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Now Playing - XCOM Edition

Greetings all! This entry marks the beginning of my regular feature, a blog post series on what I'm currently playing, renting, and purchasing, with my thoughts, opinions, and (attempted) witty remarks on both those titles and the games industry at large. The name isn't all that original and may be subject to change, but it's serviceable enough to get things moving.

First off, I'd like to thank the warm welcoming comments I received on my first blog entry - you folks really know how to make someone feel welcome to such a great project. I've already dumped a small fraction of my collection into various lists and cleaned up and posted a batch of reviews, although I was dismayed to realize when dusting them off that a large body of the reviews I've written in the past aren't actually suitable without some rewriting. It'll take some additional time to get those up, but I'll post them as steadily as I can over the next month. I am not exactly sure when I'll be able to get the SNES or Genesis lists together as I have literally some 20+ boxes of games for those systems spread out over three closets, and I can't just tear them open to get them entered. Well I could just tear them open, but then I'd have a mess I could barely control in a house already partially disassembled for renovation. I'll be starting on the living room soon and will begin construction on shelves and storage arrangements for most - if not all - of my consoles, so I'll probably document that a bit as I try to impose order and get everything up in the open.

Currently Playing - XCOM - Enemy Unknown, Asura's Wrath, Borderlands 2

XCOM...what a fantastic game. I played the original only briefly at a friend's place off and on, as I was computer-less for most of that general time period. I have however played enough games in a vaguely similar vein to be comfortable with the concepts, and I am absolutely laying waste to my enemies on Normal. I find myself wishing I had set the difficulty to classic, but I am already planning a second run at the Impossible setting just for the sheer fun of it. (I've avoided guides on this go-round, but will definitely keep one handy for Impossible.) I'm not really sure I can think of a single negative word about the game; the balance, resource contentions, AI behaviors, and various random events all feel exactly right, and when I'm forced to reload a mission I know it was because -without any question - I screwed up. There's some occasional texture pop-in and I've had a turn "hang" for a few extra seconds on motionless AI units, but beyond that I haven't run into any problems. It's just amazing that a game this hard was published in this day and age, and I hope it boes well for the future that the game did so well at retail.

Asura's Wrath is very...interesting. This is a game I am only playing because the Giant Bombcast crew raved about it, and it's well worth the time investment. I am not the huge fan of anime I used to be, but the story is so delightfully over the top that it's reminding me that I have some series I've never finished and should get around to. It's barely a game and yet they keep the interactivity involved enough to make me feel like I'm advancing things along. I've already hit "Keep It" from GameFly, at less than $14 it's a definite worthwhile purchase in my opinion.

Borderlands 2 will probably be on this list for a while longer, although I probably won't have much to say about it past this post. I sunk uncounted hours into the first Borderlands and was waiting for this one on the edge of my seat. It's the first game in a very long time that I actually pre-ordered, and I paid for the season pass automatically because I paid for and enjoyed every piece of DLC for the first game - even Moxxi's arena. I didn't get to play through the main game at the same time everyone else did, mostly because I'm TV-less and have been for a while. (It's a long story.) It was only three months ago when I bought a Kanex device to turn my 27" iMac into an HDMI display, and I'll freely admit it was primarily the launch of Borderlands 2 that motivated me to do it. I ran into some problems with the device however and had to send it in to them, losing a couple of weeks in the process. Once I got it back it was only another few weeks before NaNoWriMo started, so that ate up my time as well. I'm almost done with the main campaign, I stopped at the very end to run through the two DLC packs, and I'm almost done with them as well. I figure I'll finish those up within the next week or two and start on my second run through with at least my current primary character (mechromancer) before putting it down for a while.

Is it as good as the first Borderlands? That's a tough question. On the one hand yes, but on the other - no. Don't get me wrong, mechanically the sequel is a much better game. The guns are better, the enemy AI is tougher, the quests themselves are a bit more varied, and I am enjoying the more cohesive story. The overall game architecture, however...hmm. I describe the first Borderlands as an FPS World of Warcraft, whereas I believe this one would be more of an FPS Diablo III. I miss the feeling of multiple quest hubs in the first game, literally picking up and dropping off ten quests in one location and completing them in one circuit around an area. The sequel doesn't have that, and I've also found some of the sheer size of the sub-areas and the extremely rapid enemy respawn rate to be quite obnoxious at times. It's become much less of an issue as the DLC warps the level curve in the same way DLC warped the curve in the first one, but for a while it was extremely tedious to revisit an area because the enemies would generally be just strong enough to make simply running through fairly inadvisable unless you're going to be running a long way. (The general trigger and pull radius for the enemy spawn points is small enough to slightly counterbalance the obnoxiousness, but only as you get up to higher levels.) I also found the loot drop rate in multiplayer to be a fraction higher than the first game, resulting in the perception of just too much shit to sort through - a complaint I've heard echoed on many other sites, including this one.

