Posts tagged #strategy

Now Playing: XCOM Enemy Unknown

xcom-enemy-unknown-cover.jpeg

Last year I played through Fire Emblem Awakening on 3DS. It was my first Fire Emblem, and my first real Strategy RPG. If you know anything about Fire Emblem, you'll know that permanent character death is a big feature of the game, and that the developers tried to make Awakening a more beginner friendly iteration by giving the player a non-permadeath mode. I didn't choose to use that mode, instead opting for the more traditional mode. In practical terms, however, I couldn't let my characters die. Should one of my beloved team fall in battle, I would simply restart the game and do the battle over, adjusting my strategy to try not to die.

Enter XCOM Enemy Unknown. I've been waiting to play this for a while, all the time knowing that it was probably my kind of jam, given my love for the whole Fire Emblem experience. I'd heard podcasts speak about about squads dying permanently, and players getting attached to their soldiers, even going so far as to name them after their friends and acquaintances. Could I subject myself to that same level of attachment, and invariably, that level of loss?

Turns out I can. I'm now in my sixth game of XCOM. Not because I've finished it six times, oh no. Because I've restarted it six times. I've yet to assault the Alien Base, which I understand is about one-third of the way through the game. Steam tells me I've been playing XCOM for a total of 22 hours now.

Hello, my name is Eugene, and I'm a perfectionist.

It's not that soldiers are dying. I've been naming them after twitter friends, gaming podcast personalities, family members, friends. I had my cousin, a sniper at the Major promotion level die on a mission. Whoops. I let it go. Losing soldiers is not as problematic in XCOM as it is in Fire Emblem. In XCOM, you can replace a soldier very easily, The training and experience that they gained is lost, but there's always another soldier to take their place.

I have restarted XCOM six times because I'm obsessing. One of my restarts was because I discovered that if you start the game without doing the tutorial, you can complete the first mission without losing three out of your initial four squad members. Another 2 of my restarts were because I didn't like the fact that I only had one Steam Vent area in my base on which to build a Thermal Power Generator. Finally I've been restarting over the council members leaving XCOM. If a countries' panic level gets too high, at the end of the month they will leave the XCOM project. The only way to reduce their panic level is to place a satellite over their county, or to successfully complete a mission in that country. I'm trying to achieve a play through where nobody leaves the council. So far on this current try I have lost two countries. I almost thought about starting again, but I think this time I'll just see it through, if just to try to make it to the end. I've only got 21 days until my other jam releases, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.

I can always try it again at a higher difficulty level once I finish. Because it seems I don't mind punishing myself with a great game.

Posted on January 22, 2015 and filed under Reviews.

The real point behind the Wii Mini

I was thinking about the Wii Mini this week (no, really) and to be honest, it got me all existential for a moment. As in, why in the name of all that's good does this thing exist? I get that it's a cheap way for people to enjoy Wii titles. At the low end price of $99, it captures that bargain basement market. I understand that.

But to reach that price point, Nintendo felt that it had to remove some features. Most notably, the Wii Mini has no online functionality at all. There is no way for you to play any Wii games that have multiplayer, no way to access the Wii Virtual Console or Wii Ware, no Netflix. You get to play what's on the disc, and that's all.

So let's contrast that with Sony's big announcement last week. The PlayStation 4. Among the biggest enhancements that the PS4 will bring is the idea of video streaming, both to share gameplay videos with your friends, and also to offer back catalog PlayStation games through streaming. Being online is a fundamental requirement for Sony's vision of the PS4.

It's all well and good that Sony is planning to offer its older games through streaming, leveraging the technologies of Gaikai, the company that it bought last year. But let's think about long term for a moment. How is Sony going to transition from the current PlayStation Network to the PS4? How long will they support the network infrastructure for their legacy device? The honest answer is, we don't know. And frankly, I think it's just a matter of time before it eventually gets shut down.

And that's what troubles me about cloud gaming. If all your games reside on the cloud, and you never install them or download them or get a disc, what happens when that company or service shuts down? Poof, your games, gone.

So back to Nintendo. The real agenda behind the Wii Mini, I believe, is to signal the eventual and imminent shut down of all Wii online services, and a complete focus on Wii U moving forward. Nintendo is cutting loose the Wii, and eventually there will no longer be any online services for any Wii, Mini or otherwise. We are already seeing third parties signalling this move. Capcom is shutting down their Monster Hunter Tri servers on April 30, now that there's a new game for the Wii U.

Nintendo has long been the company that is philosophically opposed to charging for online. They don't have a subscription based network, they don't hide Netflix behind a paywall, and for their own first party games at least, online has been free of charge. Is that about to change? How long can we reasonably expect companies to operate and maintain servers for free?

On this point, it's less clear what Nintendo will do. Nintendo used to be opposed to paid DLC as well, but are now moving slowly in that direction. It recently announced that 80 new levels for New Super Mario Bros. U would be paid DLC. So perhaps eventually they will reconsider charging some kind of monthly fee for their online services. I hope not. It's refreshing and decidedly user-friendly to offer everything for free.

As the Wii Mini branches out to more markets (it heads to the UK next month), one thing is clear.

The Wii as we know it, is dead. Long live the Wii U.

Posted on February 26, 2013 and filed under Article.