The XCOM War Logs – Part 8

The war will be over by Christmas…possibly.

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Straight into an important mission here!  Well, it sounds important: we have to investigate some brain co-ordinates for reasons.  Tom, Kerry (“Hollywood”), Eugene (“Gunner”), Heather (“Boomstick”), Stuart (“Cyber”), and Faizan (“Beast”) get ready for brain hunting!  Tom gets to go into action with one of our sweet exo suits that comes with a free rocket launcher!  Order now for Christmas delivery!  Anyway, after an underwhelming landing on a roof, we move forward to find a group of aliens!  A shock, I know.  He gets us started with his new toy by blowing up most of the group of aliens whilst the rest of the team finish off the stragglers.  Good start!  Then the Chryssalids turn up.  Remember the zombie making spider monsters?  Well that start by trying to  infect Stuart (who is apparently immune to zombie viruses now) and Eugene and Faizan team up to take the first one down before any serious damage is done.  Turns out the bastards are hiding in the ground.  One leaps out to attack Heather but gets a sword straight to the face before it can cause any harm.  We find the alien brain co-ordinates.  Turns out it’s some sort of warp gate with an alien eye robot defending it.  Looks tough, but luckily we have enough ammunition to grind it down before it can get a shot off.  The mission is a success!

XCOM 2
Here it is! It went down without too much trouble in the end thankfully.

We get the call to go and neutralise an alien!  The thought we’d been doing plenty of that, but we’re ordered to deal with a specific one.  Kerry (“Hollywood”), Rob (“Wildchild”), Paul (“Solo”), Richard, Caroline (“Sentinel”), and Nick (“Slider”) get their shooting on.  Very little shooting to start with as we sneak our way around.  Before long though, we come across a lot of aliens, including our target.  Rather than doing anything even close to sensible, Rob launches a grenade to kill the target straight away, but sets off all the other aliens at once.  Cue chaos, as the rest of the team pick off aliens as we madly dash for the evac ship.  Rob (deservedly) catches fire under an alien assault, whilst Kerry covers the rest of the team from her vantage point.  It’s not enough for Rob though, as his wounds mount and he eventually succumbs to them.  Rather than try to fight, the rest of the team get out of site as quickly as possible and make a run for it.  Nick gets out first, followed by Richard.  It looks pretty bad for the rest of the team though as they are blocked off from the evac point by some tough robots.  Paul tries to fight his way past a huge robot, but sadly does not make it out alive.  Caroline manages to charge past and escape but Kerry is cut off by an equally large number of soldiers and is also killed.  A successful mission, but at what cost!  Richard earns the nickname “Wolfman”

XCOM 2
This one did not go so well. That huge mech utterly destroyed us.

There is little time to worry about the previous mission sadly, as we are immediately called to “liberate” some alien resources.  Andrew (“Terminator”), Bobbilyann (“Shooter”), Josh (“Outrider”), Emma (“Warden”), Leanne, and Tom bravely step into the fray.  Bobbilyann takes up a vantage point to cover the team as they move in on the cache of supplies, spotting a group of enemies in the process.  Josh picks off one of them to get the action started.  Leanne, Tom, and Andrew team up to put the rest of the squad away in spectacular fashion.  Of course, it wouldn’t be XCOM if things went smoothly, so we end up with a zombie swarm turning up.  The team thin the herd whilst Emma gathers up the alien caches as far as she possibly can.  Everyone gets a little happy with the grenades to keep the horde at bay, causing more zombies to take notice.  Emma manages to acquire a lot of the aliens supplies for us, but finds herself somewhat alone when confronted by alien forces.  Luckily, they are pre-occupied with the zombies, giving her a slim chance to escape whilst Tom and Leanne run in to support.  In spite of this, Emma suffers some severe injuries.  If it weren’t for Bobbilyann and Andrew putting up some serious damage, she would likely have met the same fate as so many of our previous team members.  with that monster defeated, it’s time to head home.  Leanne earns the nickname “Solar” whilst Tom is now known as “Cougar”.

XCOM 2 Zombie party
Here come the locals…

We need to go and do a thing.  I didn’t bother reading this one, I just assumed it involved shooting aliens.  Harry (“Psy”), Pat (“Hat Trick”), Rhodri (“Papa Bear”), Andrew (“Terminator”), Stuart (“Cyber”), and Josh (“Outrider”) head out to do just that.  Turns out we have to go and find a data vault or something.  A slow move forward to begin with was a mistake as it turns out it’s on a timer before it explodes!  Best get a wiggle on then.  Andrew seems to have picked up a trait of randomly firing on enemies that he sees.  This revealed our position and caused all hell to break loose.  Rhodri and Harry found themselves in good positions to take down a mech whilst Josh was quite exposed forcing him to fall back before opening fire and instantly putting down a significant threat.  Taking the rest out was pretty light work and things are going well.  Then the big guns roll out in the form of a Gatekeeper (the big eye thing from earlier).  Andrew takes a huge kicking from it but somehow stays upright.  Stuart makes his move on the target and hacks it successfully, leaving us to clean out the rest of the enemies.  Pat provides cover from on high, picking off threats, whilst the rest of the team works to take down the Gatekeeper.  With concentrated fire, we finally put it down with only minor injuries to Stuart  Job done!

