Reviews by jurassicutility
Worthy of bearing the X-COM name.jurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown (NA)
Overall, I've been quite pleased with the game. I loved the original X-COM to death, but I feel that both games are good for different reasons. The reboot is missing quite a few of the original game's features, but I think what they were going for was to minimize a lot of the boring micromanagement you ended up doing in the original game and tighten up tactical combat (which was the best part of the original game anyways). I think the smaller squadsize of the new game actually works to make fights more tactical. In the original, soldiers were basically disposable pawns, and the lack of any range limitation meant that sniping tactics were WAY too effective. In the new game you're actually forced to use squad tactics if you want to survive a fight with the aliens.
There are some gripes I do have about the new game though. The lack of randomized levels is regrettable. There are only about 15 distinct level maps, and after a few hours of play you will find that you've already seen about all of the unique maps, and know exactly where the good cover and likely alien spawns are. There are also no Base Defense missions. I can actually understand why they did away with the randomized levels, but WHY NO BASE DEFENSE FIRAXIS?! It was such an important part of the original game's flow! It's supposed to be when you have to face the consequences of how you planned - or didn't plan - your base layout.
Besides that though, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a very good game. I'd recommend it anyone who was a fan of the original and is willing to approach it with an open mind.
Surprisingly goodjurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of Sonic Generations
I was a little surprised by this game. It had been ages since I'd played a Sonic game, and after hearing about how bad some of the more recent Sonic games had been I was a little wary about the good things I'd been reading about this game. Like, is it a good game, or is it just 'good by comparison'? Sonic Generations is most definitely a good game even when considered by itself.
The main gimmick in Generations is that, because of time traveling shenanigans, the Sonic of the present must join forces and revisit places from past Sonic games. Each level in Sonic Generations has two versions that you need to beat. One plays like a classic 2D platformer in the style of the Genesis Sonic games, and the second is a 3D interpretation of that level that plays more like the recent Sonic games. This means that classic Sonic fans get to play 3D style reinterpretations of classic Sonic levels like Green Hill Zone, and people that have played, say, Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 get to see 2D versions of levels from those games.
The premise is a bit of an attempt to cater to Sonic fans, but the game has more going for it then nostalgia. The 2D levels are all pretty well-done with solid level design, and the controls feel about right. I'm less crazy about the 3D levels, but they're still fun. Those levels seem to have a lot more 'blink and you miss it' spots where you have to premeditate where you need to jump or avoid an obstacle, and some places where it's hard to get enough distance coming off of ramps or jumps to get to certain areas. The final boss and the zone before it were pretty weak, but other than that the main levels were fun and well-designed.
The game took me about 8-10 hours to beat, so it's decently long for a platformer, and there's also quite a bit of re-playability in the form of challenge levels and the ranking system. After playing the main levels, there's a lot of extra challenge levels that you can play that unlock artwork and music when you complete them and have a ranking system based on how quickly you finish. The main levels also have rankings, as well as hidden red rings that also unlock music and artwork. I'm still playing the game (up to 17 hours according to Steam) because I'm trying to S-Rank all of the challenge levels, and there's like 80 of them.
Despite some minor niggles, I found Generations to be very enjoyable and I think this was a good faith effort from Sonic Team. Some might get more mileage out of it than others, but that's okay.
Highly recommended.jurassicutility | Feb. 5, 2014 | Review of XCOM: Enemy Within (NA)
Opening fanboy statement: This expansion is so freaking good, and well worth the $30 starting price.
Just wanted to get that out of the way, because the new expansion is very much an expansion. This isn't some rushed, unsatisfying cash grab like many DLC packs seem to be. It adds a ton of new content, and addresses a number of niggling issues that myself and other XCOM players had with the base game. For example, 40 new maps have been added, and are able to rotate in and out with the old ones. This alone makes a huge difference, and is one of the main reasons get the expansion. The original version had, I think, 80 unique maps? It always felt like a lot less, because those are split between 3 or 4 basic mission types, and you'd end up seeing the same maps again and again during the course of a single play-through. The new maps are excellent, and comparing them with the old maps really makes me appreciate how much effort went into designing them. The maps are nicely large (a lot of the old maps are rather small and claustrophobic), and you see a lot awesome new settings like farmlands from the old, 1994 X-COM and even a base-defense mission.
