It's that time again, that time to nurse a hangover, sit in a darkened room, and play games. This is what the PCGamesN team have been dipping into this past week. Have a read if you can find time between losing dear squadmates in XCOM or creating Rube Goldberg scenarios of assassination in Dishonored.
Paul Dean: Dishonored
This is a bit of a predictable answer, isn’t it? I was lucky enough to get a look at Dishonored early and, slowly but surely, it’s gradually nibbled its way through my spare time. You know what? Steam tells me I’ve played almost thirty hours and yet I still haven’t completed it, which I hope says something about the true size of this game, as well as the amount of times I had to reload because I was rubbish.
Yes, I know some people claim they can rush through it in just four hours and sure I suppose, they probably can. That said, Given the size of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, you could likely sprint through all of its halls in about three or four minutes, but you wouldn’t really get to enjoy it or take in all the details, would you? Everything would just be a blur as you dashed past with such inappropriate speed that people would be shouting “Master Corvo, what’d I just see?”
Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. I should add that I’m pretty sure that my thirty hours of play almost certainly means that the very end of the game is around the next corner, but I’ve enjoyed the journey that Dishonored took me on. Sure, I’m aware it’s imperfect in several ways and that it’s had to bear an incredible weight of expectation, but I think Arkane did a fine job of bringing their vision to life and I’m very interested to see what they’ll do next.
Jeremy Peel: Guild Wars 2
I already know what’s going to kill it for me. The bloody great iceberg to my HMS Enthusiasm.
At the moment, there’s loads of coal about to fuel the ship - that sky-splitting architecture, and combat that, against the odds, makes cooldowns compelling. Plus I had something of a revelatory moment when switching from one magical walking stick to another, only to realise upon reaching for my usual hotkeys in battle that a new staff meant a new spell-set entirely.
My current rod is a thing of controlled chaos. It has a suite of spells which liberally apply buffs to allies while conferring nasty effects to my enemies. I am starting to crave something a little more precise, but because I’m playing Guild Wars, all that necessitates is a switch to a new weapon, rather than a new first-level character and class.
All this is well-documented, well-loved stuff. But there’s the other iceberg stuff too, evident in the agriculturally-themed quests that plague starting areas. Fetch a pail of water, kill a family of sharp-toothed worms - familiar MMO chores, but actually exacerbated by the more dynamic way in which Guild Wars handles quest-giving. Rather than stomping ten mole hills at the behest of the farmer in the next field, I’m left stomping at an arbitrary number until the bar fills - and I’m never even told why.
So I’m enjoying myself. But at some point down the line - 10 hours in, or 100 - the farmers are going to kill Guild Wars 2 for me.
Joe Robinson: XCOM
As you may have seen from our roundtable earlier in the week, I never played the original X-Com: Enemy Unknown, but I sure as hell played the crap out of its 2012 remake. This is one addictive and compelling game, and the guys over at Firaxis definitely deserve a pat on the back for what they’ve achieved here.
For me, it’s the game’s ability to make you care. There’s just enough management involved with your troops that (especially when you give them custom names) you end up growing very attached to them, to the point where you feel emotional pain when they day. I was rather proud of managing to ensure that my very first trooper survived the whole game, although some great soldiers died along the way.
I gather it’s not as in-depth as the original, but from a personal point of view it doesn’t feel like there’s anything really missing. It’s a tad unpolished at the moment and some basic design choices lead to some odd scenarios, but this is the first game all year where I’ve gone “Yes, this is amazing”. The ending is a bit naff, but what can you do…
I’m about to start a ‘Classic’ difficulty game with Ironman mode enabled, which should be interesting. And by interesting, I mean a meatgrinder of pain and death where I’ll probably end up huddled on the floor crying myself to sleep.
Steve Hogarty: Rocksmith
Rocksmith is still edging closer to a release on PC. Here’s a short write-up I ejected from my brain after first laying hands on the thing. Rocksmith is a rhythm action game, just like Guitar Hero, except instead of a plastic guitar with buttons you use an actual guitar with strings. As in, an actual electric guitar that you’d otherwise plug straight into an amp. Rocksmith comes with a special cable that can interpret guitar tones as input, turning the instrument into a game controller.
And now that you understand that, I can tell you that it’s not actually a rhythm action game like Guitar Hero, it’s a guitar teaching tool, armed to the nines in so many tutorials and skill-building tasks and callous-forming games. Its adaptive arrangements transform as you play, either simplifying or complexifying mid-song depending on how many notes, chords, hammer ons and slides you’re missing or hitting.
I thought it’d be a bit of a chore, but it’s not. It’s precisely gamey enough to keep you interested and, more importantly, impressed with yourself. When you’ve nailed the simple one note riff to I Can’t Get No Satisfaction in front of a sea of barely animated cardboard cutouts, you feel just as much a rockstar as you would having completed a song in Guitar Hero. So maybe it is a rhythm action game after all. I honestly can’t tell any more, and it probably doesn’t matter.
It’s perhaps the rhythm action game that needed to be made, at least to shut up those weird self-conscious elitists who’d scoff at the plastic-peripheralled Guitar Hero and insist people should learn to play something real. Rocksmith is very real, I’m 10% better at guitar now, and improving. Oh, and here’s a tracklist. It’ll be expanded with DLC, and each song comes with guitar tabs.
Rob Zacny: XCOM and Fallen Enchantress
Normal difficulty in XCOM feels, well, normal. Which is to say it does not quite feel like classic XCOM, hence the helpfully named Classic difficulty. After reaching the end of my preview build, I went back and gave classic a try. Since then, I’ve had two full squad wipes and one missions where a single terrified rookie was the sole survivor. Out of five missions. So I’ll be spending the weekend attending funerals for my fallen squaddies, and trying my best to stop being such utter crap.
Speaking of raising one’s game, I’m playing a preview build of Fallen Enchantress from Stardock, the sequel / reconstruction of the troubled Elemental. I have no impressions to offer so far, but I will say that while I didn’t really dislike Elemental, I also never really cared about any of my games there. It will be interesting to see whether Fallen Enchantress can pull off the total overhaul that Elemental needed. And will that be enough to rekindle my interest?
Julian Benson: Warp
Whilst being a competent puzzle game, it's the glee exuded by the small, yellow alien you control that's stuck with me. Using your power to teleport short distances, you can warp inside the guts of a human guard who may be chasing you - they're trying to recapture you and continue performing tests on your cute xenomorph boy. Once inside your pursuer, wiggling the thumbstick will make them swell out till eventually they explode, splattering the walls and floor with the Deluxe Hammer Horror colour palette. The alien does all this whilst making the noise of a purring cat.
There's a helper tip in the loading screens reminding you that you don't have to kill everyone. Clearly whoever wrote that tip isn't a cat person.