XCOM 2
Harry looks to take out a mech at close range.

One of our contacts gets in touch to ask us to rescue a survivor from some event or other.  There’ll be zombies in the area, so we send Heather (“Boomstick”), Tim (“Big Money”), Faizan (“Beast”), Leanne (“Solar”), Bobbilyann (“Shooter”), and Karl (“Lightning”) off for some target practice.  Things start horribly with Bobbilyann alerting the enemy to our location as she heads straight for the VIP.  Karl moves up to rescue her whilst the rest of the team deal with a Sectopod.  In spite of the early setback, Bobbilyann carries on towards the VIP as the team hold back the zombie horde that obviously turned up.  Tim does a top job of mowing down the zombies as we move the VIP towards the evac point, whilst Faizan empies his whole magazine trying to hold of the horde chasing us.  Other than a couple of minor cuts and bruises, we make it out pretty unscathed.  An easy job in all!

XCOM 2
Heather has an ability that lets her take a free sword swing at anyone that enters melee range. Obviously she gets the best sword and monsters anyone that gets close.

The final few missions approach.  This will all be over by Christmas.  In a good way.  With any luck no one else will get killed by my carelessness…

The team as it stands:

Heather “Boomstick” – Ranger (Bond: Stuart)

Rob “Wildchild” – Grenadier *DECEASED* 12 missions/35 kills

Stuart “Cyber” – Specialist (Bond: Heather)

Kerry “Hollywood” – Sniper *DECEASED* 15 missions/36 kills

Andrew “Terminator” – Ranger (Bond: Bobbilyann)

Rhodri “Papa Bear” – Grenedier

Emma “Warden” – Specialist (Bond: Josh)

Lorna “Ice” – Ranger

Pat “Hat Trick” – Sniper

Danny “Boom Boom” – Genadier (Bond: Tiago)

Karl “Lightning” – Specialist

Eugene “Gunner” – Grenedier

Catherine “Longshot” – Sharpshooter

Josh “Outrider” – Reaper (Bond: Emma)

Bobbilyann “Shooter” – Sniper (Bond: Andrew)

Tiago “Mox” – Skirmisher (Bond: Danny) *DECEASED* – 3 missions/14 kills

Caroline “Sentinel” – Specialist

Paul “Solo”– Ranger *DECEASED* 7 missions/17 kills

Saf “Witch” – Templar *DECEASED* – 2 missions/2 kills

Dave “Ether” – Templar *DECEASED* – 5 missions/12 kills

Ben – Sharpshooter *DECEASED* – 3 missions/11 kills

Nick “Slider” – Specialist

Richard “Wolfman” – Ranger

Leanne “Solar” – Specialist

Tom “Cougar” – Ranger

Faizan “Beast” – Marauder

Harry “Psy” – Templar

Tim “Big Money” – Grenadier

My Top 5 Games of 2017

Game of the Year Edition!

2017 was the year of the loot box.  Random chance to get something good in exchange for hard cash started cropping up every other game.  It’s not gambling though because the people making money from them say so.  The thing is though, 2017 was actually an incredible year for games.  You could exchange hard cash for pretty much any box in a game store this year and the chance of getting something good was pretty damn high.  That was a very laboured way of saying “Loot boxes suck” and “Amazing games came out”.

Overwatch
2017 in a single image.  Although this image isn’t actually from 2017…

I played surprisingly few of the big name games this year, so the bulk of the favourite games this year were lower tier releases.  Even then, narrowing it down to just five was very difficult.  At any rate, here are the best gaming experiences I had this year.  I’ve included all the games I’ve played down the bottom, just in case you think I missed something…

Get Even

Get Even

A story driven FPS/walking simulator with a bizarre, horror themed story.  You play Cole Black (he’s a manly man!) on a mission for find out where the hell he is and what happened to the girl with a bomb strapped to her that he was trying to rescue.  Within an hour, you find yourself in an abandoned asylum with a machine that allows you to enter your memories and begin to unravel just what the hell is going on.

Get Even
Most of the game isn’t terribly pretty, but it does have its moments.

Yes, the FPS sections are flawed, and the stealth doesn’t work quite as well as I might hope, but there really isn’t another game that plays like this.  There are events that play out differently depending on your choices without make these choices explicit, the game plays with interconnected memories in interesting ways, and the sound and music is fantastic.  It’s not perfect, but it’s well priced and I doubt you’ll have played anything quite like it before.

Stories Untold

Stories Untold

Damn I loved this one.  Four seemingly unconnected stories told in very different ways, culminating in a final revelation.  I won’t say more from a story standpoint as it really should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible on that front.  I will say that it’s a very well put together package.  It starts out as a text adventure that seems to have more power over you than you over it.  A bizarre point and click adventure and puzzle game involving microfilms follow before culminating in a walking simulator of sorts.

