Let’s Play – XCOM 2: War of the Chosen Episode 01: Exploding Trucks

XCOM 2
DLC: War of the Chosen, Tactical Legacy Pack, Resistance Warrior Pack
Mods: Commander’s Choice

Episode 01: Exploding Trucks

M01: Operation Gatecrasher

  • Rk. Kalinaar ‘Justice’ Dragonborn
  • Rk. Khaless ‘Assassin’ Torurden
  • Rk. Tymerious ‘T.I.M.’ Marbrand
  • Rk. Saran ‘Decker’ Amus

M02: Operation Storm Fist

  • Sq. Kalinaar ‘Justice’ Dragonborn (Grenadier)
  • Sq. Khaless ‘Assassin’ Torurden (Ranger)
  • Rk. Mauta ‘OneShot’ Kulia
  • Rk. Therin ‘Beast’ Bristlebeard

Weekly video game adventures. Streamed live Mondays and Fridays.

Support the channel via Patreon.

Advertisements

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – SteamWorld Heist

Does the turn-based tactical combat of XCOM work in a 2D game?

Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time. 

Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Release Date: December 10, 2015
Available On: 3DS, PC, PS4, Vita, Wii U, iOS, Switch
Played On: 3DS

gaming backlog final thoughtsIt’s been far too long since I was able to properly start and finish an older game from my backlog. My workload as a freelance writer continues to increase (and part of my job is to play new games), and 2017 in particular had a bunch of long games that have taken up a big chunk of my personal play time, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 (consequently, the #1-3 games on my Top Ten list).

But thanks to waiting in line every day to pick my daughter up from school, I’ve been slowly plugging away on my Nintendo 3DS, finishing a lot of recently released games like Pokémon Moon, Metroid: Samus Returns, and Monster Hunter Stories.

After those I fired up an older game that had been sitting in my digital library for so long that I accidentally purchased it again during a Steam sale at some point: SteamWorld Heist.

SteamWorld Heist is a spin-off of the SteamWorld Dig series that takes place in the same steampunk-robots-in-space universe. But instead of another action-platformerer, it’s freakin’ 2D XCOM, and it works brilliantly. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – SteamWorld Heist”

My Top Ten Games of 2016: #3

 My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Pokémon GO
#9 Skylanders Imaginators
#8 Stellaris
#7 Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
#6 Fire Emblem Fates
#5 Overwatch
#4 Pokémon Sun and Moon

#3 XCOM 2

xcom 2

Despite being big into tactical strategy games I missed the original X-Com series back in the day. I was a kid/young teen and they always seemed so daunting. Fast-forward to decades of gaming and 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown reboot made me fall in love with the series and its unique emergent gameplay.

XCOM 2 is better in every way, and a great example of a direct sequel done right. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2016: #3”

13 XCOM 2 Tips to Keep Your Soldiers Alive [Pixelkin]

Several crucial tips and guides to help you win the war against the alien menace.

Read the full guide at Pixelkin

xcom 2

Greetings, Commander. The aliens continue their stranglehold over our planet. You and the brave men and women fighting for XCOM are our secret weapon. Many soldiers died bringing you these invaluable tips, so that others may live. Keep fighting and we’ll win this war. Good luck, Commander.

Know the Timing on the Avatar Project

The only way you can really lose XCOM 2 is if the Avatar Project is completed. However even when the bar fills up, a 20-day countdown timer begins. You get a bit of a grace period to immediately launch an assault on the nearest enemy base. Make sure you’ve been making the right contacts and always have a base to infiltrate when the counter gets too high.

Base Management

XCOM 2 is pretty forgiving when it comes to building your facilities. Prioritizing which to build first is largely a matter of preference. Build that Guerrilla Tactics School ASAP, as it provides the upgrades needed to field additional soldiers. Stick it in one of the top corners. You’ll also want your Workshop somewhere in the middle. It’s the only building that cares about adjacency, and you can staff an engineer to then staff nearby buildings via remote gremlins.

Read the full guide at Pixelkin

XCOM 2 Review [Pixelkin]

I for one welcome our new alien overlords in this mini-review of fantastic sequel XCOM 2.