There's also a new kind of resource called "meld", which is required to unlock a lot of the games new research paths and soldier upgrades. Each mission in the game starts out with two meld canisters, and there's a time limit on each of them before the meld disappears forever. This is kind neat, because the lure of meld may cause you to take risks that you normally wouldn't take, or go through patches of the map you normally wouldn't explore. The temptation may be to simply send a single soldier after meld canisters so you maximize the ground you cover while minimizing risk, but there's a new enemy type that's there to address that. The enemies in question are these weird, squid like things that turn invisible when you spot them, and only become visible after they sneak up on one of your soldiers and starts strangling him or her. This seems like a neat idea at first, but I feel the implementation leaves a little to be desired. The only way to pre-empt a strangling attempt is to keep all your soldiers close together and set everyone to 'overwatch' so that you can hopefully finish off the enemy right after it reveals itself and before it latches on to your soldier. Once it latches on, it does 2 damage every turn, starting with the first turn. In the early game, when the accuracy of all your soldiers suck, these enemies appearing is like the game saying "hey, one of your soldiers is just going to take two damage here, and there's nothing you can do about it". So, slightly annoying, but I like that they're there.
There's also a new human faction called EXALT that fights for the alien side, and it seems like they're meant to play the same role that alien bases play in X-COM: UFO Defense. During the course of a month EXALT will form cells in one of your funding nations, and if allowed to exist, will drain your remaining cash reserves each month. You can assign a single soldier to go on infiltration mission, which occurs off screen, and then later roust out the cell in a proper mission after a set period of time. Again, I think the implementation of this new mechanic leaves something to be desired, but it does add an interesting permutation to the strategy layer of the game. Basically, it encourages you to spend money as soon as you get it, because it's become a bit of a 'use it or lose' affair.
The research and upgrade paths that meld unlocks are a real highlight. Meld allows you to research gene modification and/or cybernetic augmentation. Pro-tip, one of the first things you should research is cybernetic augmentation. Enemy Within is actually significantly harder during the first few months than Enemy Unknown due to some not so obvious tweaks to some of the game parameters. I think the accuracy and critical hit rates of aliens have been bumped up on Classic Difficulty and I lost two Ironman Classic mode games in row, before I realized the reason I kept having to fight Mutons with default rifles by the third month was because they increased research times. Having a mech-trooper will really even the odds, because they have a punching move that does 12 damage and has no cool-down (that's enough to one-hit kill a Muton every turn!), and a move that destroys cover, and is unlimited use. The research requirements are also low, too low in my opinion, and you could easily have a mech-soldier by the second month. Gene-mods also seem pretty neat, which can grant soldiers abilities like being able to jump over buildings or chameleonic skin that allows them to become invisible in high cover.
Ah, so let's see. What else is there? Bug-fixes: a lot of the remaining issues that people would complain about incessantly like the teleporting aliens issue and the flanking bug are now gone. New mission types: The new "Site Recon" council mission is amazing, and is one of the best missions in the entire game.
One thing I've heard that's kind of a shame is that they didn't change the ending sequence at all. The final mission was kind of a push-over, and it would've been nice if they'd added a harder post-mission or something, but overall I'm really happy with what Firaxis managed to provide with this. I'd recommend buying the expansion if you're a really big fan, but you might be better off waiting if you merely liked XCOM: EU as opposed to loved it. Like I said before, I think it's worth $30, considering how much new content there is, and the number of game hours a quality replay will give you. I paid $22 after preorder bonuses, and felt it was a good deal. $15 dollars would be a steal.