Stories Untold Episode 2
Part of the second episode. I will say nothing more about this.

I know, I’m not really selling it at all.  But it’s a great couple of hours for a low price and it’s very unlikely that you’ll have played anything quite like it before.  I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this one certainly does that.  Plus, the intro music will stick in your mind for weeks after.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey logo

Look, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but this is just a fantastic game.  I’ve never really been a big fan of the 3D Mario games, finding the controls a pain and the hunt for whatever the magic item is this time.  But this was a wonderful experience.  The environments are interesting and creative, it’s utterly beautiful, and the capture mechanic!  Taking over the body of you enemies (as horrifying that may be for a Mario game) was a masterstroke in creative platforming and puzzles.  The caterpillar creatures in the Lost Kingdon are adorable and fun the play as.

Mario Odyssey
Kidnapping Goomba towers is my new favourite thing.

At the time of writing, I haven’t finished the main story, but as I understand it, there’s a lot more high quality content after completing it, which is saying something when the content already there is quite so good.  I can see me spending a lot of time playing this.  I bought a Switch especially for this game, and I don’t for a moment regret that.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

XCOM 2 Logo

Yes it’s an expansion rather than a new game BUT I DON’T CARE DAMMIT!  I’ve kept it a closely guarded secret, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I really like XCOM.  I’m sure those War Log posts didn’t make it obvious.  Anyway, War of the Chosen is what an expansion should be.  It changes the game in so many ways, adding new ways to play and increasing your power, but also putting dangerous new enemies in your path.  The titular chosen can be a significant thorn in your side if you don’t deal with them, but dealing with them means you have to put off dealing with the greater alien threat.  Deciding what to do when is even more important than ever.

XCOM 2
The new factions give you some very powerful new abilities to play with.

To keep you in the game, you have access to new factions that grant you very powerful soldiers.  The sniper rifle wielding Reapers can detonate explosives at will, whilst the Skirmishers draw enemies in to finish them at close range.  Templars use psychic powers to control the battlefield by putting up new points of cover and making enemies more vulnerable.  The number of new options in this is fantastic, and when coupled with an already impressive base game you have yourself one hell of a package.

Nier: Automata

Nier Automata

I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than a stunning creative success.  Platinum’s trademark fast paced combat combined with the most bonkers yet simultaneously devastating story in a genuinely interesting world is one of the best things I have played this year.  For a couple of weeks all I wanted was to get home from work and play more.

Nier
This boss appears simply as a machine gone insane, but your second playthrough reveals something much darker about her as well as the game’s world as a whole.

I, like many others, had not played the original Nier.  Whilst the story here does tie into the previous game (and a number of others in fact) it isn’t needed in the slightest to enjoy this.  The cast of characters, the world itself, the brilliant combat that changes styles constantly.  And the music!  The music is incredible!  Being told I had to play through the game three times to see the real ending put me off this one for a while, but each playthrough is so utterly different that it makes each one feel like an almost new experience.  If you haven’t played it, play it.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS MENTION!

Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki

Oooooh if there’s one game this year that I would class as the most memorable, it would be this.  A few paragraphs back I mentioned that I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this manages that and then some.  It’s a free visual novel in which you join the school’s literature club and find it run by a number of attractive girls!  This is a visual novel, so obviously you set about trying to impress them with your poetry.  I will say no more than this: I knew it was going to subvert my expectations (thanks to the Steam reviews), but the way it went about it thoroughly surprised me.

Doki Doki
For a free game, this is incredibly well put together.  Hell, for a full priced game this is incredibly well put together.

If you do play it (and you really should), it takes about 3 hours before things start to really happen, so do play through the early stages, even if you find them tiresome (I did).  And carry on playing even after it ends.  There’s a lot of great stuff here and I can’t talk about it without spoiling it!

Below is the list of games that I played this year.  It was stunningly hard to pick out 5 from a list of such stupendous games.  I didn’t want to overlook The Sexy Brutale thanks to its inventive puzzles and memorable music.  Late Shift was a genuinely enjoyable FMV experience.  Everspace combined rogue-lites with a space sim to create something quite unique.  The Evil Within 2 surprised me by not being nearly as bad as the first one and turning out to be a genuinely fun experience.  And that soundtrack!  2017 should go down as another one of those years that should be brought up when anyone asks what the best year in gaming was.

How about you?  What would you suggest for a list like this?  Have I got it utterly wrong?  Obviously I haven’t, but you’re welcome to argue.  Let me know!

The Sexy Brutale

Yooka-Laylee

Nioh

Resident Evil 7

Halo Wars 2

The Surge

Injustice 2

Everspace

Late Shift

Get Even

Little Nightmares

Slime Rancher

Sonic Mania

Stories Untold

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Nier: Automata

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Conarium

>Observer_

XCOM 2 WOTC

Doki Doki Literature Club

Ruiner

The Evil Within 2

Super Mario Odyssey

The XCOM War Logs – Part 7

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!

