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.

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.