XCOM: Hero Moments

tl;dr version: XCOM giveth and XCOM taketh away.

Had an epic moment in XCOM that I couldn't not write about. I wish I'd filmed it, but instead I'll have to create a word picture for you guys.

You know those side chambers in UFOs? The really small ones with a power core and an L-shape in front of an alien door? Six guys positioned (thankfully not clustered in grenade range) in that room to burst in on an Outsider...or so I thought. Instead when I opened the door, THREE MUTONS! They position around me, flanking one of my guys and it's on (like Donkey Kong)

Step one was to rocket away the cover for two of them and suppress the guy with the best shot on my guys.

Then I got some lucky snipes in and coupled that with Run and Gun flanks and I manage to take out two. One of the Mutons manages to get a point blank shot off on my guy, but his Carapace armor and a lucky non-crit keeps him alive. Smoke him and then I crack open a brew and wish someone else saw (or that they cared)

All of those heroes managed to die between the alien base Cryssalids/Cyberdiscs and my next UFO encounter. At this point for me UFOs are staffed exclusively by Mutons and Cyberdiscs. I managed to fight off the Cyberdisc, his drones, and 6/8 of the Mutons while retaining half of my squad (most were Squaddies). Then I get another set of 2 Mutons and a Muton Elite (whatever they're called) in the same tiny chamber (gotta stop doing that...). Thanks to a Plasma Sniper Rifle I come out of that with one man left (the sniper) and the last Muton runs outside. One lucky shot later I'm expecting the mission to be over, but, nope, something's left. Probably an Outsider, right? Fun fact about post-Alien Base UFOs, they're piloted by Sectoid Commanders! My sniper ran the fuck away, but, here's another fun fact, if you're mind controlled and you're the last soldier left, the mission ends in failure.


XCOM: Enemy Unknown First Impressions and Let's Play

Man, I am loving XCOM! I played the original for a few missions back in the day, but it was nigh impenetrable without serious FAQ usage and it felt like such a "solved problem" that I wasn't really able to get into it.

Cue the new XCOM with its new mechanics, no Time Units (thank god!), and strategic tone. I've never had so much fun nearly losing every mission before.

Things I love:

  • The palpable sense of dread when you send your soldiers forward. I took like five more turns getting into position than I needed to for one mission just out of fear.
  • The RNG: Two troops minding a corner with overwatch while another is pressing forward on that corner. TWO MISSES ON OVERWATCH and the alien ices my Squaddie. Farewell, soldier named after my father. You will be missed.
  • Research trees: love choosing what to research and learning what benefits I get from that
  • Hard decisions: Save India or save America?

Things I could do without:

  • The interface was clearly designed for a controller first. The mouse stuff doesn't quite flow right...
  • Free aim for all guns would be neat.
  • The tutorial clearly killed one of my guys because it wouldn't let me exit the tactical screen

I've had so much fun that I started an LP series too:

If you saw my FTL series then you know that it was rough going at the start, but I've got much better equipment now and I'm doing a much improved job with my filming and my sound. This first episode is a little short, but there will be more in the coming days along with more FTL.


Uncharted 3 First Impressions (Light Early Game Spoilers)

Everyone's favorite treasure hunter, Nathan Drake, is back once again for his third journey! What's it like? I'll tell you. I'm about eight chapters in, but you can expect some degree of story spoiler if you read this post. I don't think anything huge has happened yet, but if you don't want to know about which characters are in the game or what happens at all, DON'T READ THIS!

- Transitioning from the super-solid hand-to-hand combat of Arkham City to here is jarring/kind of disappointing. Speaking of going from one game to another, the slightly different cover buttons from Gears of War 3 has also caused me to pop out of cover prematurely/accidentally. Whoops!

- The most common complaint is that the aiming dead zone is kind of big. I actually noticed it on one of the pistols, but on the rifles I think it's mostly absent. Still not the smoothest aiming (and it never has been), but we're three games in, Naughty Dog.