Read the full review on Pixelkin

xcom 2

Available on: PC, Mac, Linux
Reviewed on: PC

XCOM 2 is the sequel to the surprisingly awesome 2012 reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The sequel retains the same nail-biting tactical combat while adding new aliens, new soldiers, new maps, and a rejiggered strategy layer that paints XCOM as the resistance to our new alien overlords.

XCOM 2’s premise makes an incredibly bold choice – we lost the war. As a series XCOM has become famous for being brutally difficult. Developer Firaxis ran with this and declared that we lost the war in the first game. Thirty years later Earth is under control of the supposedly peace-bringing aliens. But like the old TV show “V” the aliens have sinister plans.

Read the full review on Pixelkin

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut

Shadowrun Dragonfall is the definitive Shadowrun cRPG experience with a meaty campaign and lots of crucial improvements.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

Developer: Harebrained Schemes

Publisher: Harebrained Holdings

Release Date: September 18, 2014 (Director’s Cut), February 27, 2014 (Original Expansion)

My first real brush with the Shadowrun universe occurred with 2013’s crowdfunded release of Shadowrun: Returns. I was mostly unfamiliar with the 80s cyberpunk-meets-urban-fantasy world having only briefly tried out either the old SNES or Genesis games. I grew increasingly interested in that world and gameplay during its Kickstarter campaign (which I didn’t back at the time) and ended up purchasing and playing Shadowrun Returns right when it released in the Summer of 2013. I also cheated a bit and added it onto my then-schedule of backlogged games for Rogue’s Adventures (you can read my Final Thoughts on the game here).

Unfortunately I only had time to play the main campaign. Even at release they were new user-made adventures and runs being developed but I’ve yet to dive into any of them. Harebrained Schemes released an official expansion, Dragonfall in early 2014 that fixed a lot of Returns’ issues and added an all new, lengthier, and more satisfying campaign. It was free to those that already owned Shadowrun Returns (being part of their Kickstarter fulfillment). Later that year they released the Director’s Cut version as a stand-alone game that further added new content as well as iterating on the interface and other improvements.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut is the definitive Shadowrun experience. Aside from the actual tabletop role-playing version, Dragonfall presents the best form of playing through the wonderfully diverse and exciting world of Shadowrun.

Dragonfall utilizes the same Unity isometric engine found in many of the most popular modern cRPGs, including Wasteland 2 and the recently released Pillars of Eternity, but it’s also the most limiting and weakest implementation of those games. While a slight step up from Returns, Dragonfall continues to present mostly static maps (everyone stands around waiting for you to talk to them) and only a very specific amount of scripted objects that can be interacted with. Most of the puzzles are limited to finding passwords for a computer, with nearly every scenario and situation involving heavy amounts of combat.

Thankfully the combat is where Shadowrun Dragonfall really shines. Like its predecessor it operates on a turn-based action point system, though its scope is also limited compared to its contemporaries (Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin). With 2-3 points per character the action is more akin to XCOM where you can choose to move, take cover and fire off your weapon. Since it’s Shadowrun you get a ton of fun stuff to do, like flinging spells (both offensive and supportive), activating cybergear buffs and abilities, channeling Adept powers, summoning spirits, controlling drones, and hacking into the matrix. With a ton of varied abilities and an impressively clever AI that takes cover, moves to flank your team, and fires grenades when you bunch up, the combat remained fresh and fun throughout the lengthy 35hr+ campaign.

The single biggest improvement Dragonfall made was in your team structure and dynamic. Shadowrun Returns mostly told a personal story about your customized runner. A few story-based NPCs would occasionally join you, but mostly you hired from a pool of pre-generated runners for a fee. While it was fun to try out different combinations and set-ups, it never really felt like a team.

Dragonfall fixes all that and brings back the concept of an actual shadowrun team from the tabletop game. They’re featured heavily in the promotional artwork, consisting of Eiger the troll ex-military, no nonsense weapons specialist, Dietrich the ex-punk rocker tatooed shaman, Glory the heavily cyber-modified medic with a mysterious and dark past, and later Blitz the hot shot decker/rigger.

After the exciting opening mission, which begins with the classic run gone wrong, you’re given the leadership position of this ragtag crew that I quickly grew to love. Harebrained definitely takes a page out of other great RPG writers Bioware and Obsidian. Your crew has their own little base of operations and you’re free to walk around and talk to them learning more about their backgrounds and their hopes and fears a la every modern Bioware title.

