Sorbicol

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  1. Thread Necromancy 101..... a friend bought me this in the steam sales over Christmas, and it’s been my first proper attempt at a Total War game. I find it to be both deeply engrossing and really quite frustrating pretty much in equal measure. There’s a lot to enjoy for sure, and the strategic layer is quite well thought out and presented. The battles are fun but chaotic and the game is terrible at presenting useful information in the heat of battle. I’ve watched so many YouTube channels to get my head around it all and I still get too times when what happens on screen doesn’t make any sense to me at all - or is pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting. That has has been my main source of frustration with the game to be honest. It’s starting position is very much that it expects you to know how to play a TW game, and doesn’t really feel like it wants to teach you. It made me think quite a lot about tutorials in strategy games and how much responsibility a game has, not only to teach you how to play it, but also to play it with some level of competency. I know that a lot of people would say ‘well, it’s up to you to get good’ and that it’s part of the fun, but sometimes I find this whole process in a video game to mostly be the equivalent of self flagilation, with deeply frustrating and obscure mechanics seemingly put in the game by developers just to torture you, and what explanations the do provide to be limited or lacking in important details. I admit I find YouTube videos now to be an important entry point for many of the games I play these days - I would never have coped with getting to grips with Stellaris (for example) if I hadn’t watched all the ‘All Hail Blorg’ videos realeased by Paradox in the run up to release. Im not sure if that’s just me - I don’t remember having so many issues back in the days pre-internet and YouTube. It feels a little like developers are lazy these days and expect YouTubers and the like to pick up the slack. Or maybe I’m just turning into a miserable old codger.
  2. I get the impression I’m the only person to have played this other than the panel..... This game quite unexpectedly ended up as my personal Game of the Year for last year, although given how few games I play that’s probably not saying a lot. I enjoyed the panel discussion and I have to say that I broadly agree with pretty much everything that was said about the combat, as well as the setting and atmosphere which pretty much make the game. Studios like BioWare and Bethesda should be chewing their own arms to make central characters as engaging and charming as Bormin, Dux and the rest. That said I wasn’t too sure about Farrow’s cockney accent. It was a little too much Dick Van Dyke if I’m honest. The combat model with the real time stealth moving into TBS worked really surprisingly well, and it was really quite tense setting up a decent ambush before attempting the silent takedown for lone ghouls or robots, so that they couldn’t call in reinforcements. It made each location into a sort of turn based battle puzzle in the end - scouting the objectives, working out the patrol routes and then executing a dance of silent assassinations prior to hitting the final (usually central) objective. Of course that that is also the games Achilles heel - alongside the lack of variety in abilities. Once you’d figured out how to clear a location, well that was it more or less. The patrol routes don’t vary, nor do the numbers and types of enemies that stay the same each playthrough, so once you’ve solved it once it sort of stays solved no matter how many times you replay the game. After completing it originally I went back and attempted several ‘Iron Mutant’ runs at the hardest difficulty. While that made you a little over reliant on critical hits landing (especially early game) it also was absolutely unforgiving. A single mistake allowing either the target to call for backup, or you making too much noise and activating or alerting another enemy and it was game over. There’s no mechanic that I could find that allowed you to retreat and regroup - the enemy would hunt you down and destroy you very quickly, with numbers almost always being very much against you. It gives the game almost zero replayability which is really a shame, it deserves to played again and again. I’m very much looking forward to what they do next though I have to say. Fingers crossed for a new adventure, hopefully with a little more variety in it and some way to escape when you accidentally mess it up.
  3. Episode 457: A Look Back at 2018

    I have seen so many people rate Into The Breach on their own personal list of the year it’s a game I think I should be looking into. I thought 2018 was a solid if not spectacular year for strategy gaming. It certainly started well with Battletech being a hell of a lot stronger than I was expecting, while still having some very odd design choices in (do you still have to go through 500 different cut scenes every time you jump from one planet to another?) i enjoyed surviving Mars as a competent city builder as well. The survival mechanics were well thought through and added to the game, and they have done a lot to fix its limitation since release. It’s still screaming for a proper tourism and transportation system (MONORAIL!) but all in all it’s made some good development over the year since release. I’d also love to hear what the guys make of Mutant Year Zero; The Road to Eden. It somehow became my game of the year, probably because of the charm of its characters and how well it built its world rather than anything else, but it’s core combat was deeply satisfying - at least until you’d figured it out for each location.
