Sorbicol

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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’
  8. 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!
  9. I think a lot of people - myself included - expected something much more inline with XCOM:EU than we got with XCOM2 on release. I know my criticisms of how information was disseminated in XCOM2 at launch matched those of Rob and Rowan, (especially for the strategic layer); however one (aborted) campaign later it was pretty clear to me what the differences were and what the change in approach should be. One of the issues with Firaxis reboot is that it is polished and balanced to the nth degree - most people used this to accuse the series of "dumbing down" on the original series. It really wasn't. While that's great, it does create the problem that having a 'bad' RNG roll could disproportionally impact your ability not only to complete that mission but also your campaign, as the consequences of failure were so much more dramatic than in the original X-COM series which treated your squaddies as cannon fodder, except for the lucky few to survive. XCOM:EU's counter to that - overwatch creep - led to a lot of (not without merit) accusations of dull gameplay. XCOM2's solution to that problem was just to add timers everywhere, which was fine but did occasionally leave your campaign progress entirely at the mercy of the RNG, and nothing at all to do with your tactical or strategic acumen at playing the game. Anyway i I digress a little, but there are so many levels of 'meta' (mostly obscure) to XCOM2 that aren't really apparent until you really think about. What I would say is that Firaxis's XCOM series is a series you to learn how to play on the easier difficulty levels before you can feel ready for the Classic or Commander/Ironman difficulty, which so clearly is the level the game is designed to be played at. Of course, that's a significant time investment to a lot of players, so I'm not surprised so many people walked away from it early on.
  10. I really enjoyed this episode - although I do find 3MA's relationship with Firaxis's XCOM series simultaneous enraging, amusing, irritating and thought provoking - I clearly do not see this game in the same terms as both Rob and Rowan do. I am constantly bemused by the assertion that XCOM is in any way an RPG - it really isn't. It's like saying that because you have to chose what cards you want to use in Star Wars: Battlefront (Something that you do need to think about a little depending on what map you are playing - but only a little) that Battlefront is some sort of Strategic FPS. Again, it isn't, it's just a fairly relaxed online shooter. The interplay in XCOM - especially XCOM2 - between the strategic and tactical layer is something that seems to get either misunderstood a lot - it's there very much, either in unlocking global areas so that you can reach blacksites, completing a tactical mission to slow down the Avatar timer, through to getting the right resource (something very much under explained when the game was first released to be sure) so that you are able to do the right things at the right time - these are things that are there clear as daylight. Once you've played the game beyond a couple of hours, well it's pretty evident how it all balances and how the strategic decisions you make in the global map should inform what missions you do or don't take. That "Meta" is the driver for the game - being good at it (or not) will inform your success just as much as how good you are at the tactical game. Calling the development of soldiers by unlocking abilities as they survive "RPG" shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what's happening at that layer - at least it does to me. Those abilities are necessary at the later stages of the game to be able to both counter some of the late game aliens (the HEAT ammo for heavy weapons springs to mind) and also be able to deal with the increased number of aliens you encounter. It's not a great leap from there to realise that not only do you need to be developing those skills, you need to be maintaining a big enough roster so that you can cope with the odd death and maintain your campaign should things go a little pear shaped. I know Rob sort of touched on that with your 2nd and 3rd string Snipers, but really, like Fraser says "you aren't playing it very well" if that's killing you off. There should be a cost to losing your top sniper, but it's one that you should be able to manage. Giving Soldiers names, and being able to customise them - yeah, that's RPG (sort of) but it's only really there for flavour given how much permadeath means to XCOM and it's inherent difficultly. If you lose that Colonel Heavy who's the only one you can soften up the Gatekeeper or Sectopod enough for everyone else to kill them, and not have someone to replace him - well, that's your fault for not considering your strategy enough. Yeah, there's a lot in XCOM 2 that isn't perfect (it's far too easy to leave the Avatar timer redundant later in the game) and some of the classes are much more powerful than others - Magus level Psi-Troopers are massively overpowered - but a lot of it is addressed in Long War 2 (a mod a 3MA discussion is long overdue for!) which both teases the game out at the Meta level, and also adds even more strategic and tactical decision making when you are developing your soldiers. I really like the look of War of the Chosen - they quite clearly have taken a lot of cues from Long War 2 and other games, ranging from Fire Embalm and Darkest Dungeon, all the way through to the Nemesis system in Shadow of Mordor. Having flame throwers etc in XCOM isn't just there for RPG flavour - setting fire to alien in XCOM has real tactical advantage - it leaves them unable to attack anything unless it's meelee, makes them panic and prevents them from throwing grenades or launching rockets - using abilities you really don't want them to be using- and deals damage over time. It is a crowd control mechanism as much as anything else. Flash bangs, posion and smoke grenades all have similar buff and debuff impacts at the tactical level - they are vital components in Long War 2, and it's great that Firaxis are bringing that to the vanilla game in their new expansion. It's not them being more "RPG"!!!!!!! Sorry this have now turned into a rant about XCOM. I really did enjoy this episode but I'm really not sure that you quite have XCOM right.....................
  11. Episode 394: Expeditions: Vikings

