Alpha Centauri has reminded me, several times, that my single victory was a fluke. I always tried Gaians, maybe the tactics necessary for them are beyond me right now, and late in my games I pushed heavily toward capturing worms for use as troops, but those tend not to be very good when you reach the midgame and the defending troops are a lot more resistant to psi-weapons.
There's a weird faction squatting tendency that can easily be exploited as I mentioned before; if you know that all factions will be featured, you can just take the one you don't want to deal with as your faction, then play them as you like. Not much role-playing involved there, just plain cynical power wrangling.
Since the game only opens up toward the end in terms of the combination of variables, while I can't say I'm exhausted with the game, I guess I'll have to start trying out the other factions to see if I'm better suited to them, although I still attribute winning to being lucky enough to be placed far away from everyone else.
It's still satisfying, even with all the war, to have a technical advantage over a group that's plaguing you. My evil neighbors to the north had quite a few planes in service, but he never thought to equip them with air-to-air capability, making my few air-to-air flyers tear them all to pieces. Still, like I said, it wasn't enough.
I've had a few people comment that they love AC. Anyone have any recollections from games they've played, recently or a long time ago? I realize it's been a while since this thing was released, though.
Knights of the Old Republic 1
I've had Star Wars on the brain a bit too long, so I've decided to play through 1 and 2 in quick succession to purge myself, if I can stand it. Right now I'm a bit burned out, having played it quite a bit last night. This game feels like a smooth tunnel you slide down, picking of candy that's taped to the walls. You can't get all the candy, but you can get most of it, and some of the heavier pieces just sort of fall on your face when you slide past. The limitations of telling a story in someone else's universe are all too much for me at times, especially this fawning inability for most Expanded Universe folks to take more risks and invent more things for a universe that's supposedly teeming with possibilities, but at least I know the meat of the story later on DOES do that to some degree. It's just... well, I know those parts. What I'm trying to do is have a different experience than before, and so I've decided to make my character a dedicated blaster user, even after the big character class upgrade.
So far it's tough, especially since I'm doing dual blasters, and my character's hit points are about half of the others'. But I'm not stingy with items like I usually am: when there's a cluster of enemies, I use grenades. Being a scoundrel, I sneak around and get sneak attack bonuses, which often result in one-shot kills when I do them right. Most of the rest of the party is only good for combat, since my skills are so high in most of the areas due to the starting class. Man, the combat is boring in this game, although I have fun through sniping, sneaking, and getting a train of enemies so that I can blast them as I run. A bit labor intensive though, with not many tactical options beyond grenades and switching weapons.
Moving away from knocking Expanded Universe stuff for a moment, I often feel that the computer hacking and repair skills often overlap a bit too much. And when you can have a character just sacrifice itself on mines and get up after dying, it's mainly there just to annoy a player rather than pose any sort of challenge. So a lot of the infiltration options you get in the game feel a bit interchangeable and weak. Once in a while I felt like there was a bit of a story to what you were doing, but most of the time it's all too samey.
As for stray observations, I still enjoy the swoop minigame, although the load times sort of sap my enthusiasm, and I'm considering skipping Pazaak altogether so I don't take too much time to play. There are a few interesting non-player characters, like the relatively honorable opposition gang leader, but I'm distracted by how few human faces are used. There's the fish lipped guy who often is a jerk, there's the guy with the buzz cut who doesn't look like a jerk but often is a stand in for fish lips. Sometimes they even use the same model for two people in the same group, which is damned silly. I'm willing to bet that I will never see all this game has to offer; every little tidbit of conversation is buried in this game, such that I don't have the patience to FAQ it up.
My plan is moving on to KOTOR 2 with the same build attempt (slightly persuadery, double pistol, as complete a Jedi denial as I can manage). It's been a long time since I've played that game and I'm wondering if the game mechanics upgrades and influence system will be fun enough that I won't be too bothered by the bugs and dead endgame. I'm still not sure how I feel about the influence system, because I like that in KOTOR 1 people feel a bit more solid in their own outlook on the world; but if my character can change, why not others? Just feels a bit too manipulative to mold the other characters to your liking. I'll try to play it naturally and just see what I get.
Knights of the Old Republic 3, 4, and 5
Ha-ha, I kid.
Despite my tendency to avoid MMOs and to have deep skepticism toward big projects, I can't help but read up on The Old Republic, Bioware's massively multiplayer Star Wars creation-in-progress. Maybe I'm interested because they actually try to make characters who aren't Jedi appeal to power gamers, though I wish smugglers and bounty hunters were a little bit more gray-area than they seem to be.
From what I've been able to glean from the preview press, the PvP may be a bit busted for some classes, which is a bit surprising to me, but the sorta-single player game allows for you to just follow the plot and only do the old grinding dance if you want to with optional pop-up missions when you're in areas with some rats to kill.
I like that you have followers that can hang out in your ship and I like that you can have a ship, even though I realize it's just a mobile setting.
At first I thought the Trooper ship looked a bit to B-Wing for me, but when I reminded myself that the way it looks is reminiscent of 1970's spaceship drawings I now think it's my favorite, which is good, since I'd play the Trooper if I could play only one class, with maybe the Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, and Agent rounding things out. No Jedi. On purpose.
This is me just musing, though. You know, "I don't have a machine that could run this," yadda yadda. I don't know what to think of this game, but I guess I'll continually be interested, from business as well as game design and gameplay standpoints. I hope old Bioware's learned some things over the years about the illusion of customizability and will let folks actually take some risks with their characters. I would be very interested to know just how much leeway a character would have on a given side, especially the Sith side. The only time I'd play a faction like that would be if I knew I could still play a humane character. I frankly don't understand the torture porn options so many games get these days.
Going back to KOTOR 1 for a moment: most of the choices I get in conversations are frigging strange. You get a sane answer and a few psychotic ones a lot of the time... the movies managed to have a bit less cackling melodrama evil than these games seem to. I could see having a character who would be called evil because he or she was unwilling to bend to the manipulative Jedi will, but I'm not into frying babies with bolts of teenage-revenge-fantasy electricity. Too much real world ugliness for me to get off on that kind of stimulation.
It's weird, but you'd think we were already six months down the road and sales figures were already confirmed. I want an adventure game this ambitious to succeed, but I hope these early reports of its success aren't going to deflate people's interest prematurely.
Sorry if I'm repeated myself in this post. Hard to keep track of everything I've said, and to whom. I will say something I just realized while playing KOTOR, though: I think I like Jade Empire a bit more now that I realize how this staid formula can vary with some more adventurous world design.