- Fighting the brutes was fun...once or twice. Why are there brutes EVERYWHERE?!

- All this emphasis on how old and tired Sully is along with how Drake is letting things get too personal worry me. I don't want Sully to die, guys!

- Young Drake! Young Sully! Columbia! I wonder if they just pitch-shifted Nolan North's voice, because Young Drake sounds a little weird in an unnatural way.

- Chloe's back! I was worried that she wouldn't make it since we'd only seen Elena. I haven't met Elena yet, but I can't wait to see her again. Both of them are so great!

- The new guy, Charlie Cutter, is pretty cool too. He looks like someone I've seen on TV/movies before. I checked the IMDB page and his voice actor, Graham McTavish, isn't familiar to me, but I learned that he voiced Lazarevic last game, which is insane! I like how he's a know-it-all to Drake and how Nolan North plays the annoyance in a subdued fashion. It's still early, but at least we're seeing that not all Englishmen in Uncharted games are evil.

- Chloe seems really familiar with Cutter too. I wonder if that's the original crew where she met Drake.

- There are some seriously devious puzzles in this game. The main one in the chateau with the tiles...Devious. It took me a while to figure out all the elements in the room, but it's kind of brilliant.

- Oh my god the spiders! So fucked up. No more. No. I hate it. If they reappear later...

- I don't love the inverted camera angle chase/escape sequences. It's hard to see where you're going when the obstacles pop up split seconds before you have to react.

- Thank god someone has a brain! When Chloe is all, "Hey, remember the last time we tried to unearth a huge treasure and there were evil blue monsters everywhere?" I was all, "YES!" It'd be funny if you had an option to say, "You're totally right, Chloe." Credits.

- I actually stopped myself from playing too much last night so that I could spread the fun out. Can't wait to run into Chloe (my favorite character!), but I'm having a lot of fun in Syria in the meantime. I got killed by rocket launchers maybe six times before I got them all with the sniper rifle.

(Post originally on my blog)


Dead Rising 2 Impressions


He hasn't covered wars (you know), but he can do mean things with duct tape.

Dead Rising, how I’ve missed you. You first charmed my heart in Willamette, Colorado along with Frank West’s camera, your punishing save system, immense difficulty, and utter insanity. Within the first two minutes of actual gameplay, you can bet that I died. I fell in love right there.

Oh, Dead Rising. Now you’ve returned with Case Zero and Dead Rising 2. Both reminded me how much I hated the photography mechanic in Dead Rising and how sweet it was to duct tape shit together to make über weapons. Yes, I fell back in love the second I took a drill, combined it with a bucket, and created little helmets of death to put on the wandering undead.

My iPhone makes me want to do this too sometimes.

The game is just as difficult as its always been, only now the survivors are less stupid. Be prepared to experience a game that is inherently Japanese, despite its Canadian origins. Keiji Inafune’s stamp is felt all over this game, and not just because Katey mentions playing Mega Man within the first 45 minutes. It’s the punishing systems in place, the madcap insanity of the characters, and the utter insanity behind the premise and presentation that make this game so great.

El Kabong!

Bullet points:

- The voice acting is subtly Canadian, eh. It’s not a problem, but it’s jarring at times. Fortune City is in Nevada, not Ontario. Voice talent may come cheaper in Canada, but we can tell here in the states.

- Dead Rising 1 felt like a Japanese interpretation of what an American shopping mall might be like, so a lot of the things seemed a bit off. DR2 does a much more realistic job of capturing this new version of Vegas. There’s still some stuff that feels slightly off, but it feels like there’s less of an East/West disconnect, at least in my mind. Maybe it’s psychological because I know the game was made by Canadians.

- Combo weapons are amazing. I used a 2×4 and a lawnmower to make a portable lawnmower to be used in maiming all kinds of zombies. It was brilliant. The “wolverine gloves” made with boxing gloves and a bowie knife also deserves grand mention. Super fun. I can’t wait to combine a car battery with a goblin head to make a Blanka mask that electrocutes zombies around it.