Well, we start of with some serious business!  Emma and Josh improve their bond.  Yep.  Thrilling stuff right there.

But then!  Aliens attack a civilian target, forcing Nick, Dave (“Ether”), Karl (“Lightning”), Eugene (“Gunner”), Kerry (“Hollywood”), and Paul (“Solo”) into action!  Cryssalids are the first thing we run into.  They have too many legs, so Nick proceeds to try to shoot them off.  He misses of course and needs Paul to bail him out.  The problem with cryssalids is that they’re bloody fast and can infect people to turn into them.  Before long we end up with a large horde to deal with.  Dave uses his psychic knives to clear a path, allowing Paul to rescue some civilians…who turn out to be shape shifting flesh monsters.  Going from bad to worse here!  This time Nick rescues Paul before any real damage can be done.  Kerry makes a number of VERY long range shots to try to keep the team in this, but the numbers are overwhelming.  Civilians are mutated left, right, and centre, whilst Dave suffers some severe wounds and sadly succumbs to the poison inflicted upon him whilst rescuing the few survivors.  If not for him it likely would have been a lot worse for the team.  As it stands, Karl and Eugene suffered some severe wounds, but everyone else made it out unscathed.  Nick earned the nickname “Slider”…

XCOM 2
Paul woke this friendly looking chap up.

No rest though!  In spite of our losses, we head straight to an alien facility to slow down their weapons development.  How?  By shooting aliens of course!  Ben, Nick (“Slider”), Heather (“Boomstick”), Kerry (“Hollywood”), Rob (“Wildchild”), and Rhodri (“Papa Bear”) head out to do just that.  It starts badly, with a run into a group of mutons with an alien in a diving suit (reasons!) leaving Ben in a lonely position.  Diving suit man destroys the tower Ben was hiding in, leaving him just clinging on to life.  Concentrated fire put down this enemy, but not before Heather was spotted by a group of alien soldiers.  Sadly, one decided to finish off Ben before Nick could get to him to heal him up.  Another death!  Pushing forward, we come across a fairly solid defence for the facility.  Kerry and Rhodri team up to put down the biggest threats, allowing us to plant the charges to destroy the facility.

XCOM 2
Ben facing down the diving suit alien. It did not end well.

And now for a crucial mission.  You may remember that Caroline (“Sentinel”) was abducted.  Well, Stuart (“Cyber”), Heather (“Boomstick”), and Josh (“Outrider”) have found where she is being kept and are heading in to rescue her!  A very gradual sneak along the sides of the compound means we avoid any contact with enemies.  With such a small team, we can’t risk an all out gun fight here.  Unfortunately the cells were well guarded and there was no way to avoid a fight.  Heather was spotted by a guard on patrol and we were forced to break cover.  Stuart took a quick shot to avoid any immediate damage to the team.  Heather manages to hack the door and drags Caroline out whilst Josh provides cover.  The facility is on full alert now and we have an enemy drop ship on the way in.  With Josh out of ammo and Heather unable to fight back, we make a hasty retreat towards the evac point as Stuart holds back the aliensas best he can.  The mission ends in success, which is a surprise considering our recent luck!

The time has now come!  The final Chosen (the hunter) has been found and we’re going to go and murder his face off.  He’s had it coming to be fair.  I’m expecting this to be a disaster, but we send in Josh (“Outrider”), Emma (“Warden”), Andrew (“Terminator”), Danny (“Boom Boom”), Bobbilyann (“Shooter), and Lorna (“Ice”) anyway.  Everyone is kitted out with our best equipment (including Emma in our first exo-suit) so our first battle goes by with little trouble.  The second encounter looks a bit nastier, as an overly aggressive Lorna exposes us to a group of well armoured foes.  She takes some early wounds as we try to drive them back.  Danny goes grenade crazy and removes all the cover the aliens have, allowing the rest of the team to pick them off at their leisure.  Hopefully we won’t need that sweet boom-fruit later on.  Then there are the cryssalids.  Remembe them?  Time to murder more of them!  Lorna and Andrew put them down whilst Emma provides healing support.  And now, it’s time for the showdown.  We pile into the magic transporter gate and prepare for shooty action!  Progressing through the chamber reveals absolutely no opposition; it has that “it’s too quiet” feeling to it.  Then, the hunter appears and it’s show time.  Josh goes mental and empties an entire magazine into him, putting him down long enough to allow us to start taking down the hunter’s magic regeneration thing.  SCIENCE!  All it takes is a shot from each team member and it goes down, signalling victory!  Much easier than I expected, and now the Chosen are no more.

XCOM 2
Danny puts down a mech. Through a wall.

