It has been a hectic weekend finally actually moving my PC and starting to live in my flat. Not a long intro at all this Week, so let us see what Our Week in Games has been…
Rome II, really enjoying it but there are definitely some bits which seem a bit off-key in terms of diplomacy, load times and some battle textures for one. Regardless I am having fun having just finished taking over Britain and Ireland. My next target is going to be somewhere around the Belgian/Dutch region, hoping for some good progress there next week.
I also dabbled in Europa Universalis IV online with Craig Lager from GamingDaily. Craig took control of Portugal and I took on Morocco. We ignored out respective nations inherent desire to kill each other and turned our focus to building our economies through trade and colonisation. That went swimmingly until I took it upon myself to attack Algiers which started out positively…until they turned around with an army twice the size of mine and promptly thumbed me. I then had to deal with some rebels in my own provinces by expending some military power. Sadly, Craig had to retire early with internet trouble, though we aim to pick up where we were as long as the saved game function works.
Veni. Vidi. Vici.
Or at least, that’s what I was expecting to happen after booting up Total War: Rome II for the first time following its release this week. In hindsight, after my hands-on with an early preview build at this year’s Rezzed, where my forces were completely obliterated by a wave of elephants, arrows and great balls of fire (don’t ask), I should probably have expected less of the conquering, and more of the running away.
I’ve yet to settle on my nation of choice for a lengthy campaign. Instead I’ve been dipping into custom battles to get a feel for the new combat engine, and finding that I’ve managed to forget pretty much everything I learned from previous Total War games. Key to Rome’s new battlefield interface is the element of surprise – sight-lines and cover now have an impact on the visibility of enemy forces, and this new feature managed to smack me round the face after I assaulted what I initially thought was an almost deserted village, which turned out to have several thousand deadly warriors hiding behind a tree.
For sheer spectacle, however, nothing beats the sight of a dozen massive wooden ships crashing up a shoreline and spilling its sword-wielding passengers onto the beach. I can see naval forces playing a large part in my overall strategies, more through the fact that they just look incredible over anything else.
Outside of the custom battles, the new campaign mode is not filling me with the excitement I remember from its predecessor. I’m not a huge fan of the army changes, where each force must be accompanied by a general. Whilst it does mean that battles tend to now be larger affairs, my old tactic of probing the enemy’s territory with small, expendable scout forces is no longer viable. Additionally, with Rome’s new and improved streamlined interface and enhanced UI, naturally I have absolutely no idea what any of the buttons actually do any more. Still, familiarity will come with time, and Rome II’s a game I will probably be dipping in and out of for a long time to come.
Given the recent announcement surrounding the upcoming XCOM expansion, I’ve decided to delve back into the game. God, why did I ever leave?
Again, even on normal it’s a proper challenge. About a third into the game I was feeling confident; I had carapace armour for all my troops, and skeletal for my snipers. I was decked out with lasers and half way through plasma research. Most of my squad was lieutenant or above, but during a simple (but ‘hard’) abduction mission, I took my eye off the ball for one second and lost half my squad.
That’s the beauty of XCOM – it’s what it gets, a sense of loss. I was trying to deal with some mutants who were just outside a DVD shop when it all went wrong. I’d just cleared the mutons inside when more appeared, flanking me outside. Luckily I had one action left on my heavy, so a well placed shredder rocket ‘distributed’ the internal residents. Although I was still partially flanked, there were only three mutons left, meaning I could re-adjust.
The First muton criticalled (is that even a word??) my support in one hit. Three turns to stabilise. Next muton took half of my first heavy’s health. The third injured a car…
My turn. First priority was to get to the downed team-mate; problem being she was in the middle of a shooting gallery with no cover. I moved my other heavy up, through the building, to flank one of the mutants outside. Blat-blat-blat. One muton down. My sniper heavily damaged one of the other mutants, and the rest of my turn was spent shifting cover and moving my team into firing positions.
Aliens turn. On his first shot, the injured muton kills my heavy. My captain-rank heavy. My captain-ranked heavy named after my brother. In one hit. 12 damage and a critical. Bugger.
The second muton hits one of my assaults, doing five damage.
The next turn involves an implausible situation where two mutons manage to survive three 70% + shots, and hold my front line at bay. My downed support bleeds out. Just as the turn ends and I think I’ll finally be able to get some pay-back (the rest of my squad now safely in good firing positions), three floaters arrive. Sigh.
I’m immediately being flanked in my newly secured positions.
My turn. I somehow manage to fight my way to new positions, killing the three floaters in one turn (rocket and a grenade), and my superb sniper kills one of the mutons from halfway across the map. Unfortunately the next turn sees my assault die with another plasma shot to the face.
In the end, from a position of perceived superiority I lost three highly ranked team members, and had another two out injured for almost a month. All because I got my spacing slightly wrong and was exposed by a second flank.
I was gutted, angry, elated and immediately loaded another mission.
More of this, with bionic syndicate-like troops? Yes please.
I’ve had some really abominable connection issues of late (which basically scuppered my grand plan of trying Trine 2 and Orcs Must Die 2 in co-op multiplayer) so instead I went through the latest DLC for Dishonored: a little something called The Brigmore Witches, the follow-up to The Knife of Dunwall.
TKoD was a solid experience but the second DLC improves on it in pretty much every respect. Both tell the story of Daud, the wonder assassin, the big murder-name in the city of Dunwall before Corvo turned up. But I felt that of the two Knife was definitely lacking in content. With the exception of one particular level it kind of bled into the background- not really making all that much effort to differentiate Daud’s story from Corvo’s (mis)adventures- and on that front Witches has fought to remedy that.
The story’s stronger, the new enemies are a welcome breath of fresh air, and the levels themselves feel more like living parts of a city: Knife had a shortage of ambient conversations by comparison and had the nasty habit of cramming far, far too many guards into small areas, and while I wouldn’t call Witches more forgiving it definitely makes the effort to map believable and manageable patrol paths.
The “best” ending requires less lethal play as always, so here’s to a thoroughly enjoyable high chaos murder-goddamn-everyone run after this one. You’ll be able to try out all the new toys that way.
Speaking of new toys, how about that new XCOM trailer! That’s what I want out of DLC. Rocket fists. Why doesn’t Civilisation have a rocket fist pack yet?