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Banished

This past weekend I picked up a really great city-building strategy game called Banished.  The concept is simple: You are a banished group of exiles who have to settle a new area to survive.  Will you die or start a new thriving civilization that will go on for hundreds of years?  If you’re me, you’ve probably died a dozen times already.

banished

Build bridges across water to access new areas and resources.

Banished looks and sounds simple on the outside.  You simply have to make buildings and keep your people healthy, happy, and their bellies full of food.  There’s so much more to it, though, when you realize each of those mechanics are fully developed and very close to reality.

It’s all about risk and resource management.  Want to plant crops?  In other games it’s only a matter or assigning land to be farmed and workers to tend the crops, but in Banished you have to worry about which crops can survive the temperatures when it gets cold or be harvested in time.  An early winter will ruin your crops.  Working in the snow will lower worker efficiency, cause them to become ill, and then the least of your concerns will be whether or not your pumpkins withered.  Oh, and I should probably mention that if you farm in the same place for too many seasons your soil will be ruined.

Banished Snowstorm

Build a tailor to stock warm clothes to keep villagers alive in the winter months

Every resource requires real thought.  You need firewood to stay warm in the winter.  Firewood comes from wood logs.  Chopping down trees is simple, but once you chop them down they take time to regrow and mature to the point of yielding good wood again.  Distance matters so it’s not like you can just run to another big section of forest.  Reducing your forests will reduce the deer population… and then you might starve.  See the trend?   [Read more…]

XCOM: Enemy Within Review

xcom-enemy-within

I’m not sure how long it’s been since Enemy Unknown came out but I do remember it was one of my favorite games that year. It might have even been among our personal GotY back then. The new expansion just came out and 2K was generous enough to supply us with a review copy. Enemy Within does not disappoint and expands upon an already fantastic game.

Usually when I hear about an expansion pack I assume the content takes place after the original, but that’s not really the case with Enemy Within. It adds a bunch of stuff on top of the already existing game which I suppose makes sense. The original game’s story was already a minor aspect of the game which in the end was more about playing through multiple times, etc. Kind of like playing through a game of civilization where you’re really making your own story. So it does of course retread through the original game’s content but there are a lot of nice additions that make playing and replaying fun again.

I’m going to break down most of the new stuff here.  Read on! [Read more…]

Where did Blizzard go?

warcraft 2What the heck happened to the company responsible for the Warcraft RTS games?  I was thinking about Warcraft Orcs and Humans, Warcraft 2, and Warcraft 3 today and the hair on my arms stood straight up — those games are ridiculously good; Dare I say they are downright epic.  I can still hear the voice in my head…  “The once mighty army of Azeroth lay among the blackened and charred remains of Stormwind Keep.”  The image of that orcish armada sailing across the great sea is burned into my memory.  I’m getting chills right now just thinking about it!

starcraft 2When I think about Warcraft back then compared to what it is today I am baffled by how badly Blizzard strayed off course.  When I think about ‘Warcraft’ why aren’t Footmen, Peons, Grunts, Gul’dan, and the Bloodlust top of mind?  Why can’t I think “yes me’lord, righto,” and “work work!”  Why do I think about arenas, raids, gear, and MMO mechanics instead?   Why has the direction changed to such an off-putting product strategy?

warcraft 3The same can be said for Diablo and Starcraft.  All of Blizzard’s properties are slipping.  I feel like Blizzard is so focused on ‘being Blizzard’ that their core competence has gone from making games to making headlines.

I’ve come to know a lot of the Blizzard team over the years.  Blizzard is a really good company with great employees, but you guys are losing sight of the mark.  You are losing your identity and forgetting what’s most important: The Games.

diablo 2As a true fan of your properties, I’m devastated by the direction you are going.  I appreciate the business side of things like eSports, and I know times have changed, but there used to be such a timeless perfection to your games.  I miss it, a lot.

Can you please bring back the spark, the magic, the zug-zug… that classic feel?  I think you know what I’m saying.

 

Heart of the Swarm Campaign

Heart of the Swarm BoxartI just beat the Heart of the Swarm campaign, and I have to come right out and say I absolutely loved the story.  The gameplay was really fun (more on that in a moment), but what kept me pushing through all of the missions was an unquenchable need to know how the story progresses.  I wont to spoil anything, but I felt a lot more connected to the characters this time around.  The story kept me engaged throughout, and began building up (not destroying as some people think) the Wings of Liberty campaign.  Heart of the Swarm paved a road right to the next expansion.

Gameplay wise, HotS offers a lot of variety.  Normally I don’t enjoy the ‘take control of a single character’ type of missions, but in the HotS campaign I felt Blizzard added a lot to make it feel almost… almost closer to an RPG (dare I say WoW?).  The boss battles were somewhat hokey, and definitely contrived from the WoW boss experience: Don’t stand in the fire.  But they’re fun, and add yet another layer of non-standard gameplay.  Hero abilities and mission objectives were diverse and I can’t say I ever felt the need to rush through a mission because I was bored of a particular mechanic.  In fact, most of the missions ended rather quickly (~20-30 min tops).

Upgrades are handled a bit different this time around.  For most of the zerg units you get to choose 1 of 3 specializations, but you can change them any time you’re not in a mission.  For example, two of the choices for Zergligns are the classic speed increase and the attack speed increase; both are normally upgraded in-game, but in the campaign you choose between them pre-mission.  You also get to do the same for Kerrigan by picking many different abilities for her to use as she levels up and gets stronger throughout the campaign.  Lastly, there are mutations which act as permanent ugprades for the core units.  These mutations are actual mini/short missions where you obtain the genetic alterations and get to test them out briefly before having to choose which of the two mutations you want applied.  The mutations definitely impact strategy.

Overall, I loved it.  I’m going to eventually replay on Brutal mode and see if I can get a few more of the portrait rewards.  Definitely worth the price of the expansion without even taking multiplayer into consideration.

 

Getting Ready for Heart of the Swarm

Kerrigan HotSI knew Heart of the Swarm was coming out relatively soon, but a week ago I realized that HotS was actually coming out in a matter of weeks.  Now the long-awaited StarCraft 2 expansion is only 10 days away, and my excitement is growing.  I might be one of the few people looking forward to playing the campaign more than the multiplayer.

Back in the days of the original StarCraft and subsequent Brood Wars expansion, my skills weren’t bad.  I actually won plenty more than I lost, but now’days I get schooled when I try to play vs. other people.  When SC2 launched, and I jumped into the multiplayer thinking I’d be decent, I somehow managed to make my way into the Diamond League.  Not bad, but after a while I barely won a game.  I think it has a lot to do with what has transcended a hobby or even a game and become a culture, a sport, and dare I say it an art.  Some people really do watch Day9 to learn how to play rather than for enjoyment like I do, and those people practice and improve.  I never had the patience.

Then there’s the custom game scene, which I think as a total failure on Blizzard’s part.  Battle.net 2.0, in theory, works great.  Originally I thought quite highly of it, but that’s partially because I expected them to do great things with it instead of staying mostly stagnant.  The custom games haven’t taken off or become as addictive or interesting as they were in SC1 and WC3.  There’s something to be said for the previous custom map deployment — crude, but effective.

Maybe I’m alone, but I thought the SC2 campaign was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the story, despite what Blizzard did to Kerrigan.  The campaign for Heart of the Swarm is actually my only reason for deciding to get the game.  I’m going to play through the SC2 campaign again real quick for a refresher.

Anyone else picking up SC2 HotS?  I’m curious to know if any of you are like me and prefer the campaign over the multiplayer.