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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

2013-08-25_00001Another game from Firaxis and 2K, but not Sid Meier this time, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a tactical shooter from the same people as the previously reviewed Civ V. A good way to think of XCOM is that it is like Civ V, but with Aliens and with a big ol’ underground base, and with squares instead of hexagons.

Gameplay revolves, once again, around ordering your units about, placing them well and upgrading them. As your guys get exp, they will specialise into a few classes, such as snipers, support and heavies. You’re tasked with saving civilians, general alien killing and a bit of saving humanity while you’re at it.

2KGMKT_XCOMEU_SCREENS_PCUI_ChangeElevationOther than that, the rest of the game is spent in your underground lair base building new facilities and researching new techs to repel the alien invaders. You’re also in charge of positioning satellites around the Earth, and responding to specific alien invasions to help reduce panic around the world.

Clearly, I wasn't great at this.

Clearly, I wasn’t great at this.

What are your thoughts on XCOM: Enemy Unknown?

First released: October 2012; Published by 2K Games; Developed by Firaxis Games

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Sid Meier’s Civilization V

This game: good, but lengthy. Most strategy games (eg Age of Empires) have games that last around two, three hours? Civ V, which has game speeds quick, normal, epic and marathon, takes at least four hours per game, in my experience. And that’s on quick pace! In short, you’ll need a long time to get through a game in one sitting, but it is rewarding. I recently finished a game on marathon pace, which took me more a less one week’s time.

The game starts you off with a settler to found a city, and a warrior to fight stuff. From there, you grow your empire, by constructing buildings, founding new cities, exploring, training units and fighting foes.

Barbarian attacks: A bloody nuisance.

Barbarian attacks: A bloody nuisance.

As may or may not be clear from the above image, Civ V is a turn-based-strategy game, and works on hexagonal tiles. Whereas in the more familiar Age of Empires games (along with others) you can just about place units and buildings wherever you want to, the hexagonal grid limits your choices. Far from being a nuisance, this really puts strategy first. Learning where to place your archers, tanks, warriors, knights, cannons, etc, and on what type of terrain, really is satisfying. When exploring, if you place a unit on a hill they will have a better vantage point to survey the lands around, that kind of thing. For me, this makes terrain types (jungle, hills, rivers, etc) and placement of units and cities one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.

An archer unit defending the border against invading barbarians.

An archer unit defending the border against invading barbarians.

Similar to most strategy games there are scenarios you can play, such as 1066, but in my humble opinion, they’re of limited fun. And while we’re on the subject of things that aren’t quite fun in the long term, music. It must be difficult for a game that can last days to make enough music that is interesting. The music is specific to each civilisation, and develops as the game goes on, but hearing the same thing again and again tends to grind my gears.

A fledgling Persian empire.

A fledgling Persian empire.

The expansion pack Gods & Kings, released in June 2012, adds some new leaders to play as and a few new scenarios, but more importantly, a couple of new gameplay features; faith and espionage (ie religions which spread through populations and cities, and spies which can steal information and technologies from other players).

Custom Buddhism, ftw.

Custom Buddhism, ftw.

That being said, the expansions are fairly expensive, and you can get away without them.

An expanded Persian empire, with armies along its borders.

An expanded Persian empire, with armies along its borders.

For my money, it’s a brilliant game with a few flaws, but one where you really will get your money’s worth, given the amount of time you will likely spend playing it. What are your thoughts on Civ V?

First released: September 2010; Published by 2K Games; Developed by Firaxis Games

A Day in the Life of Civilization V

I founded the glorious capital of Constantinople for the empire of Byzantium. The city was placed strategically between two mountain tiles and a river, with the rest of the surrounding area covered in forest. In short, it was a defensive fortress. However I quickly needed some resources, so I built another city on the coast and started to build up my resources, which isn’t easy when being attack by barbarians every other turn.

Bane of my life.

Bane of my life.

Things were going well for a while, I met a couple of nice city states, worked the lands with some trade posts, farms and a massive lot of plantations. Seriously, I could not move for spice. It was then that I encountered the first of the two people (real) I was playing with over LAN, let’s call him Jim. Now Jim has an aggressive, tactical mind when it comes to strategy games, and is someone that would take my fledgling empire over in a heartbeat, given the chance. So I had three choices: (1) Call on the second person playing, let’s call him John, to come to my aid, (2) build up my own military to counter Jim, or (3) get on Jim’s nice side.

Truly, scheming was necessary.

Truly, scheming was necessary.

Option (1) wasn’t an option, as John was on another continent and we had not yet researched the Astronomy tech and had no caravels to take us across the ocean. Option (2) Was a nice idea, but I don’t have as strong a military mind as Jim, let alone the resources I knew he had access to. So I was left with plan C. Thankfully, I was surrounded by some strategic positions and plenty of resources. As Jim was midway through a war with the Mongolians he was falling behind on his economy, I proposed an alliance of sorts: In exchange for him not attacking me/protecting me, I gave him a city on the west coast and resources.

The moral of the story? Suck up to the guy with a massive army.

Hear me roar.

Hear me roar.

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