In this second issue of META GEAR FILE I decided to take a good hard look at what the future could look like, by reflecting back on things I love. There is an appraisal of the current console race–if we can even call it that–and a few games that remind me of a time when I looked forward to what the future of games would be. To top it off, I decided I should share some thoughts on a movie I recently watched. It’s an old movie that seems to echo in today’s world, and which will no doubt grow in relevance with every passing month. Thank you to the Patreon supporters.
Here are the excellent features you will find in Issue #2:
• Retro Bowl Review (mobile phone game) • Book of Aliens, Revival or Requiem? • The Worst Console Race in History • Taking Notes: Wag the Dog
Did you forget about Phoenix Point, the upcoming turn-based tactical shooter from the original creator of X-COM? Because I sure as hell haven’t! This is one of my most anticipated games of all time, so I’ve been waiting for a nice big update and now it looks like we’ve got one. The game’s Geoscape and ballistics systems have been laid out.
You start with just a single home base (called Phoenix Point) which you will protect and maintain. You’ve got a jet, and plenty of places to check out. Some of them will be “havens” — which will generally belong to other factions who must be dealt with through negotiation or combat — or they could be independent havens who have their own rules and trade offers. They could be alien constructs, resource-rich material sites, and a lot more. Exploring the world is a series of gambles.
You can see a list of basic options on the right side of the screen, and below you can see a more detailed look at what the game could look like. It’s all placeholder, but it proves that this game will be WAY more advanced and detailed than the simplistic board-game system of that Firaxis XCOM reboot. This is very good news.
The blog post emphasizes that they’re aiming for a “4X” style of gameplay. That means Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate, which is the foundation of most strategy games like StarCraft or Masters of Orion. But there’s a feature even more exciting to me that hearkens back to the most advanced video game ever created: Dwarf Fortress!
A very clever simulation, which all happens behind the scenes, simulates several years of war between the factions and the independent Havens, fighting over outposts and resources. The alien threat starting to encroach on the land, consuming and mutating as it goes. Each faction has its own “personality” which tells the simulation how and where it should try to expand. You will never have the same play-through twice.
Rather than randomly placing a bunch of stuff and sacrificing logic in the process, the game will randomly “seed” the world with people and places and then fast-forward what would happen in that arrangement. What you see is a world with history and logic, but one that will never be the same twice.
Just as exciting is the ballistics system, which has been confirmed by Julian Gollop himself. In a triumphant victory for trueX-COM fans, projectile simulation is coming back and better than ever! Your bullets will always hit something, even if it’s not the target, and this can have unintended consequences! Shooting your friend in the back, or hitting some piece of terrain? Yes, those tough decisions will have weight once again. You can manually adjust your aim once you select a target as well. If you’re like me, you’ll want to jump over to the forums to read it in detail. He even acknowledges the challenges and potential downsides of such a simulated system, such as not being able to mathematically calculate how good a piece of cover is, or how exactly a creature’s pose should be if he wants to maximize cover effectively. “Cover” is dynamic and complex, not just waist-high objects all over the damn map.
If you want to watch Julian Gollop modestly walk through the history of X-COM and its derivatives. I laughed when he said that he only plays Japanese turn-based games like Advance Wars, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics! Great taste!
Sorry to make you stare at that “Online education is doomed” post for the last few days, but I’ve been burning through X-COM: Enemy Unknown, which I am now finished. The fact that I finished it may or may not be a good thing (I would have gladly accepted getting helplessly lost in a web of ever-multiplying strategic decisions, never to emerge). The important part is that I’m now fully qualified to judge the game to the fullest — which is exactly what I intend to do.
I know that I should probably just finish Part 5 of the MGS2: A Complete Breakdown already, since it’s getting so close to completion, but the sooner the better with cases like this. It’ll be great though, so don’t worry.
[Update: RockPaperShotgun has come to the defense of the game and addressed some of the bad impressions left by the demo.]
X-COM: Enemy Unknown is my most anticipated game this year, not because I think it will be even a fraction as innovative or important as the original (for that you’d need to enlist the original creator, Julian Gollop,) but because it has the potential to scratch some of the itches I’ve been having ever since I discovered the 1994 PC game last year. Also, it has the potential to spawn a new love for powerful tactics game rooted in high-level strategic control. I downloaded the demo off of Steam, finished it in a few minutes because it’s very short, and here’s why it makes me deeply uncomfortable.
The gaming world is abuzz with this news, so you should know this by now. But for those who still don’t, it’s time to pay attention: a true strategic revival of the X-COM franchise is being made. Game Informer has the exclusive stuff.
Please watch the video on this page. It’s an interview with the actual designers, gushing over what they love about the original, and how dedicated they are to staying true to it. Not only do they force unfamiliar employees to become familiar with the game and appreciate it, but they are comprised of many former Microprose employees — meaning they’ve got the DNA of the original staff.
Base construction goes from a top-down layout to a subterranean sub-basement style
Interesting lighting schemes combined with bulky and distinct character profiles makes the whole screen look inviting and understandable
A beautiful globe promises the ability to strategically build bases and manage resources, ordering supplies and doing research to gain an advantage
For as cynical as I am, this game is making me hyped in ways I haven’t been in a long, long time. And actually, I’ve got a good feeling about this one too, although, there’s not much to say about it yet.