  4. That sounds great thanks. I’ve been listening to 3MA for years but for the last couple of months it’s felt more like a chore than something I genuinely enjoy. The Valkyria Chronicles episode representing something of a nadir I’m afraid. I’m not invalidating the legitimacy of the discussion that episode I must say, it’s just not why I listen to 3MA.
  5. I really enjoyed this episode and it felt like an episode from 3MAs golden period 5 or 6 years back. A really knowledgable and interesting guest podcaster, a solid topic that went beyond just the game and some real proper insights. Can we please have more episodes like this again? I know Rob is busy with a myriad of other things and 3MA is becoming a forgotten part of his output, but there is no reason it can’t return to form. More please!
  6. The Enhanced Edition did a lot for me to make Divinity: Original Sin (the first game) more enjoyable. It clarified it's mission structure (in terms of - go to this area first and then this area etc) made significant improvements to the combat system and inventory system (which is not the game's moment of crowing glory to be sure) and also generally improved the story as well. to be sure that first game was a little limited in charisma/characterisation for the two source hunters, but a lot of the NPCs were fun and really weren't anything too far off the types of characters that Black Isle / Obsidian came up with for PoE or earlier games. Original Sin 2 made massive in roads of that though by having 6 very distinct characters to play all with conflicting aims, opinions and goals that play out as the game goes on. They will fight you if you stray too far from what they want, and during one of the lynchpin moments of the game you have to actively persuade them to stick with you - previous events and treatment of your party will count for or against you. Fane (the undead guy), The Red Prince (exiled Lizard royalty who assumes everyone is his slave) and Loshe (possessed songstress) are all brilliant characters who can stand side by side with the likes of Minsc, Durance and anyone else you might care to mention from Baldur's Gate/PoE. The combat is a little more messy I think (they take the concept of blessed and cursed environmental effects way too far) while at the same time delivering some fantastic set piece battles that need some serious tactical decision making to get through. They also have a co-operative system that nothing Black Isle/Obsidian have ever done have come close to matching. In the framework of this podcast I just found it disappointing that they weren't discussed. It's combat system is superior to the Baldur's gate and PoE games, and is something that deserved to discussed.
  7. I'm astonished you got through that entire podcast moaning about the Infinity Engine combat system and not once - not once - mentioned Larian's Divinity: Original Sin series. It's got turn based combat. It's got lots of massive areas chock full of stories and interactions and choices and decisions - that matter to the overarching story all the while. Sure, they have their short comings, but they address just about everything commented on the limitations of the Infinity/Unity clone engine and then some. I'd thoroughly recommend everyone in the discussion goes and plays them and comes back to this conversation afterwards, because clearly none of you ever have. I'd hope that Obsidian take a great long look at those games before PoE3 rolls around and thinks a lot harder about how they might want to shake their approach up even more. I also feel the podcast failed to really address why Pillars of Eternity was the way it was - it was kickstarted by a legion of misty eyed, middle aged men (admittedly I presume ) longing with rose tinted glasses to the games of their youth. certainly did it for me! PoE was consciously designed to be exactly what it was, down to all those hand painted backing screens. Sure it did and does have it problems, only partially addressed by PoE2 - which to me so far is an better mechanical game, but one that feels like it's lost it soul - but it was exactly what it was kickstarted to be, and did it very well indeed. Great discussion though - there is a lot to be said for the tactical RPG area that sometimes I feel 3MA shies away from. A discussion on the tactical combat system of the Divinity: Original Sin series could probably fill a show by itself.