Due to death and injury, our next mission is sent out with rookies and 3 (count ’em!) snipers.  Leanne, Pat (“Hat Trick”), Kerry (“Hollywood”), Richard and, Catherine (“Longshot”) head into battle.  A battle that turns into a huge mess of zombies.  Catherine kicks us off with some fancy shootin’, but things get very messy, very quickly with a big shoot out in an abandoned building.  Alien soldiers, our troops, and zombies in a three-way murder party.  Richard has a tough time of it and he acts as zombie catnip, before the giant stompy robots show up to make things harder still.  Massive amounts of concentrated fire bring it down, but not before it can demolish Pat’s cover, leaving her dangerously exposed.  She suffers critical wounds and begins to bleed out.  Thankfully the rest of the team clear out the surviving zombies and get her to the evac ship in time.  Mission complete!

XCOM 2
Low ammo, enemies everywhere, and a giant killer robot about to arrive. Things could be going better.

The team as it stands:

Heather “Boomstick” – Ranger (Bond: Stuart)

Rob “Wildchild” – Grenadier

Stuart “Cyber” – Specialist (Bond: Heather)

Kerry “Hollywood” – Sniper

Andrew “Terminator” – Ranger (Bond: Bobbilyann)

Rhodri “Papa Bear” – Grenedier

Emma “Warden” – Specialist (Bond: Josh)

Lorna “Ice” – Ranger

Pat “Hat Trick” – Sniper

Danny “Boom Boom” – Genadier (Bond: Tiago)

Karl “Lightning” – Specialist

Eugene “Gunner” – Grenedier

Catherine “Longshot” – Sharpshooter

Josh “Outrider” – Reaper (Bond: Emma)

Bobbilyann “Shooter” – Sniper (Bond: Andrew)

Tiago “Mox” – Skirmisher (Bond: Danny) *DECEASED* – 3 missions/14 kills

Caroline “Sentinel” – Specialist

Paul “Solo”– Ranger

Saf “Witch” – Templar *DECEASED* – 2 missions/2 kills

Dave “Ether” – Templar *DECEASED* – 5 missions/12 kills

Ben – Sharpshooter *DECEASED* – 3 missions/11 kills

Nick “Slider” – Specialist

Rich – Ranger

Leanne – Specialist

Tom – Ranger

Faizan “Beast” – Marauder

The Evil Within 2

Nothing says “festive” like muderous corpse monsters.

I shouldn’t have played this.  I mean, look at how much I disliked the original game.  With its wonky controls, broken mechanics, and wild difficulty spikes, I found it to be an experience I couldn’t enjoy in spite of the occasional successful horror moment.  So I shouldn’t have bothered with the follow up.  Not only that, but I heard that it had one of my least favourite things: open world gameplay!  But I heard positive things about it, and it was on sale for half price only a month after release, so I slapped down my cash and gave it a go.

The Evil Within 2
There are some nice visual tricks played here and there.

Sebastian Castellanos returns as a down-and-out former detective with an alcohol problem (because you’ve got to hit those clichés!) and finds out that his dead daughter may not be as dead as he thought!  His former partner Kidman returns to put him back into the STEM system, a digital world in which people connect themselves to the mind of a host.  Or something.  The original game really wasn’t terribly clear.  Anyway, it turns out this digital world has PSYCHOPATHS IN IT!  And their brains are really powerful apparently, so they can manipulate the world.  Which means there are monsters everywhere for some reason.  Anyway, killing the psychopaths is the main task this time, as you search for your missing daughter.

The Evil Within 2
The visuals are excellent, if a little nasty at times.

Ok, so the plot isn’t all that bad this time, but there are a lot of things that feel like they happen because they’re convenient rather than because it fits in with what’s going on.  The gameplay though, works much better this time.  At it’s core, this is a third person shooter in a semi-open world.  You’ll find yourself in a town that can be explored to advance the plot or simply discover secrets, complete side quests, or rescue people from death by monster.

The Evil Within 2
This gave me some Twin Peaks vibes. There were a few sections that felt influenced by the TV show.

The town is crawling with said monsters that can kill you rather easily if you let them gang up on you (or if you’re carless to be fair as they hit pretty hard), so stealth tends to be the order of the day (at least early on), and by god does the stealth actually work this time!  In the last game stealth kills would sometimes simply not work, or monsters would see you through the backs of their heads.  This time stealth feels like a genuine option for most of the game, with a variety of ways to approach most situations, and always the option to run away if you find yourself overwhelmed.  The enemy AI is fairly stupid most of the time (which is fitting with most enemies you face) and you can hide fairly easily if things go wrong.  Gunplay still feels a little loose for my liking, with aiming being not nearly as sharp as I’d like it to be.  Thankfully the shotguns seem to be very powerful this time, and the ability to craft ammo mid fight really helps when things get a bit messy.  The weaker AI, greater array of options, and more open environments make this game feel a fair bit easier than the first (which is a good thing to my mind).

The Evil Within 2
There’s absolutely not going to be anything nasty at the end of that hallway.

