DLC available, maybe even before the game is finished.

19 12 2012

I use that title in jest, but  honestly it’s perhaps not far from the truth.

I did in fact buy the XCOM DLC to try it out. Here are my thoughts in an easy-to-read fashion:

The Good:

  • The new Council missions are interesting, impressively challenging ( they introduce later-game aliens almost too early for you to effectively handle) and come with new maps.
  • New hats and new armor decorative styles. Barrets! Awesome new helmets!
  • The “special character” soldier has a non-American voice! He actually sounds like he could be Asian! (Can we get other such voices now?!)

The Bad:

  • The special character.
    • You can’t change his name, his armor style, or colors.
    • He is considerably stronger than any other soldier you have when you get him…because he has “higher than average stats” and he’s also at least two ranks higher than your best soldier at that time.
    • You totally depend on him because the second council mission is SO HARD. For real. I’ve played it three times and – while I’ve come close – I have yet to beat it. Without him it’s maybe impossible.
    • He utterly defies what makes the game awesome.

The Ugly:

  • The “back story” for the special character. It’s painfully, woefully, fundamentally uncreative.

It’s a rookie Dungeon Master mistake to introduce a super NPC at the table; an NPC that solves a problem your PCs were working on. Even if that NPC presents a further related problem for the PCs to solve, you’ve still just spoiled the entire atmosphere…because your PCs are supposed to be the stars of the show, and you just demonstrated otherwise. They worked all that time and for what? To be robbed of their renown at the last second.

Well, here we are in XCOM, where each of your characterless soldiers define names and cultivate characters for themselves by surviving and performing under your command. They get nicknames…and maybe you change those nicknames to fit your perception of their performance, or maybe you forgo the nickname and just use their last name. Maybe you uniquely color their armor. You definitely feel it when you make a bad call and they go down. These are your characters that you’re cultivating; this is your experience that you’re cultivating. You’re biting your nails and barely squeezing out a victory with that one rookie who will make it to the Mothership and give his or her life to save Earth.

“It’s been an honor,” you might say. I did, when “Smoke” sacrificed herselt to tear that cursed ship out of the air. Smoke was a rookie with a sorted past, one who broke a lot early. She was a rookie who struggled to climb through the ranks, only to become my strongest soldier. She made herself a name. She deserved better. I watched her grow…watched her earn her name.

But now there’s this DLC that comes out where they hand you a character who comes with a nickname – that you cannot change – and off the bat outshines the other soldiers who would otherwise earn names for themselves. He shouldn’t be allowed to automatically be awesome. He should have to earn it. Hell, he should be just like any other escort and not join XCOM after it’s all over.

Maybe it’d have been different if he wasn’t automatically a Heavy in each of the two Classic games I kicked off and selected “DLC Council Missions” in. (It’s nice that you can choose whether or not you see the guy at all.) Maybe it’d be alright if he was truly unique and had some abilities no other class has. He’s a Triad: why not make him all Jet Li and have him  use stealth and martial arts? That might be interesting…but still incorrect as it violates the whole “My soldiers make their own stories” gig. This guy comes with a pre-packaged story. It’s dumb. I’m sorry, but it is. It’s an affront to everything the game is supposed to be about.

I bought the DLC and I’m happy to see a few new maps, and very happy with more customization options for my troops. That said, I’m not sure I can recommend buying it. It’s not the kind of DLC this game warrants or needs. I kind of regret buying this DLC. I do NOT regret buying XCOM; despite its bugs, it’s the best game I’ve played since Final Fantasy Tactics.

Not to mention that I’ve seen the teleport bug more now than ever. Two new games over the weekend, both of those resulted in a horrific, horrific defeat when six to nine aliens just magically appeared right on top of me. I killed six floaters with a rocket…because they appeared right on top of the guy with the rocket, all able to fire immediately. I got out of that mission with one guy. It was challenging, but in the wrong way.

The game needs work; it needs the kind of work that suggests they should be paying more developers and less level designers right now. They need to fix this stuff because this game is amazing and it’s going to burn out and die. Who’s going to buy it this holiday gift-giving season knowing others are having a frustrating time with these bugs? Who’s going to buy it after this holiday gift-giving season when those that do receive it suffer from the same bugs?

The game has solid design and a lot of good ideas and promise. Selling us gimmicky DLC does not convince me that you’re going to carry those good ideas and promise forward. Snap out of it. Please.

Speaking of stupid DLC…

Dishonored was okay. It was what I needed at the time – stealth game play – but was clunky and needed more. It also suffered from the stupidest design decision I can think of. The game presents you with so many different, multi-faceted methods of killing people. The game presents you with *two* one-dimensional ways of non-lethally taking people down. Guess which suite of methods you need to use for the Good ending? That’s right; I spent the entire game choking people and budgeting sleep darts.

If you’re going to go with the stupid old idea that “good guys get the good ending, bad guys get the bad ending” then at least give equal gaming fun to both sides, mmkay?

But instead of doing that ,what they’re doing is releasing some half-assed “obstacle course” DLC to try and milk that cash cow early. Guh.

Thade! What about Youtube?

I think I’m ready to get back into commenting on my gameplay and finish XCOM Ep. 3; I am very sorry for the delay. The software release at work ate my life and by the time I got back to XCOM, I sucked again…so I played on and off for a week to get back into it. Not to mention, I enjoyed Dishonored and played a ton of Minecraft. I did post a tiny video of Minecraft (my friends and I play on a private SMP server) and maybe I’ll do a tour of my grounds to show off what I’ve done in there.

Editing XCOM vids takes time because I can’t do live commentary (I tried, it makes me lose focus and die die die) and I move so painstakingly at times that I legit cut out 40% of the footage of my creeping  up to first contact.

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