Still, these are only minor blemishes on what is otherwise a very solid and entertaining game. I'm in the minority of people vocal about games online in that I like pretty much all of the NPCs in the game, including Tiny Tina. (My opinion may also be colored by the fact I think Ashly Burch is hilarious, period.) I am still surprised and somewhat dismayed that there's no way to replay the various ECHO broadcasts in the game, that was something I really liked about the first one. Hopefully they can patch that in at some point, although I'm not optimistic.

Just Rented - Blades of Time

I don't have anything to say about this one yet, because Asura's Wrath went in first and hasn't come back out again. I'm fairly certain it won't be very good, because X-Blades was terrible. I'll try any game once, though. Actually, now that I think about it - I should write a review of X-Blades. I have fun reviewing bad games, as the bulk of my posted reviews so far illustrates.

Just Purchased - Shadows of the Damned, LEGO Batman 2 - DC Super Heroes

GameFly keeps running some killer sales, so lately I've had more games coming in than I've had time to play. Seriously, I've got at least a dozen games from them over the recent months I have yet to even put in the appropriate system. In this case I did actually play Shadows of the Damned a while back, and I found it wacky enough to justify as a sub-$20 purchase. The thick Spanish accent is nothing short of hilariously awesome, and the shooting mechanics play well enough to make it interesting. I didn't get very far when I rented it last month, but look for more on that game soon.

I haven't tried LEGO Batman 2 at all yet, but I don't really need to - it can just go on the shelf for a rainy day. I like the LEGO games and own all of them to date, because they're great games to drop in on a day when you are absolutely worn out or just want to switch your brain off for mindless activity. It's the videogame equivalent of watching a sitcom, and I derive a great deal of pleasure from that in certain moods.

Achievement Hunt - Dead Space

I love Dead Space, I really do. I've played through the game three times already when I first picked it up, and enough time has gone by that I got the itch to run through it yet again. This time I'm trying for the Tier 3 Epic Engineer achievement, but to do that I first have to beat the game on Hard. (I originally ran through it on Normal twice, then Easy once to clear out specific achievements very quickly.) Running through the game twice in a row on the hardest available difficulty settings may try my patience, but we'll see. I'll also take a crack at the two shooting minigame achievements, but I'm not as set on those quite yet. If I make the Tier 3 run successfully I'll have no choice than to go back and try repeatedly to get them as I would be 20 points from an S-Rank at that point, but...I'll burn that bridge when I get to it.

Final Thoughts

I'm still trying to get a feel for a good structure for these posts, and in the future will probably try to inject a bit more humor. Comments are always welcome - what are you currently playing, and what do you think of it?



So after listening to the Giant Bombcast for several months - including going back and listening to an enormous chunk of the archives - I have finally decided to create a user account and actually contribute to this massive monument to game knowledge. It's hard to pin down exactly why, since a great many people are already saying what I can say, and in some cases they're saying it far better than I can say it. I definitely feel an urge to contribute, especially since I do qualify as a collector (22 systems, ~1000 retail copies of games across those systems), and I've noticed some of my favorites aren't well represented in the Wiki...yet. There's also the interesting fact that almost everything I've ever written about games over the years - and there is a decent amount of that thanks to a noble but misguided effort a friend and I put into creating a game and movie review site/wiki together a decade ago - can be consolidated, updated, and added to Giant Bomb. It can all finally have a home! A real home, not just a dusty archive system on a server in the closet.

I've also felt a growing need to resume writing about games again, mostly thanks to an incredibly successful NanoWriMo that's put me 50k words into a first draft of a novel. (Only 60k+ more to go, eh heh heh, sigh.) I've noticed over the years that a writing project in any form tends to breed other writing projects. In any event, I'll be cleaning up and posting reviews I've written over the past number of years, especially to older games that do not have one. I'll also try using this blog, although it will take time to see if I've got enough random gaming information to discuss regularly enough to keep that up. I do go through periods of madness where I try to go back and improve my achievement scores on specific games, and that seems like it's probably worth a laugh to document in a blog in public where I can be mocked properly.

Also I'm currently on vacation and have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment. Idle hands, devil's work, etc.