The enemies themselves are interesting, but there is a lack of variety.  The standard enemies are absolutely everywhere, and it’s only occasionally that you’ll see one that’s a little different.  Most will charge at you, or throw hatchets, but there are huge corpse monsters, exploding zombies (obviously) and the very creepy looking smoke monsters.  The bosses are fairly interesting in how they are presented (some of the imagery is great) and one or two have interesting mechanics during the confrontations.  The whole game took me about 15 hours to finish on Survival mode (medium difficulty) with a few deaths here and there, mostly during the boss battles.  The difficulty was spot on for me on this setting, and much more enjoyable than the punishing (read: frustratingly cheap) challenge of the first game.

The Evil Within 2
The look of these ones wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the sounds they make.

Visually, the game looks great, which is no real surprise considering the first game.  The environments aren’t as varied this time, but they do make a great deal more sense.  The world has some really interesting things going on in it if you look around the environments.  The characters are voiced very well for the most part (although the first main villain feels like he could be Goldman from House of the Dead 2), and the music is quite fitting, although not all that memorable.

The Evil Within 2
LOOK!

Now, the horror element is kind of important in a horror game.  Just like the first game, the focus is often on body horror here, with blood and gore flying all over the place.  The open world sections don’t have a huge amount of horror going on, but the feeling that you could be attacked from any angle does keep you on edge, as do the noises of creatures that are just out of sight.  During the more linear sections, the developers have done a good job of building tension through sound rather than visuals.  The more connected world this time means that there are fewer opportunities for bizzare and unsettling visuals, but the game does try from time to time.  I still wouldn’t call it horrific, but it does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere in certain sections.

The Evil Within 2
There are some very creative visuals in some sections of the game.

The Evil Within 2 was developed by Tango Gameworks and published by Bethesda.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend this one over the original game.  Whilst playing the original would probably help you have even the slightest clue about what’s going on, this is by far the better product.  I’m glad I looked past my preconceptions on this one.

The XCOM War Logs – Part 6

XCOM should only be consumed as part of a calorie controlled diet.

There’s only one Chosen left now.  A hunter apparently.  I reckon he’s friendly deep down, and just needs a hug.

First up, a quick job to rescue a Templar from some no good aliens.  Catherine (“Longshot”), Eugene (“Gunner”), Rob (“Wildchild”), Pat (“Hat Trick”), Andrew (“Terminator”), and Bobbilyann (“Shooter”) head off to do some shooting.  So 3 snipers then.   It didn’t proove to be too much of a problem though.  Catherine took some nasty injuries after being smacked in the face with a big stick, but that was about all the trouble we had.  We reached the VIP only to find an ambush waiting!  Such threat!  Things started to get a bit hairy, so we beat a hasty retreat to escape with no more harm coming to us.  Success once more!

XCOM 2
Catherine faces down a charging alien with nothing but a pistol and a set of badass aviators.

Time to go and “Neutralize a target”.  A nice vague way to say kill some aliens I’d say!  Emma (“Warden”), Josh (“Outrider”), Kerry (“Hollywood”), Rob (“Wildchild”), Ben, and Rich head on out.  With guns.  It seems this target is pretty important as there’s a good number of enemies protecting it when we arrive.  Emma takes some early wounds but we press on!  it’s at this point the aliens decide to deploy the prototype of their most powerful weapon.  The Avatar (not a blue cat person sadly) is a very powerful psychic that could mess us up.  Thankfully, Emma, Josh, and Ben were in positions that allowed us to get the drop on him and force a retreat.  Kerry blows a hole in the side of a building to get to our target, knocks him unconcious and carries him out towards the evac point!  Just as reinforcements arrive and things start to look a little bad for us, Ben throws out an overwatch shot that detonates an alien flame-thrower unit, detonating it and wiping out the whole enemy squad!  In spite of some serious injuries (Josh nearly burned to death), we make it out in one piece.  Rich gets promoted to Ranger whilst Ben becomes a Sharpshooter.

XCOM 2
Well that’s pretty damn anime.

We’ve found the location of an alien forge.  Which sounds imposrtant so we’d better go and shoot some stuff.  Bobbilyann (“Shooter”), Heather (“Boomstick”), Stuart (“Cyber”), Eugene (“Gunner”), Dave (“Ether”), and Nick head out to do just that!  We find ourselves up against a Sectopod – a huge alien mech that quickly sets about wounding everyone.  Stuart and Bobbilyann take some serious damage in the battle.  Dave uses his psychic powers to find a weakness in its armour allowing the rest of the team to cause more damage to it, which is all the opening our expert soldiers need to put it out of comission.  Getting closer to the facility, we find small patrols to deal with, but nothing as dangerous as the Sectopod.  We find a pod (not of the secto variety) with a humanoid inside it, so obviously it needs stealing.  Dave picks it up and we make a run for the evac.  Nick misses a crucial shot leading to him being mind controlled by an alien.  He starts taking shots at our own team, but Heather manages to disable the controlling alien, freeing Nick.  After a run through enemy fire, everyone boards the evac ship and makes it out to treat those wounds.