- I like some of the new characters, but others aren’t anywhere near as endearing. Sullivan seems a little too obviously like the bad guy. TK feels a little like a stereotype. Rebecca Chang is ok so far, but my favorites are Stacey and Chuck. Both of them have great chemistry with each other and Katey and they seem to be the most heart of the cast.

- Thank god answering the transceiver is instantaneous now. Seriously, thanks.

- The achievements seem easier this time around. There are still some toughies (rescuing all 50 survivors), but it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

- I kind of like that shooting is so janky in this game, even if it’s frustrating when I needto shoot

- This game has perfect crunch to it. Hitting enemies with a sledgehammer feels appropriately brutal. Using a sword to slice through them feels exactly as smooth as it should. Most every bit of contact in this game feels perfect. The outlier: bullets. They lack oomph and are obnoxious.


Dragon Questing V Part XVI

Originally posted on my blog.

I have no idea why I've been sitting on this completed installment. Just remembered it was done and decided to post it this week.

At the top of Talon Tower Dan, Dave, Beca, and Sancho meet up with a very familiar face. Slon the Rook, the second third of the duo that murdered Pankraz. Dan already killed Kon the Knight right before being turned into a statue, so I was on my toes worried about what might happen after Dan took out Slon. Thankfully, nothing did and I was left feeling a little relieved and gratified that I had enacted Dan's revenge on yet another of his father's murderers. On a whim, I decided to check in with the party to see what they had to say about the fight.

Dave's response: "What's wrong dad, you look like you've seen a ghost?"

Poor Dan was repeatedly being forced to relive his tragic childhood by facing the creatures who killed his father and sold him into slavery. It wouldn't end there either. The next room contained the Bishop Ladja, third member of the squad who killed Pankraz. Would Dan get a chance to completely avenge the murder of his father? After a tough fight I thought I'd see payoff, but, predictably, Ladja ran away. Dan was now equipped with the tools to revive the Zenithian Dragon, so he returned to Zenithia to find the residents antagonizing Dr. Agon.

There was no Dr. Agon in Zenithia before it was banished underwater, they said, so this man must be a monster of some kind. They were half right. Dr. Agon (if you haven't gotten it yet, smash the two together) was the Zenithian Dragon and Dan's quest finally allowed him to assume his true form yet again. Next stop: the temple that Dan spent his entire life slaving to build and also the location of the Zenithian Armor. How would he get there? By riding his new, sweet Dragon.

It was strange to return to the temple after so many hours, but stranger still when I noticed that it was full of cultists who had given up on the world and were worshiping the evil presence that was corrupting it. Dan and his party quickly found the Zenithian Armor and forced their way to the stage of the shrine. Upon the shrine sat...Madalena?! She asked Dan and co. to join her, but when they refused, she cursed them. Turns out she was actually Queen Ferz in disguise! I believe it's at this point that I finally realized that there's a chess theme to the bosses (Queen Ferz, Slon the Rook, Kon the Knight, Bishop Ladja). Anyway, with the Queen defeated, it was time to explore the temple a bit more and delve into the labyrinth that lied beneath.


Glad That's Over


After embarrassing the team, acting like a primadonna, insulting the manager, and making everyone involved look bad, Hanley Ramirez either apologized to his teammates or the team has decided not to make a fuss about it, because he was back in the lineup last night doing fairly well. Thank god that's over. The Marlins are rarely in the news, but I don't want them in there because of this.

19 May

Hiroshima Carp (8) at Orix Buffaloes (2). Eric Stults notches his first win as the Carp manage to come out of their ten-games-under-0.500 hole for a day. Their record rises to 17-26-0 at a manageable 10.5 games back. That was sarcasm.

