timely reinforcements. Stomped them.

8. Melira Pod. This thing is a bitch and I only had one match against it. I haven’t played against the full power Kiki, Pestermite, Exarch one that wins out of nowhere either, I played a Melira, Viscera seer, Murderous Redcap combo one. And the guy playing it was bad. Even with all this I still only just won. Kitchen finks+Melira is ridulously unfair. When you add Viscera seer it gets worse. I basically have to draw leonin arbiter and hope it doesn’t die.

That’s about it. I’ll post more as I play more things.

I’m really enjoying this deck. It’s very resiliant and has much better control match ups than traditional aggro. Still needs 4 Thali and 4 Path to Exile, but I don’t really know what I would cut. And maybe a couple of Rest in Peace. Oh, and maybe some artifact destuction. I’m considering extra Flickerwisps too, but some games they are poor at best, while others they are amazing.

If you have any ideas I’d be interested. I’ll post the decklist below.

4 aether vial
1 flickerwisp
1 ajani, caller of the pride
2 eight-and-a-half-tails
3 hero of bladehold
1 judges familiar
4 leonin arbiter
3 mentor of the meek
4 mirran crusader
4 serra avenger
2 student of warfare
4 honor of the pure
4 sunlance
1 oblivion ring
4 ghost quarter
4 tectonic edge
13 plains
1 ethersworn canonist

2 burrenton forge-tender
2 celestial purge
1 ring of thune
2 kor firewalker
1 mentor of the meek
1 rule of law
2 tempest of light
4 timely reinforcements

Things I have learn’t about the Modern metagame: Part 1

I enjoy Magic: The Gathering. And like anything I enjoy, I want to be good at it. Don’t mistake this for being super competetive, I don’t need to win all the time. But I like to be good at whatever it is I’m doing.

So, I’ve been playing modern (one particular format for any non-mtgers) on Magic the Gathering Online. Just playing against randoms and trying to learn the metagame a little, so maybe I can eventually enter some random events. I’ll write some of my learnings up and maybe make a little series of it.

For those who are interested I’m playing a version of White Weenie Hatebears. I’ll post the deck list at the bottom.

So tonight’s learnings are:

1. Timely Reinforcements is really, really good againt Sucide Black

2. Sunlance is not as good as Path to Exile, this should be obvious.

3. Do not keep one land hands, even with Aether Vial

4. DO NOT KEEP ONE LAND HANDS, EVEN WITH AETHER VIAL

5. Open the Vaults is a thing and I need to figure out how to beat it.

6. Restore Balance is a thing and I need to figure out how to beat it.

I think that is it for this evening, I’ll do another post when I learn more things.

Here is the list:

Mainboard

4 aether vial
1 ring of thune
1 ajani, caller of the pride
2 eight-and-a-half-tails
3 hero of bladehold
1 judges familiar
4 leonin arbiter
3 mentor of the meek
4 mirran crusader
4 serra avenger
2 student of warfare
4 honor of the pure
4 sunlance
1 oblivion ring
4 ghost quarter
4 tectonic edge
13 plains
1 ethersworn canonist

Sideboard
2 burrenton forge-tender
2 celestial purge
1 flickerwisp
2 kor firewalker
1 mentor of the meek
1 rule of law
2 tempest of light
4 timely reinforcements

Ye Olde Goodie: Dragon Age Origins

Okay, so maybe it isn’t that old in the grand scheme of things, but in game terms 4 years ago is a loooooooonnnnngggg time. After the Dragon Age 3 trailer at E3, I went back to the original to try again and see how it has held up. But I have a confession to make. I have never completed a Dragon Age game, despite how much I like them. I always play for a while, play another game and then when I come back, I start a new file and play on that.

I have made 5 characters across 2 systems in Dragon Age one, and 3 characters in Dragon Age 2, all of which have reached Act 3 (the final bit for non-Dragon Age players). Still never finished either. Never feel like it. I’ll get to it eventually, probably just before I get DA3, so I can import a finished file.

I also hold the seemingly controversial view that DA2 was pretty good. I liked the combat system and while not being able to pick a race felt a little stifling, having a fully voiced character, as opposed to DA1’s mute more than made up for it. Having your character never talk breaks the 4th wall like almost nothing else for me. And I actually kind of liked Hawke, DA2’s protagonist.