XCOM 2
Eugene looks to lay down some serious pain on whatever the hell that thing is.

Up next, hacking a workstation on a alien train!  Because aliens use public transport now.  Leanne, Tom, Ben, Caroline (“Sentinel”), Catherine (“Longshot”), and Paul (“Solo”) suit up for action.  Turns out the whole place was crawling with zombies as well as aliens.  A careless dash forward from Catherine revealed our location and lead to a full on fire fight.  Ben empties an entire magazine to hold off the horde and keep the aliens from advancing.  Just to add to the fun, our friendly Chosen hunter turns up.  I’m sure we’ll have no trouble having put him down a couple of times already.  He forces us out of cover multiple times, but Caroline manages to get close to the workstation, only for a zombie horde to block her path.  This one is getting messy.  Leanne and Tom put down countless zombies to allow Caroline to successfully hack the workstation, now to clear out the area.  Tom finds himself taking some serious damage but is covered by Catherine from a rooftop.  Love those snipers!  Sadly they couldn’t protect Caroline, who was captured (but not killed!) by the Chosen hunter.  We will get her back!  Tom gets promoted to Ranger whilst Leanne gets promoted to Specialist.

XCOM 2
Leanne takes a few pot shots at an alien over long range.

The current team:

Heather “Boomstick” – Ranger (Bond: Stuart)

Rob “Wildchild” – Grenadier

Stuart “Cyber” – Specialist (Bond: Heather)

Kerry “Hollywood” – Sniper

Andrew “Terminator” – Ranger (Bond: Bobbilyann)

Rhodri “Papa Bear” – Grenedier

Emma “Warden” – Specialist (Bond: Josh)

Lorna “Ice” – Ranger

Pat “Hat Trick” – Sniper

Danny “Boom Boom” – Genadier (Bond: Tiago)

Karl “Lightning” – Specialist

Eugene “Gunner” – Grenedier

Catherine “Longshot” – Sharpshooter

Josh “Outrider” – Reaper (Bond: Emma)

Bobbilyann “Shooter” – Sniper (Bond: Andrew)

Tiago “Mox” – Skirmisher (Bond: Danny) *DECEASED* – 3 missions/14 kills

Caroline “Sentinel” – Specialist

Paul  “Solo”– Ranger

Saf “Witch” – Templar *DECEASED* – 2 missions/2 kills

Dave “Ether” – Templar

Ben – Sharpshooter

Nick – Specialist

Rich – Sharpshooter

Leanne – Specialist

Tom – Ranger

I’m Rob, and Here’s What I’ve Been Playing – 26/11/17

Video games mainly.

Everything in gaming has to be the Dark Souls of something right now, but Ruiner really did remind me of the series. It’s closer to Bloodborne really, as it’s very fast paced, has a huge reliance on stamina management (you have limited dodges), and the bosses are brutally tough.  Even the standard enemies can destroy you if you’re careless.  You really have to learn the bosses tells and set up your build carefully to have a chance.  I found it a little frustrating at times but I absolutely loved the experience.  The final battle was intense and thrilling and made those earlier frustrations melt away.  I finished it on normal mode and it was just on the wrong side of difficult for my liking, but I really enjoyed it.

Ruiner
I couldn’t get any screenshots of when it was all going crazy as you cam’t lose concentration for a split second.

XCOM 2 continues to fill up my PC gaming time.  You can catch up on the ever continuing campaign here if you’re so inclined.  The War of the Chosen expansion really does add a lot of content, with new enemies and different factions changing how you might approach a certain situation.  These changes really compound the challenge of the main game in which you have too many options and not enough time.  Still, more XCOM is always a good thing to my mind.

XCOM 2 Logo
Haven’t seen this image in at least 4 days.

I finished >Observer_ not so long ago.  Coming from the team that made Layers of Fear meant that I had pretty high expectations for this one.  It had certain things in common with it (the controls, the changing environments, and the shonky framerate) but it didn’t have nearly the same impact for some reason.  The story surrounds your character searching for his son in a locked down appartment complex.  You can enter the memories of different characters which leads to some genuinely interesting environments to explore, some of which were very unsettling.  I found the “real world” uninteresting to explore though, and often found myself feeling a little bit lost if only for a short while which broke up the pace for me.  It’s good, just not quite what I’d hoped for.

I also had a go at some of the “free” console games that have come out over the past couple of months.  Trackmania Turbo was fine, although the single player mode in it held very little interest.  There were some interesting tracks to download but I doubt it’ll hold my attention for long.  The same could be said of Just Cause 3.  I’m not a huge fan of open world games that have tons of filler content, and that’s exactly what this was.  Do a race, liberate a town, take over an outpost.  There were some great moments in which I would set off explosives to destroy EVERYTHING whilst escaping using a wing suit.  But with floaty controls, repetative content, and characters I couldn’t give a damn about, I was left with a game I doubt I’ll return to.