You’re still free to hire additional runners to change the make-up of your team, but your own crew is free to take with you and they’re nicely balanced that I almost never felt the need to hire other random crew members. They also have their own skill trees where you can choose to improve from two different paths after every major mission, giving you further control and lending even more satisfying familiarity with your team.

Harebrained really does an amazing job with your team, and eventually they open up some interesting side missions that just involve them and your character. Blitz needs to score a big hit to pay off a big debt while Glory dives headfirst into her hellishly abusive past to hunt down the cult that twisted her. These character missions are some of the best in the game, focusing on particularly amazing story-telling and sequences.

Dragonfall commits the Baldur’s Gate II feaux pas of throwing up a large speed bump right when the main story is getting interesting. At an early avenue you’re forced to make money in order to continue on with the main story of a possibly resurrecting dragon. This middle section of going on missions to make money takes up the majority of game time, and while fun and very Shadowrun-appropriate, I still felt a major disconnect with the main story for much of the game.

Most runs have fun elements and quirks that make them memorable, from a powerful cyber-zombie that temporarily joins your team to investigating an abandoned research facility. Towards the end I was definitely antsy to get on with the main story, which teased the return of Firewing, a great dragon that was shot down years ago but who’s clues were mysteriously leading to her return.

The climactic final mission was all kinds of amazing, consisting of several huge areas, new tilesets and enemies and one of my favorite parts of any RPG – the chance to talk down the main villain using an extended dialogue session. It was incredibly satisfying and fun, and is much better integrated than Shadowrun Returns’ off the rails bug spirit finale.

Dragonfall doesn’t fix all of the underlying limitations that were present in Returns. It’s still incredibly annoying that you can’t manage your allies’ inventory (picking up items either goes to your inventory or your stash) and I mentioned before about the almost complete lack of puzzles and interactive objects (especially compared to the likes of other cRPGs). Dragonfall does make improvements where it can – now there are options to use your decker or your muscle in situations where your character lacks the needed skill but you brought someone that covers it. The interface is much improved and lets you see both your currently equipped weapons and your spells, items, cybergear etc with lots of nice keyboard shortcuts. Oh and you can also save anywhere now – a huge problem with the original game.

If you’re only going to play one Shadowrun turn-based RPG, definitely play the Director’s Cut of Shadowrun: Dragonfall. The meaty campaign is wonderful and the varied runs and core party members create a satisfying experience that echoes the tabletop adventure. The Shadowrun games are the perfect example of great indie games that I wish could be given more funding and time to create a truly stellar experience.

Based on my time with Dragonfall I quickly backed Harebrained Schemes’ second Kickstarter, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, which just wrapped up a few weeks ago. I’m thrilled that we keep getting these amazing little tactical RPGs, and the Shadowrun universe has become one of my absolute favorites in fiction.

 

Pros

  • Excellent and well balanced turn-based tactical combat
  • New core party members are a vast improvement over randomly hired runners
  • Fun and varied missions
  • Exciting and satisfying beginning and ending
  • Wonderfully thematic music and art style – Shadowrun world is fantastic
  • Top notch evocative writing, both dialogue and descriptive

 

Cons

  • Main Quest takes a backseat through the entire middle half of the game
  • Non-combat mechanics are still very limited
  • Still can’t adjust your party’s inventory mid-mission

 

Final Say: Shadowrun Dragonfall is the definitive Shadowrun cRPG experience with a meaty campaign and lots of crucial improvements.

Age of Wonders III: Golden Realms Review | Leviathyn

If you ever caught yourself in the middle of playing Triumph Studios’ Age of Wonders III wondering where all the poo-flinging Dread Monkeys are – fear not. As the first expansion pack released for the turn-based tactical strategy game, Golden Realms introduces an entirely new faction, new skill specializations, new units, two new scenarios, a new mini-campaign and several new gameplay features that tweak and expand an already fantastic game.

But also adds those filthy, filthy monkeys.

I was a big fan of Age of Wonders III when it released last April, and in the months since Triumph Studios have done an admiral job listening to fan feedback and incorporating lots of tweaks and balance changes.

Read the full review at Leviathyn >>