Yokohama BayStars (3) at Rakuten Eagles (2). Darrell Rasner actually tosses a great game against Yokohama, but the runs he gives up are just enough to combine with an unearned for the loss. Rakuten falls to 19-26-0, tying them with the 19-26-1 Fighters.

Tampa Bay Rays (10) at New York Yankees (6). Wade Davis and the powerful Rays offense combine to push this game increasingly out of New York's reach. The lead rises to four games as Tampa Bay moves to a 29-11 record.

New York Mets (3) at Washington Nationals (5). Liván Hernández continues his dominant streak as he beats the Mets for Washington, boosting them out of their five game losing streak. The Nats record increases to 21-20 in third place.

Baltimore Orioles (3) at Texas Rangers (4). Guthrie puts together quite the game, but the Orioles bullpen can't hold on, giving them their 28th loss.

Florida Marlins (5) at St. Louis Cardinals (1). The back-to-back shutout is prevented, but that doesn't mean that Aníbal Sánchez didn't have electric stuff last night. Florida's off-field woes stayed off-field as Hanley went 3-5 with an RBI and the rest of the team contributed as well. Florida's 22-19 record is good enough for second, but with the Nats breathing down their necks can they hold on against Adam Wainwright tonight?


I Don't Want to Talk About Hanley When JJ Is Pitching So Well


Josh Johnson tosses a shutout and the Rays win, but the red teams I love (Eagles, Carp, to a certain extent, the Nats) lose.

18 May

Hiroshima Carp (2) at Orix Buffaloes (11). Somehow I don't think Hiroshima is going to win the Interleague title. The Carp drop to 16-26-0 in fifth. Their only saving grace is that the Swallows have been absolutely sucking recently, keeping them out of last.

Yokohama BayStars (7) at Rakuten Eagles (5). Marty Brown and the Eagles are having a real tough go of the season. If they want to go to the Climax Series, they're gonna have to step it up, but they're also gonna need serious pitching. Rakuten drops back into fifth with their 19-25-0 record.

Arizona Diamondbacks (0) at Florida Marlins (8). It sure is nice to see Josh Johnson dominate a team, even one so mediocre as Arizona. JJ threw seven glorious innings, allowing us to forget about all the Hanley Ramirez drama from last night. Florida's record improves to 21-19, four games behind the Phillies.

Cleveland Indians (2) at Tampa Bay Rays (6). A game the Rays should never lose. They don't disappoint. Their first place lead rises to three games with their 28-11 record.

Kansas City Royals (3) at Baltimore Orioles (4). Another win eludes Greinke, but this time it's kind of his fault. The Orioles offense notches two against the guy, proving that he is human. Baltimore's record improves to 13-27. They're only seven games away from the fourth place Red Sox.

Washington Nationals (2) at St. Louis Cardinals (3). Chris Carpenter does what he does best and limits the Nats to two. Clippard has an uncharacteristically bad moment and surrenders a homer to Ryan Ludwick. That's all it takes to lose a game. The Nats are in third with their 20-20 record after a heartbreaking five-game skid.


You Win Some...


...you lose some. It happens.

17 May

Off Day

Kansas City Royals (4) at Baltimore Orioles (3). Baltimore's third series against more fair teams starts off on the wrong foot. Their record falls to 12-27 in last.

Arizona Diamondbacks (5) at Florida Marlins (1). Chris Volstad has a rough start and Edwin Jackson manages to perplex Marlins hitters in a real momentum killer off of the sweep. Florida stays tied with Washington in second with their 20-19 record.

Cleveland Indians (3) at Tampa Bay Rays (4). Walk-off heroics with an extra-innings squeeze bunt by Bartlett pushes the Rays ahead in this one. Tampa Bay retains the best record in the majors at 27-11.

Washington Nationals (2) at St. Louis Cardinals (6). Craig Stammen gives up too many in the sixth, but the game is not a total wash as rookie Drew Storen makes his major league debut, tossing 2/3 of an inning, giving up none, and striking out Matt Holliday. The Nats record sits at 20-19 tied for second.