TM Turbo
It’s bright and colourful with a good sense of speed. I just didn’t care all that much.

I picked up The Evil Within 2 on the XBox Black Friday deals.  Surprisingly cheap for a game that’s been out barely a month.  I made my feelings on the original game fairly clear but I’ve heard that the follow up addresses most of the problems I had with it.  It’s not a huge loss if I don’t enjoy it, but time will tell on that front.  Here’s hoping for a good, solid, horror experience.

Evil Within 2
Well this looks like a nice friendly game.

Was I wrong about any of these?  More importantly, what have you been playing?  Something awesome no doubt.  Tell me about it!

The XCOM War Logs – Part 5

After our successful takedown of the assassin, we head off to capture some alien stuff.  Vague I know.  Lorna, Tiago (“Mox”), Eugene (“Gunner”), Catherine, Pat, and Danny suit up for the task at hand.  We came across some psychic aliens that caused Lorna to totally lose her shit.  Couldn’t keep her down for long though, as she quickly recovered and started hunting the aliens down.  Other than a few knocks to Eugene‘s armour, everything here went quite well!  We’re pretty damn tough now it seems.  Tiago and Danny seemed to get on very well here and are now bond mates.  Cute!

XCOM 2
Catherine lines up what will certainly be a deadly shot.

Heather (“Boomstick”), Karl (“Lightning”) and Rhodri (“Papa Bear”) were trying to hunt down the Chosen warlock’s house, but found themselves being hunted when they were ambushed.  A very small team against a very large enemy seems like a bad situation to be in.  Early exchanges go our way as we make a mad dash towards safety.  Things were looking good right up until we approached the extraction point and came across a horde of reanimated corpses and an alien mech.  Heather left herself dangerously exposed, so Karl charged forward to deal with the zombies.  He and Rhodri effortlessly put down the zombies whilst Heather dispatches the mech with ease.  For an ambush, this didn’t prove to be much of a challenge.

XCOM 2
Zombie go boom!

Next, we are sent off to destroy an alien relay station.  Emma (“Warden”), Josh (“Outrider”), Tiago (“Mox”), Paul (“Solo”), Lorna (now known as “Ice”), and Danny (nicknamed “Boom Boom”) handle this one.  A careless mistake by Emma reveals our location causing the aliens to close in on us early on.  Josh makes a quick decision to blow up a car close to the alien team moving in, taking out 2 of them quickly.  Lorna finds herself flanked and suffers some serious wounds, but Paul manages to rescue her before she is overwhelmed.  Lorna then piles forward to destroy the relay just as alien reinforcements arrive.  Tiago finds himself in a lot of trouble, confronted by two alien brutes.  In spite of Paul charging into the fray to rescue him, it proves too much and Tiago falls in battle causing Danny, his bond mate, to go psychotic and charge madly towards the surviving alien.  He dispatches him quickly, allowing the team to return home.

XCOM 2
We break into the Warlock hideout. Subtle as ever.

We’ve finally found out where the Chosen warlock is hiding thanks to our recent covert operations.  Australia obviously.  We send in Stuart (“Cyber”), his bond mate Heather (“Boomstick”), Emma (“Warden”), and her bond mate Josh (“Outrider”), Rhodri (“Papa Bear”), and Kerry (“Hollywood”) for what will likely be a tough encounter.  Early confrontations with poisoners spider monsters go well, with little realy threat posed.  Rhodri made a mad charge into a room only to be faced with a mech and a number of soldiers.  Emma suffered minor injuries rescuing him from the predicament.  In clearing them out, Heather becomes poisoned and also ends up on fire, which I imagine is a bad combination.  At any rate, we move on and arrive at the warlock’s chamber.  Having little in the way of additional forces, taking down the warlock himself was not a huge challenge considering everything else we’d come through.  There was no way we should have all come back in one piece!

XCOM 2
Josh puts down some alien scum.

The team as it stands:

Heather “Boomstick” – Ranger (Bond: Stuart)

Rob “Wildchild” – Grenadier

Stuart “Cyber” – Specialist (Bond: Heather)

Kerry “Hollywood” – Sniper

Andrew “Terminator” – Ranger (Bond: Bobbilyann)

Rhodri “Papa Bear” – Grenedier

Emma “Warden” – Specialist (Bond: Josh)

Lorna “Ice” – Ranger

Pat – Sniper

Danny “Boom Boom” – Genadier (Bond: Tiago)

Karl “Lightning” – Specialist

Eugene “Gunner” – Grenedier

Catherine – Sharpshooter

Josh “Outrider” – Reaper (Bond: Emma)

Bobbilyann “Shooter” – Sniper (Bond: Andrew)

Tiago “Mox” – Skirmisher (Bond: Danny) *DECEASED* – 3 missions/14 kills

Caroline “Sentinel” – Specialist

Paul – Ranger

Saf “Witch” – Templar *DECEASED* – 2 missions/2 kills

Dave “Ether” – Templar