  8. Episode 432: BATTLETECH

    I've sunk the best part of 50 hours into this now and, for the most part I've been thoroughly enjoying myself. There is an absolute solid core to the game, and HBS's slavish (understandably so) respect and subservience to Battletech's history and origins shines through everything this game does - it's as clear as day and other than playing a little Mechwarrior 2 on the PSone back in the day, is nothing I have any prior knowledge or experience of at all. The tactical engine is really really good - It works superbly well for a TBS game, where the tactical decisions you make, and positioning, and heat management, and Mech loadouts all clearly have a direct baring on just how well you'll do in a mission - In having to address the elephant in the room these days when it comes to TBS games, what this game does not do is expose the player to it's RNG in anything like the way firaxis's XCOM reboots do. Sure, you can get a lucky headshot on occasion, and yes it's astonishing just how often one of your mechwarriors ends up in the med bay for months because they somehow take 3 successive headshot injuries in a row, but beyond that it's an engine that relies on the skill of the player to process in combat rather than occasionally just leaving it up to a "dice roll". All the mechs have their roles on the battlefield, and outfitting them properly has a real impact on your mission - the maps are really good, with proper topography and terrain to deal with, all with meaingful tactical positioning and effects to consider when maneuvering your oversized robots around. The writing is excellent, I love the characters and the story is compelling enough to make me look forward to seeing how it ends. Where it lets itself down in the very uneven difficultly spikes - some deliberate, some seemingly a consequence of the game's coding quirks - and a failure to explain itself very well to the player when it's doing so. Unfortunately on the storyline missions HBS's tendency to through you into very difficult situations with little explanation of exactly what they are expecting of you leads to some very frustrating experiences. It's just bad design at times, and something that really wasn't necessary. Yes, it does have a lot of silly little animations and chase cam cinematics and things which slow things down a lot (I am sick of seeing my spaceship travel from one system to another for example. it looks lovely, I just don't need to see it for 3 minutes every other mission or so) but they are all fixable and nothing too much to get your knickers in a twist over. I wish missions could be a little shorter at times and they really need to vary mission types and maintain the viability of all the different mech types throughout the campaign (Light Mechs go into storage or get sold not that long into proceedings) but all in all I'm deeply impressed with this game. It's a definite Game of the Year contender for me.
  9. I think you are right about the ship building - to be honest I ignore what the game gives me for the most part and I just build my own. Stellaris does make ship design very simple though, so this isn't a massive burden. A quick update when a good tech is researched, a click of the upgrade button on the fleet list and hey presto, you are done. As for waging war, yeah Paradox's war system is all over the place to be honest. It's certainly something that needs a lot of work. I find it more a source of frustration that I do anything else I would have to agree. As for the empires - if you go back to my original comment about the game being as much an emergent storytelling engine as a strategy game, well I think it makes a lot more sense. I don't exactly "role play" my empires, but I do make some sub optimal choices at times because I think It fits my empire better that want might be more advantageous at that time. Sometimes that's not a big deal and other times I admit it sucks. The traditions stuff is a great idea but a lot of it doesn't work - yet - and still needs patching. Vassilisation & tributaries should make a militarist empire much stronger, but the points system makes actually vassilising them really difficult, so you just tend to end up much better off conquering them and then giving them their planets back afterwards. Eliminates a lot of residual resentment too.
  10. You upgrade other ships to your designs in the fleet manager. It's fairly straight forward. Actually what you have done there is highlight another of Stellaris's oddities - that the weapon rock/paper/scissors mechanics don't really work when paired up with the different ship classes. There are some very definite optimal builds (the torpedo corvette being the primary suspect) that the AI just can't counter, and other that are practically useless because the way the AI builds it fleets. The ship designer in Stellaris is functional and understandable but until you reach the endgame crisis/war in heaven, those optimal builds will see you through anything. After that you need to specialise (and get rid of any destroyers & cruisers) when you are up against the FEs and end game crises. As to your other point - well, yes, but Stellaris doesn't really variate it's empires based on the game economic mechanics, it does so on the traits and civics you give you empire. That impacts how you play your empire a very great deal, and I think you are being a bit disingenuous to imply that it doesn't make any difference. Playing a Federation building xenophile empire is totally different to playing an driven assimilator machine empire. Or fanatical spiritualist. Or pacifist empire. Your interactions with other empires and FEs are going to be completely different. You wouldn't necessarily expect the base mechanics of the economy there to be any different, except for those specific circumstances where, for example, machine empires don't need any food (but sure as hell need to maximise their energy/mineral production). How that works makes complete sense following Stellaris's own internal logic.