But I’ll leave DA2 to another day and talk about number 1, because as I’ve found recently, DA1 is awesome. Here are a list of some of the things that make DA1 awesome.

1. The story. It feels like a proper epic world is in your hands do something about it but it isn’t going to be easy story. I have experience only a portion of it, as I’ve never completely finished it, but just the bit’s I’ve seen are damn good. One of the best plots around.

2. The characters. Having a group of people, who respond to your actions in different ways and who can be talked to, to befriend or romance really helps the you to connect with the world.

3. Morrigan. I know she is a character, but Morrigan is cool enough to get her own bullet point. Biting wit, magic and shapeshifting are all part of a brilliant character. I would bet a not insignificant number of fans got a little happy in their pants when she appeared in the DA3 trailer.

4. This one is for PC only, but mods are well worth mentioning. There are plently of mods out there that can be installed without too much hassle.

5. The music. I won’t say any more, go listen to it. It’s up there with Lord of the Rings (okay, I said some more, so sue me)

Anyone who hasn’t picked it up yet should grab a copy, I’m sure it’s pretty cheap. I think I got the Ultimate Edition (with all the extra content) for less than £10 and that was a while ago. And anyone who has played it should go back and do it again, because they won’t be disappointed. Well they shouldn’t be, and if they are they should mod it until they aren’t.

And maybe not just DA1. I’m going to do back and play some games I haven’t touched for a while, see how they are. You should to. Might save you some money, on top of everything else.

Mass Effect: Crying Like a Small Child

Before I get into writing, I had better say that there are major SPOILERS for Mass Effect 3 in this post. Right, everyone played it? Well, everyone who cares about it played it? Good, let’s do this.

 

I wanted to talk about something I experienced in Mass Effect 3 that I hadn’t found before. I genuinely cared about the characters. Even the ones that weren’t human. In fact, the two most emtional scenes weren’t related to humans at all. I’m talking about the Legion Scene shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRa6WH90xVc and the Mordin Scene here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-_X9Tsg0Fc

I was wondering what anyone else who played through the games found were the saddest moments. But these two, when characters you have been with for hours and hours (especially if you played ME2) don’t make it, when they sacrifce themselves for something bigger than themselves made me actually feel sad in a way that few other films and games did.

Titanic… Nothing

Atonement… Nothing

In fact, the only other fictional story that made me as sad as Mass Effect 3 was Marley and Me.

Let’s not go into why I get more attached to dogs, weird lizard aliens and sentient robots than people….

 

Did I cry like a small child? No. But I wanted to. You don’t need actors to tell a story. Hell, I think in some ways, games tell it better.

Affordable Gaming: The Sandwich Test

I am a student and a gamer. Being both on a budget isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. This is why I have come up with the sandwich test. I agonise over spending money on anything, but most of all on things like games and magic cards, which, despite being my favourite hobbies, aren’t as important as food. So, I have something I mentally refer to as the sandwich test.

The sandwich test is, if the game costs less than I have paid for a sandwich in the last couple of weeks, I don’t have to feel bad about buying it. This is normally games on sale on steam, in fact, I don’t think I have every paid full price for a game on steam. Buying games so cheap can be a bit hit and miss. Some games have been amazing, (Sins of a Solar Empire series, Mount and Blade series, Killing Floor, Fallout 3 with all the dlc) and some haven’t been great. Actually, that isn’t fair to a couple (Trine, Terraria, RAGE, The Binding of Issac) which weren’t exactly bad, but just weren’t my thing.

Then there are a couple that I haven’t got round to playing, or have only played for a couple of hours and mean to put some more time in to. And there are some all stars in this list. I mean, Left for Dead 2 (0 hours on steam), Dragon Age: Orgins – Ultimate Edition (4 hours, think I’m going to try this again soon) Star Wars: KOTOR 1 & 2 and Deus EX: Human Revolution (which I played for about 2 hours, but have been put off by the clunky controls).

There are a few more that just don’t like, but in the end I don’t feel too bad, because trying a new is fun, and if I don’t like it, it isn’t much different from when I’ve tried a sandwich and not liked it. It’s a bit disappointing sure, but there is always another sandwich. It’s not like when you have a meal out and it’s bad and you don’t have another for months.

Also, as you might be able to tell, I REALLY like sandwiches.