    I put something like 60 hours into Expeditions: Conquistadors, which I have to say I really enjoyed, limitations and all. However from this podcast I'm actually a little disappointed about Vikings. It sounds like it's basically the same game with almost the same structure - it doesn't sound like there is a lot of innovation going on. There was a massive "prologue" section in Conquistadors too - you spent the first 10-15 hours or so messing around on Cuba (where a corrupt local governor impounds your ship) before you get to head to South America. Mind you calling it a "prologue" is something of a disservice if I'm honest, it was essentially a game that had two settings - one section in Cuba, the other in Latin America & the Aztec Empire. I have to say though it does sound like there hasn't been much development of the Vikings over Conquistadors - the same balancing of you merry band of fellow travelers and their (either) outright capitalist racism slavery values, or their remarkably visionary views of liberal democracy and equality (given the times these games are set in) It's not that that really matters I guess, but many of the choices in Conquistadors were entirely arbitrary - you were going to upset someone no matter what you did. In the end you ended up sometimes being a nice, generous invader - helping the locals and treating them as equals, or other times being the raping pillaging invader so that you didn't lose that star hunter / musketeer, the only person in your expedition who could hit anything from range but was unfortunately a racist idiot. It took any immediacy from your decision making and ended up being more like a moral game of tetris - trying to act just to balance the different views of your expedition so nobody left, rather than role play who you wanted to be (after all, why compromise your expedition members if it leaves you materially worse off in game and left at a distinct disadvantage?) The combat in the game was always one of it's strongest point though - solid TBS although there were some scenarios I could never figure out how to beat in Conquistadors (I remember an ambush in a city - it was impossible to cover your retreat without being forced to split you forces, which just lead to you being over run, and others that were comically easy - even those camp ambushes happened with depressing regularity, on the same map, with the same enemies and an optimal strategy to defeat your attackers (once you'd figured it out) They even spawned in the same places each time............ Not sure what I think about Vikings now - probably a humble bundle purchase if I'm honest then.
  12. Elite: Dangerous (Kickstarter)

    Improvements to exploration can't come soon enough. The patience of those looking for the outposts in the Formadine Rift, Conflux and Hawking's Gap deserves from real praise. Or a call to the men in white coats................... It takes me 20 minutes to find anything on a planetary surface, and that's even when I know where it is.
  13. Elite: Dangerous (Kickstarter)

    Not that I think anyone else is interested, but on the official forums Michael Brooks (FDev Executive Producer) has admitted that the Ram Tah mission to scan the obelisks at the Ancient Ruins site is broken. Although in Open/Private group instances, not Solo like everyone thought it was. The upshot of that is that there are definitely other alien ruins out there (admittedly long suspected but now essentially confirmed), and at the moment people are getting far more scans out the ruins we know about than they should be. Leaving aside the fact that messing up something that important in game is really really poor quality control on FDev's part, it'll be interesting to see how else they handle it. Reset the mission? Whatever "clues" there are in game to working out the locations of the other ruins, nobody has hit upon it yet. And people have been analysing the Ruins since they were found. Mostly the canonn thread on the official forums is full of people grasping at straws. So if you do come across anything a little odd in game that talks about Guardians, rogue alien AI's or weird ruins with lots of geometric shapes in them or anything else, please flag it up!!!! Also the latest Alien Hyperdiction happened only 160Ly from Sol. That's inside the human bubble. War, War is coming........................
  14. XCOM 2

    Just started a new campaign and I've already borked the first mission not really understanding what it is I'm meant to be doing (i.e if you achieve your goal and need to get out then call that skyranger, because otherwise Advent will not play fair) Got some very interesting concepts in it, but you worry it's going to be a lot of busy work on the strategic screen later in the game.
  15. Elite: Dangerous (Kickstarter)

    Some of the actions to unlock the engineers are a little obtuse however. For example, Felicity Farseer asks for 1 unit of meta-alloys. They come from barnacles, so in order to get some you have to know where to look for barnacles, fly to the planet they are in, work out how to find the location on the planet, fly there, land, and hope that it's not already been harvested as they take a couple of weeks to regenerate. Don't forget to take an SRV either. None of the planets are in the bubble (although the Pleiades isn't that far away) Alternately you can fly to Darnelle's Progress in Maia and buy some, the only location in the game I'm aware that you can do so. Cost is about 120,000Cr per tonne. Just as well she only wanted the one. So so as you can see, the route to unlocking some of the engineers is a little convoluted. Also, most engineers only unlock when you become friendly enough with those you've already unlocked. Before then, you don't even know they exist.