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Idle Weekend May 26, 2018: The Franchise in Your Heart

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Idle Weekend May 26, 2018:

Idle Weekend May 26, 2018

The Franchise in Your Heart
It’s been too long, friends. But we have a solid, meaty Idle Weekend for you, ripe with discussions of long-running franchises we have a long relationship with, our trials in not ruining games for ourselves, and the utterly bananas part time work experiences gained by working for weirdos. It’s Idle Weekend all right!

Discussed: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, Total War Rome II, Total War: Medieval, Into the Breach, The Evil Within 2, Kitchen Confidential, SuperStore


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I do not think Rob is wrong about the Total War series.


Medieval: Total War, the first one, was just fantastic. It stands up surprisingly well. There are a few fiddly things about it. Minor items like making it being difficult to retrain losses, and camera controls being a bit fiddly? I think one of the things the more recent titles do better is that they enable you to give names to certain units and retrain them, and build a narrative I guess while watching them progress? The first Medieval not so much. Everything was replaceable except for the generals. I played it again a about a year ago, after a decade-long hiatus, and it was "there" right where my memory thought it was. I do not know if I remembered it being uglier than it was? I thought it was uglier and found myself surprised in that, on replay, it appeared pretty crisp with the sprites. I even toyed with a few of the older mods that are still findable on the internet. I think it was the XL Mod? It added a bunch of starting positions, some regional unit selection, and other groovy things. You could spend worse money than picking it up again on Steam and giving it a whirl.


Everyone always remembers that the AI was never able to play the "world map" again after Medieval, and that Rome onward broke everything in the overworld department once it moved from chessboard to walkable. What I discovered in my replay was that the AI could actually play the battles effectively too. I think the series has trained me to have such low expectations of the battlemap AI, ever since, and that challenge only ever came from bonuses to AI units, that I totally forgot that there was a point in the series where the battle AI was good. That was a real shocker. The 2002 version of the game has better AI, both at campaign and battle level, than even up to Warhammer 2. The enemy generals weren't suicidal, they had a good understanding of flanking and reserves, and were very good at picking terrain for defense and attacks. I wonder if that informed my love of the series too? That it all worked as advertised? Haven't played Britannia so I am not sure if that's better. I wonder if Thrones of Britannia holds against Viking Invasion, that first expansion to Medieval. Sort of the same time period. Other note - the battles took a lot longer than I remembered. It genuinely takes some time for units to break down and flee, or even be wiped out. Playing it again reminded me of my first criticisms about Rome and Medieval 2 that I forgot about completely. Like it feeling as if like all engagements just melted within a few moments of contact with the enemy and that one side was already in flight?


I played all the Total War games right up to and including Napoleon. I don't think I ended up having real fun with any of them except the first Shogun, the first Medieval, and then Napoleon (oh boy Empire what a disaster). I think I also tried to convince myself that I had fun with the first Rome, but I am not sure that I did. I wanted so desperately to like that game because of the theme. I think my young mind knew that it was a broken, half-assed experience but did not want to believe it. I think I can admit that it was bad, now. And accept. I then skipped over everything after that, I think because so many of my friends had such a bad time with Rome 2 on release. I don't know what possessed me to pickup Warhammer 2, but I did, and am thankful. It's a spectacle and fun.


On the other hand, having the Pope or a faction re-emerge with a 12 stack gold chevron army was a massive pain in the ass. Thankfully it happened against the AI nations as much as the player.









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Another Totalwaraholic chiming in here. 


My memories are unencumbered by childhood or youth - in the sense that I was deep into marriage and children when I first encountered Total War. It was Medieval 2 and I thought it was kind of silly till I discovered mods like Stainless Steel and Broken Crescent. I still wasn’t hooked though. 


What made me a Total War fanatic wasn’t any actual game, it was my idea of a game during the run up to Empire:Total  War.


Somehow I managed to fantasize that we’d have battles with tens of thousands of individually animated authentically uniformed pike and muskets faithfully recreating the wars of Louis XIV, with great battles and epic fort sieges of countervailing trenches, before gradually moving to the more familiar Seven Years War and then on to the revolutions and Napoleon. Instead we got the buggy 1/2 finished mess of small stacks and even more limited AI that was Empire. 


As disappointed as I was with the reality of Empire (ETW) - and later Total War Rome 2 - it didn't matter because I had dreamt of something awesome.  After 700 hours flailing around in ETW with Darthmod it was on to each successive historical release, always hoping for a breakthough.  I’ve put at least 500 hours into each historical game. 500 hours is one month of waking time x 6 titles = half a year of my life.  In reality I've spent probably more like 10 months because I put even more time into ETW, Rome 2 and Attila, always fiddling with mods, chasing the dream.  At this point, I’m approaching the half way mark to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of  becoming “world class” at Total War and I haven’t even played MP yet!


While each total war iteration has disappointed me in myriad ways, each one served as a roughly cut paving stone on the pathway to my dream...always "maybe they’ll get the next one right, they’ll innovate and gather momentum, drawing closer to my ultimate Total War fantasy -- a game of military history sprung to life.


Then Warhammer arrived, the same Total War as all the others really, but a setting so antithetical to the great historical epic in my head that I was no lonoger able to able to hold onto the dream.  What I’d imagined and what I'd hoped for all these years -- through 3 computer builds and one huge, beautiful 4K panel --was at best a mirage and at worst a hustle (we all remember the deceptive "pre-alpha" siege of Carthage trailer). But Warhammer brought my disgust home -- a disgust at my own culpability in all this.


Fortunately with Thrones of Britannia the dream has been so streamlined I’ve been able to revert to a stance of bored disinterest.  Then Total War: Romance of the Three Kingdoms looks to pick up where Warhammer leaves off, then more Warhammer.  Thus my feelings for Total War have been streamlined and unlike the games, I believe I’m a better man for it. :P


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