  11. I love Stellaris - boy oh boy it has it's flaws, but over all there's nothing else like it in the Space 4x genre. If you treat it more as an emergent story telling engine for your fledgling space empire then you get so much more out of it. In 250+ hours of this game I have never reached any of the victory conditions (although I came mighty close with a League of non-aligned worlds once) and you know what? It really doesn't matter. Stellaris's simple, flexible system for building pretty much whatever space empire it is you want to be is an absolute marvel and the entire bedrock that makes the rest of the game what it is. 2.0 both provides considerable more focus to the game on a strategic layer, while at the same time really providing a whole new set of frustrations. It's other issue - the one that I have no idea how they are going to solve, and has been repeated noted above - is that one you get to the mid stage period of the game, your only option to make something happen is to go and declare war on someone. It doesn't matter if you are a Federation building egalitarian United Nations or a slavering despotic race of barbarians, if you don't then you are going to sit there for a very long time (depending on how you have set your sliders) waiting for the War in Heaven and the end game crisis. Paradox's war system does everything it can to make waging war something both remarkably simple and brain flummoxingly difficult (seriously, even if I take over an Empire's every star system and occupy their every planet I still don't win?) but at least with Apocalypse you get some shiny new toys to do so with. It really needs to do something a lot more interesting with systems that don't have planets in them - seriously, for all the importance of space stations your only real options are to turn them into Shipyards, commercial hubs or anchorages to provide fleet capacity. Turning them into defensive fortresses only works for about half the game and any hope of making them refineries or research stations is limited to one sub-module for each dependent on being in a nebula or in orbit over a black hole - neither option of which will provide more resource that decent planet tile - and is something more they need to look at. I do think that Stellaris is now the space 4x everything should be measured by - it is a genuine work of greatness within the genre - but that doesn't mean that it's still quite flawed. I wish that it could take a little more inspiration from Sword of the Stars (probably the great unrecognised game in the genre) especially with "outside context problems" - other than the wraiths everything else stays put (Seriously, it makes no sense the stellarite devourer wouldn't move from system to system once in a while) and maybe a little more work on the end game crisis having an pre-invasion stage. That could do quite a bit to pep up the mid stages of the game, while also making those end game crises have a little more context.
  12. well, I must confess I approached this episode with some trepidation after the original XCOM 2 podcast, after which I was fairly certain I'd been playing a completely different game to everyone else on that show. 550 hours later (give or take) including several successful Commander Ironman runs, several failed (some slightly more progressed than others) Legend Ironman runs and one save scummed to the hilt Long War 2 campaign later I got to War of the Chosen thinking there wasn't much more the game could teach me. And, to some extent, I think I was right. I do like WofC, and it does add a lot to the game - but it's chocolate sauce and multi-coloured sprinkles at the end of day, rather than several new scoops of delicious ice cream. Fundamentally the core game is the same and despite adding the new Factions, the Chosen and the Lost, WotC doesn't really deviate from what made XCOM2 my favourite game. (Not the best game I've ever played to be sure, but certainly the one I've had most enjoyment out of in the modern era). There were a couple of things I disagreed with however, one of which being Rob's complaints that the strategic layer is a mess. It's not, it just doesn't explain itself terribly way. XCOM:EU biggest problem was it's strategic progress. That progress was a strictly linear gated path from which any deviation was result in a failed campaign. Quite simply the aim of the game was to get to the Alien Base assault mission and win it before global panic overwhelmed you. It helped to have at least predator armour or laser weapons unlocked before you did (although not essential, both would be nice, but once you were through that landmark you'd win the game unless you really really messed things up. Not even XCOM:EW solved that although it did give you a lot more things to do in the meantime. XCOM 2 solves that by basically giving you a lot more options on the strategic level, either by unlocking regions to find blacksites, or concentrating on the "golden path" missions to keep the avatar timer in check. Spending Intel and managing resources contributed to that as much as completing tactical missions, and it countered that main issue I think XCOM:EU had with it's optimal path. By adding faction missions, WotC gives you yet more options to manage that avatar timer which you need to deal with the chosen, but it makes the strategic layer of the game much less focused, and a hell of a lot easier. My first WotC campaign (Commander difficulty) I tripped the avatar countdown at the beginning of November as the game did one of those "screw you" moments and added 5 pips to the timer seemingly out of nowhere. 3 missions and 1 faction missions later, I had completely zeroed it. 2 Blacksites (one with 4 pips), 1 "golden path" mission (the forge) and 1 faction "Decrease avatar timer" completely wiped out all my pips and reset the campaign for me. After that point the game was a doodle to be honest, especially as I then went on to take out the Assassin as my first chosen to defeat (also the hardest battle I had in that campaign by some distance) and obtained her weapons, which made things very easy indeed. What WotC does to XCOM is add a lot more character to the game, with a lot more distractions while you are playing it. It also really exacerbates one of XCOM 2's main issues, which is it's reverse difficultly curve - that the game is so much harder at the start than it is towards the end. By allowing each of your soldiers specialise in both paths of their skill trees (Seriously, is there no-one who plays WotC who doesn't take both the hacking perk and medical gremlin perk for their specialists?!?) it further reduces the games difficulty at the mid to late game, which you need to be able to deal with the chosen, but leaves the final stages of the game somewhat boring afterwards. If you have the alien hunters DLC pack with their armour and weapons as well, then the final battle is trivially easy. Apologies if you disagree with that seriously, that final mission is really dull with all the chosen weapons and the Alien ruler armour. Just target the avatars and you are done. I also find it slightly bemusing that for this podcast the Random Number Generator (RNG) really didn't get a mention. XCOM 2 is built on it's relationship with its RNG, and it's something that Long War 2 does address either. Ultimately both of Firaxis's XCOM games are about managing numbers and probability. At the lower difficulty levels the game gives you enough mulligans to get through when the RNG is being a dick (seriously, at times in XCOM it's Nuffle's older and angrier brother) but on Legend level difficulty progress in the game has nothing to do with your skill at the game, but entirely down to whatever number it is the RNG throws at you at critical stages. To be sure, the aim of playing XCOM well is being in a position at all times to ensure that when the RNG did roll consecutive "ones" (all those +95% shots missing for example) you could deal with the fallout, but on legend the fallout would inevitably be a total squad wipe and a finished campaign, it was, despite being able to complete Commander ironman campaigns more often than not something I have never learned to cope with on Legend difficulty levels, save scumming or not. I still want to get a Legend Ironman campaign completed one day, but it's still in the future for now. WotC adds so much to the game that it feels like you are juggling a lot more balls in the air now on Legend, with those early scripted missions coming to thick and fast to be able to deal with for now. As for Long War 2 - well it's a mod I admire a very great deal, but towards the end of the campaign of LW2 I completed it felt much more like an endurance campaign rather than something I was actively enjoying. At this point I should say that I never completed an Long War campaign for XCOM:EU despite 4 or 5 attempts. Each of those campaigns lasted about 20-30 hours, as it was about that time I would realise that I had screwed up so badly 15 hours previously I'd left the game unwinnable. That's LWs issue, and it's not one that LW2 rectifies. The war long, brutal and it doesn't like telling you when you've failed until it's far too late. It's fair to say that I would never have completed by LW 2 campaign without watching xWynns youtube campaign of the version I played (LW2 version 1.2) (I'm going to finish this later, placeholder here so I don't lose this as I have to go and do something else now)
  13. Riad and I have been playing this side by side the last couple of weeks. The campaign is lovely - I’m not usually a ‘pure’ RTS sort of person- Starcraft leaves me cold and I really didn’t get on with DoW3 when I tried the free weekend on steam a week or two back. But it this game seems to be considered enough that you can group your different vehicle types, use their special abilities without too many problems and get time to set yourself before wngaging in battle. Sure, the AI just can’t deal with the ‘massed Charge’ approach to combat once you are ready but it can hit you hard if you aren’t playing attention and all in all it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. I’d recommend wholeheartedly.
  14. The Good Place is a fine comedy and I’ve really enjoyed watching it. However, it’s not a patch on Father Ted. That was required viewing when I was at university, the house would stop dead on a Friday evening until the show was finished (I’m from the UK) ‘Would you like another cup of tea father? ah go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on’
  15. I find that idea really interesting - I think there is quite a lot in what you say too. The story in XCOM to me is fairly ephemeral - it doesn't touch on how I play the game much except where I need to get through the 'golden path' gates so that I don't lose the game. I hadnt really considered it like that. Might need to rethink a little!